Unlikely Partnerships in Campus Recreation

unlikely partnerships

How Saint Joseph’s University found unlikely partnerships in unique spaces to provide programming opportunities.


When planning began for the Fall 2020 semester at Saint Joseph’s University — a private, Jesuit university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — the Campus Recreation team knew they would have to think outside of the box with programming being offered to their community.

Earlier that summer, Campus Recreation was reorganized from Student Life to report to the Athletics department. That change was made to improve the student experience primarily in the areas of facilities, student health and well-being. The new reporting structure opened the doors for some unlikely collaborations between campus recreation and varsity athletic coaches.

Varsity coaches are often considered the experts of their respective sport programs but not traditionally thought of as a resource to seek out when looking to expand recreational programming offerings. At Saint Joseph’s University, the varsity men’s and women’s rowing coaches volunteered to run outdoor, socially distanced rowing classes for the students and employees.

The classes were held twice a week and students and employees could reserve their spot on the erg using the Campus Recreation reservation system. Classes were held on a grass field adjacent to the recreation center. Those classes were added to the larger group fitness menu with great success. The collaboration was considered a win for both partners. Campus Recreation was excited to be able to offer a high level of instruction in a group setting and the rowing coaches were able to promote their sport to a new audience.

Another unlikely partnership initiated was with the men’s varsity track and field/cross country coach. In an effort to provide safe, socially distanced walking and running options to the university community, the coach offered maps for on campus routes of varying distances. Those maps were made accessible to the entire university as a new resource called “Running on Hawk Hill.”  The coach’s knowledge and expertise in the sport allowed him to put together courses that were accessible to all walking and running levels.

It is gleaned from these two examples of unlikely partnerships that it can be beneficial to take stock of the resources you have available on your campus. Do not limit your inventory to the spaces or the funding, but include those people who are experts in a sport or unique skill. Other potential opportunities certainly exist in sports such as tennis, golf and swimming. Campus experts may just be willing to lend their expertise in an effort to enhance the student experience with campus recreation.

Angie Nagle, serves as the assistant athletics director for Campus Recreation at Saint Joseph's University located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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