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Behind the scenes at the Athletic Centre

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The Athletic Centre at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Harbord Street.
The Athletic Centre at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Harbord Street.

Offering all sorts of activities from aquafit and martial arts to strength training, U of T Athletics provides a wide variety of fitness options for its student body. Yet, while many students are aware of what the Athletic Centre offers, few recognize the people that make it all possible. With a large student population constantly at the centre’s doors, both the faculty and programming departments require a large amount of effort.

Take Alex Vickers, for example. Every day, Vickers makes sure that all the pumps of the aquatic facility are functioning and that the leaks are plugged. Vickers, as one of two assistant facility managers of the pool, works to maintain the aquatic facilities, including all the lifeguards and pool operations, on an everyday basis.

The Varsity pool plays host to a number of provincial meets every year. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

The Varsity pool plays host to a number of provincial meets every year. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

Considering the importance of aquatic facilities to U of T athletics, it is no small wonder that the pool is almost always booked for student athletes. “We have swim meets happening starting in October quite frequently, and that’s an exciting draw to the aquatic area. Water polo and diving are always happening,” Vickers explains. “It’s quite fun to see people doing flips and turns off the 5-metre tower.”

Aside from student athletes, the Athletic Centre also rents out its 25-yard pool to smaller programs and clubs. Vickers himself has had some interesting experiences on that matter. “We use that area for our women only programming that allows us to close the blinds to the area so that it is away from public view. Because of that, a number of years ago we hosted the U of T Naturists [a nudist group], who would rent the pool and come swimming,” recalls Vickers. “That was definitely an interesting use of the facility,” he adds with a chuckle.

That being said, managing the pool can be quite a daunting task. Part of the reason being the age of the pool itself, which was built over 30 years ago. Despite the extra work necessary to maintain it, the pool’s managers are up for the task. As Vickers notes: “We’re proud to have a final product that the user sees that looks immaculate in our opinion. We’re happy about the safety we provide and the programs that we’re able to offer, and I think it’s certainly one of the premier pools in Ontario.”

The Athletic Centre field house is the hub of the facility. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

The Athletic Centre field house is the hub of the facility. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

Likewise, Will Kopplin, the assistant manager of physical activity for both the Athletic Centre and Varsity Centre has his own part to play. Broadly speaking, Kopplin’s work involves providing opportunity and promoting physical activity on campus for students. As such, Kopplin strives to connect with students as much as possible through campus events, including the Zombie Skate at Varsity Centre last week. “We usually expect 150 students out to those kind of events, and it’s a good opportunity for me to interact with them,” he points out.

Having worked with the university for over six years, Kopplin realizes that there is a significant amount of work that goes into preparing for each academic year. “There’s a very large team that is involved in all kinds of things that students will not see,” he explains.

One of the main things that students will never see behind the scenes is the scheduling process, where the bulk of the work lies. “We meet every other week in order to accomplish that, starting a year prior,” he says. “The resources here at the university for athletics are at this point somewhat limited, [and] we’re expanding all the time. So we are scheduling facilitates a year in advance to make sure that we are maximizing the resources that we have and providing the most opportunities for students.”

Intramurals take place in various ares of the Athletic Centre.

Intramurals take place in various ares of the Athletic Centre.

When asked whether he enjoys his job despite its difficulties, Kopplin replied: “Absolutely, it’s a great place to work. Keeps me fresh and active, and hopefully I’m able to pass that on to the students as well.”

For students wishing to explore new interests while reaping the many benefits of staying fit and healthy, the Athletic Centre is open seven days a week and available to all U of T students.