‘This year could be pretty special’

What A&R has planned for the year ahead 

Athletics and Recreation hopes to increase engagement.
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Due to COVID-19, the past few years have seen limited capacity and reduced Athletics and Recreation (A&R) programming. Come fall, however, A&R will hit the ground running.
 
This year, the incoming class won’t be the only ones being introduced to the world of Queen’s A&R. This year will be new to the thousands of upper-year students who have had their university careers impacted by the pandemic, too.
 
It’s important that students understand A&R is more than just the ARC, fitness programming, and Richardson Stadium. It occupies two realms: Athletics and Recreation.
 
The former is based in athletics and home to the Queen’s basketball, football, rugby, hockey, rowing, soccer, volleyball, and cross-country varsity teams. Queen’s Athletics also supports over 20 varsity club sports ranging from ultimate to fencing, and from curling to squash. 
 
These sports are practiced at an extremely competitive level, sending players to participate both provincially and nationally at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and fitness programming, and Queen’s facilities. It also includes intramurals—one of A&R’s most prized programs—which features a robust number of leagues across different levels of competition. 
 
However, intramurals cannot possibly cover every sport, which is why rec clubs are there to fill the gaps. Rec clubs are niche teams built around specific interests and are available to students without a tryout or audition. 
 
Rec clubs create environments that transcend simple competition to build community and promote learning opportunities. Some notables include the Queen’s Dance Club—which is the largest recreational club at Queens—the equestrian club, and the Esports club.
 
For the first time in years, these programs and facilities will finally be available to students without restrictions. Ben Fisher, A&R communications coordinator, met with The Journal to discuss how things should play out during the 2022-23 school year.
 
“It is a better offering [of programming] come fall,” Fisher said. 
 
Part of this means bringing back the fitness equipment that was removed during the pandemic to facilitate COVID-appropriate social distancing. Another element is having stadiums at full capacity. Fisher is hopeful to have games where students can show up with nothing more than a student card. 
 
“[We want] to get our student population as engaged as it used to be,” Fisher said.
 
“There are some third and fourth years who haven’t had the full university experience. Better late than never.”
 
Regular season home games are free to Queen’s students, and Gaels are looking forward to competing in stadiums roaring with fans. 
 
Although in-person events are back, many virtual elements that were invented during the pandemic will stick around. One example is the virtual learn to weightlift program that uses YouTube videos to teach interested but unfamiliar students the weightlifting basics. 
 
“It’s pretty awesome when all the facilities are at your fingertips and that’s what we strive to do,” Fisher explained. 
 
However, with these changes and a new school year come many anxieties. Fisher recognizes the gym is often a place of nerves and apprehension. 
 
“There’s people there that are happy to help and happy to make it feel a little bit more like a community. So many of the ARC staff members are students, and they’ve kinda had that feeling in first year as well, so they are happy to help and lend their expertise.”
 
All things considered, A&R is ready for students to return with full force. 
 
“I do think this year could be pretty special,” Fisher concluded. “It’s a pretty cool building to be in and to learn in, and our sports teams are a lot of fun to watch.”
 
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