Bonding Through the Elbow Grease

Nick Froelich, the associate director of facility and operations for campus recreation services at Cleveland State University, calls it a “bonding experience” when student staff and professional staff come together in old, dirty clothes for the rec center’s annual shutdown.

CENTERS, a national company focused on collegiate recreation management for several colleges and universities across the U.S., requires an annual shutdown of recreation facilities for cleaning. The  length of the shutdown depends on how much time the recreation department needs for a deep cleaning of the facility.

Those projects include repainting, tearing apart cardio equipment for dusting, stripping down floors, deep cleaning carpets and many other maintenance projects that could not be done with students using the facility. “We wear old clothes, dirty clothes, and we do all sorts of sprucing up projects for the recreation center,” said Froelich.

Bob Holub is now the director of campus recreation at Marshall University, but previously worked as the facilities coordinator at Cleveland State University, where he started an internal custodial program. Then he was asked to do the same as the assistant director of facilities at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “That was the main part of shutdown week, to get to places — nooks and crannies — that we did not want to impede on the membership base or students,” said Holub.

And since he and Froelich used student staff and professional staff to clean the facilities, not only did it create a bonding experience, but he also found students took more pride in the facility.

“It’s a lot of work. The end result at both schools that we’ve done this at is cleaning a building with a student staff helps them take more pride in what they do each day,” said Holub.

LeAnn Alexander, the director of campus recreation at Mississippi University for Women, agrees. Since MUW is not a CENTERS school, Alexander chooses a day, typically during winter break, to close the facility and have her student staff “clean from top to bottom,” which is a learning experience for the students, she said.

“I’m all about learning experiences and having teaching moments … And so to have these type of days, cleaning days, to outsource, may just look like we’re taking it for what it is. But that’s a time that we bond and get to know each other and in turn, that’s what makes a better working environment,” said Alexander.

For maintenance or cleaning that needs outsourcing, such as the full resurfacing at UAB last year, Holub outsources those projects to experts in the field.

All three directors agree: The toughest part is finding a day that works well in the university schedule for a lengthy shutdown of the recreation department. Alexander takes advantage of winter break, but Holub and Froelich choose a few days after graduation in May for a multiple-day shutdown.

While it is inconvenient to non-students who are paying for memberships, Froelich said this time is when he sees less activity at the rec center. Holub recommends letting the members know far in advance when the recreation center will be shutting down. He also has partnered with local health and fitness clubs so members have access to those gyms during the shutdown week.

In addition to the annual shutdown, the three universities have a cleaning checklist their student staff or professional staff  follow each day.

“Our entry-level student staff at this building, they’re called recreation attendants,” explained Froelich. “When they’re hired, they are our janitorial, mechanical and maintenance kind of entry-level worker. And we always have two of them in the building at all times. They’re literally going around and they have their checklist.”

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