Creating outdoor programs has become the new trend as COVID-19 has changed the way we operate and think about programming as a whole. The question, “How do we get students into our building?” was considered from all angles. We quickly realized it’s not about getting them in the building, but rather getting them to engage with Recreation and Wellness by reducing any anxiety and perceived inconveniences they may have. All the while, ensuring our new and modified programs and operations were following recommendations from campus to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Our program’s team spent hours planning and preparing for what things would and could look like. One thing we all agreed on was offering outdoor programming would provide a solution for those who may be uncomfortable exercising indoors or wearing a mask while exercising. From an operational standpoint, outdoor programming allowed us to increase max capacities due to the additional space.
Following the guidelines of Protect Purdue, our university’s COVID-19 response plan, our group came together to offer multiple outdoor programs listed below. Masks are not required when physical distancing can be maintained and when there is no sharing of equipment.
- Outdoor Group Fitness Classes: multiple free classes per week like yoga, Zumba, etc.
- In-Person Sport Programs: soccer-tennis, disc golf, HORSE and a “punt, pass, kick” event.
- Outdoor Personal Training: personal training that happens outside.
Creating Social Connectedness Matters
We want our members to know we are more than just a gym. Mental health is just as important as physical health. We know the importance of prioritizing mental health and we aim to do this by creating experiences for human interaction, even with limited contact. “Our intention is to do what we can to promote the two fundamental pieces of sport programs; physical competition and social connectedness,” said Jason Maynard, a professional intern for Sport Programs.
Strive for Excellence
The facilities and programs sides of the house came together to discuss everything that would go into planning to make these programs happen. From painting dots on grass fields for distancing, ordering sound systems to create the studio atmosphere and coming up with emergency action plans, our staff came together to make these ideas a reality.
What do Students Want?
We know our on-campus students are craving an in-person residential experience. We also know some strongly dislike the challenges of wearing a mask while exercising indoors. By providing outdoor sports, fitness classes and personal training opportunities, we provide campus with activities that bring a sense of community, in a time of much stress and uncertainty. In just two weeks, over 150 students joined our outdoor group fitness class offerings and over 100 students have signed up to play soccer-tennis, disc golf, corn hole and HORSE.
Our advice to others looking to tackle outdoor programming and alternative programming during this difficult time is nothing is off the table. We have seen so many great ideas from multiple universities that put a spin on normal sports, fitness and competition to make them safe during this pandemic. Dream bigger, work together and ask the students what they want. Weave your ideas together with the guidance of your university.