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Athletic department should post weight room schedule

New program limits student use of weight room, reduces mental, physical wellbeing
Kate Xia

Leaning against the cold gray walls, I sit slouched outside the weight room, jolting upright at the sound of every footstep, hoping to hear the jangle of keys. Like the fanatics who camp outside stores hoping to snag a deal on Black Friday, dozens of other students and I wait outside the weight room, scrambling for our backpacks as soon as we hear a door open.

But unlike the people camping outside for a one-time sale, we wait year-round hoping the day we sit outside the weight room, it will be open.

Opened in 2017, the weight room, situated on the lower level of the Peery Family Center, was available to all students from Monday to Friday after school, and in recent years, it has been open to all students from Monday to Thursday. However, on Jan. 29, the athletic department introduced the Strength and Conditioning Program for sports teams to receive extra training, which runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, restricting public access to only Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Strength and Conditioning Program requires coaches to request certain time slots for personal training sessions with the Strength and Conditioning coach. However even if sessions are not reserved, the weight room will be closed, restricting access for the general public regardless of if the new resources are actually being utilized. Neither Assistant Principal LaDonna Butler nor Athletic Director Jennifer Crane agreed to comment on how many sessions the Strength and Conditioning Coach has led so far.

In Palo Alto, paying for a gym membership during the school year costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, not to mention the transportation time and costs. Without convenient access to a gym, many students are unable to work out anymore, losing all the mental and physical health benefits that come from weightlifting.

In particular, working out is an integral part of many students’ lives, especially because it is associated with improved physical performance and mood and bone development, offering students a break from the hectic high school experience. Physical activity also reduces symptoms of depression and lowers risk for diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

While strengthening sports teams through the Strength and Conditioning Program is valuable, cutting off athletic resources from the rest of the student body is unfair. In an interview with The Campanile, Butler said the current program utilizes the athletic department’s stipend for its intended purpose of developing the Strength and Conditioning Program.

The intent to advance athletes’ training with the program is commendable, but Paly’s million dollar weight room should be accessible to all students instead of only prioritizing certain athletes. Since many students on sports teams do not participate in school sports year-round, even these students will have restricted access when their sport is not in season.

Many students also have after school commitments, so having only Tuesday and Thursday as options limits students and can prevent us from going all together.

Instead, the weight room should be open to all students from Monday through Thursday for at least one hour, then the Strength and Conditioning Program can run afterward, in the morning or on Fridays.

Even if the program continues as it is, the weight room is still run inefficiently during the two days set aside for all students. Sometimes the weight room is not even open on Tuesday or Thursday, and it can take an upwards of 45 minutes for an adult supervisor to open the weight room.

When I visit the weight room, more often than not, I have to wait at least 30 minutes before being allowed to enter, and it is extremely frustrating and disheartening to see the same hardworking students sit outside the weight room every day. Sometimes the weight room does not even open on Tuesday or Thursday, and we are almost never notified about these closings, causing us to waste valuable time.

I recognize staff members are not always available to supervise, so to minimize this issue, I urge the athletic department to post a public schedule with exact opening and closing times, reserved training periods and the available supervisors at given times.

Before the construction of the weight room, Dave Peery, whose family was the donor for the Peery Family Center, said in an interview with Palo Alto Online that his family funded the construction of the gym not just for the enrichment of student athletes, but also for the support it would provide for the wider Paly community, including non athlete students.

“It’s not really about sports or athletics per se,” Peery said. “This is much more about providing balance in the lives of our busy youth. Additionally, these facilities will be available to the broader community.”

I hope Paly can continue the Peery family’s legacy of supporting everyone in our community because I believe the implementation of the Strength and Conditioning Program and the lack of communication about weight room openings deviates from the original purpose of this enriching facility.

As a school that prioritizes and consistently advocates for mental health and the wellbeing of students, admin should strongly consider the perspectives of students advocating for increased transparency from the athletic department, especially because we are actively trying to improve our physical, mental and emotional health through the weight room.

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Kate Xia
Kate Xia, Lifestyle & Science/Tech Editor
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