As part of an initiative to revamp sports medicine at Bates and better support student-athletes’ well-being, the Athletic Department has decided to repurpose the second and last on-campus convertible squash/racquetball court into a physical training room.
This room will be used to facilitate daily training exercises by offering an improved, specialized space to support the rehabilitation of injured athletes. Immediate care during practice times, such as diagnosis and wrapping, will continue to occur in the main training rooms in Merrill, Underhill and Alumni. Construction will begin in June with the intention of opening it for the fall season.
In this past year, the department has seen significant changes in personnel and its practices. Following the hiring of Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Performance Nicholas Cooke last fall came an increased focus on the prevention and remediation of sports injuries through targeted exercises. This requires significant space that the training room simply does not have.
Athletes have taken to performing these exercises outside the training room in the hallway, allowing them to remain in close proximity to the trainers. However, athletes and trainers agree that this practice is imperfect and unsustainable for the long-term goals of the sports medicine department.
“One hundred percent I think there just isn’t enough room [right now],” Kai Jenkins ’22 said. “All the people are walking by and I have to scoot to the side. Then maybe I have to take up the whole hallway space just to do one specific stretch and it’s not a lot of room…It’s just not the best environment.”
Cooke is excited to be able to improve on their philosophy of patient-centered approach, an idea that emphasizes preventative care just as much as rehabilitation. This new space will allow athletes to complete their prescribed exercises more efficiently in a cleaner, distraction-free environment.
“The number of people who are in [the first-floor room and hallway] at any one time really start to limit the ability for anybody else to do anything,” Cooke explains. “The space concerns are significant to be able to provide good quality care. Having a layout that is with multiple people across a room really helps us to be able to provide services to a larger volume of student-athletes in the time crunches that we have.”
While this space will surely be an improvement, Cooke stated that there will be limitations to this project. A second-floor rehabilitation space is not ideal for athletes walking with boots or crutches. Additionally, while having some space is better than none, he predicts that it will still not be enough to facilitate sports medicines’ long-term goals.
“It is going to be big leap forward from where we are now, but it may not be in the end result,” Cooke said. “It may not be the best situation looking forward, but it is the best situation we can get to as soon as we can get to.”
The need for an expanded sports medicine clinic is immediate and undeniable. However, as with a similar project earlier in the year in which the first convertible court was repurposed to house a golf simulator for the varsity team, this initiative has aggravated students, faculty and community members who regularly use these courts. Many of these people feel that this decision was made quickly and quietly with little consideration, prioritizing the needs of varsity athletics at the expense of others.
Bates’ six squash courts are currently housed in a leased warehouse four miles away from campus. This facility is only open to the varsity team; once the new training room is created, students, faculty and community members will no longer have access to squash or racquetball courts at Bates.
Additionally, while varsity athletes do have full access to the varsity courts, time restrictions and travel often prevent athletes from practicing more than once daily. Few athletes on the squash team have access to a car, making reaching the courts difficult; this is a training barrier that will be made even more pronounced when the final convertible court is no longer available.
“The biggest issue facing squash players at Bates is access to courts,” Garon Rothenburg ’20 said. “As a highly competitive team that competes against some of the best teams in the nation year after year, court time is essential…This is problematic for many players, including myself, who…find themselves not improving, or getting worse at squash. Obviously the best way to fix this is to spend more time on court, but balancing two sessions a day with classes and homework is quite difficult, especially when there is a four-mile commute involved.”
In the past, some community members were allowed to use Bates’ off-campus courts. However, because this facility is off-campus, supervision and liability became an issue and this access has been revoked.
Many colleges, including Bowdoin, have a program which allows community members to play on their varsity courts for a small few. However, unlike Bates, most squash courts are located on campus, thus supervision and liability are less of an issue.
“Bates has generally been very involved , or has tried to be very involved, with the community most of the time,” said Peter Garcia, Bates’ sailing club coach and a regular visitor to the courts. “If you hear any whining going on about squash, it’s an anomaly. It’s not that Bates is not generous, Bates is very generous. I think Bates gains from that relationship [too].”
Overall, the expansion of the sports medicine facilities will undoubtedly benefit injured varsity athletes and help further the mission of sports medicine. Yet, it must also be said that this project comes at a cost, one which affects people who love playing squash and racquetball.