Winter sports, activities struggle to access school gym space


Delaney Brooks

On Jan 9, an Oakton High School student practices alongside the boys’ varsity basketball team. OHS does not have an indoor pole vaulting facility and so they occasionally share with CHS. Because of the relative compactness of their equipment, pole vaulters often share the gym with other sports.

Delaney Brooks, Copy Editor

On a good night for center snare junior Ryan Chang, he arrives at CHS 30 minutes before his practice at Greenbriar West Elementary School. He retrieves his snare drum from its place in the band room as a fellow member of the indoor drumline wheels the tarp outside. Chang then loads his instrument into his car and departs for practice.

“Last year, we were able to get a couple gym practices,” Chang said. “I think we got between five and 10 practices at the [CHS] gym on Saturdays throughout the whole year before our competitions, but we weren’t really able to get space there any other times.”

Demand for gym space is at its highest in the winter. Not only do school sports teams and other activities need space to practice, but outside entities do too. Director of Student Activities Corey Bowerman assigns the gym space and sometimes struggles to meet everyone’s demands at the gym’s busiest time of year.

“I just meet with the coaches, and anyone outside of coaches; they have to put it through the scheduling system,” Bowerman said. “Especially in the winter, outside of weekend use, the gym is impossible to get. We use it every single night until at least 9:00.”

According to Bowerman, CHS students take priority when allocating gym time. The gym is used for physical education classes during the school day and is occupied for practices on weeknights. This only leaves the gym open for community groups after hours on weekdays, after practices on Saturdays and all of Sunday.

When gym space is not available but the team still needs to practice, coaches and directors are often forced to get creative in finding a space. According to Chang, the indoor drumline often splits in half so the battery (marching drummers) can practice with the tarp while the larger, less portable instruments of the pit stay back. And when the weather is especially inclement, the indoor track team takes things inside to find a staircase to run or use the weight room if it’s available. 

“We have to pack our instruments into our cases along with our harnesses and stands and there’s this big speaker metronome we also have to take,” Chang said. “Everyone has to take their own instrument in their own car. Our instruments have gotten damaged because some don’t have good cases. Sometimes they’ll open up while we’re trying to unload.”

In the interest of getting as much gym space for as many teams as possible, Bowerman schedules for the gym to be shared whenever possible. Cheer, JV and varsity volleyball are often scheduled together. Sports which practice in the gym but don’t occupy the entire space often share with others as well. Pole vaulters of the indoor track team, for example, often share the gym because of the compactness of their equipment.

“We don’t want to shut down the entire gym for pole vault because they’re off to the side, so you still have five of the eight baskets available to practice even with pole vault going on,” Bowerman said. 

According to track and field coach Jason Franks, sharing gym space has the potential to be dangerous. His athletes run the risk of tripping when practicing near a sport which uses balls that can roll under foot and he says that in such circumstances, pole vaulters should be cognizant of their surroundings in the interest of safety. 

“Any time there’s a risk of a ball rolling under somebody’s foot while they’re in the middle of a full speed sprint, you could have some pretty severe injuries,” Franks said. “Before you run down the runway, you have to look and make sure there’s nothing coming your way. You have to have teammates who are prepared to block off a section to make sure no one walks across a runway that’s being used.”

While the track and field team is content to practice in their current circumstances, others, such as Chang think their activity would benefit from regular practices in the CHS gym. 

“With indoor drumline especially, there’s not many options for us to be able to practice fully together unless we’re in the [CHS] gym, so that’s basically our only option,” Chang said. “I feel like the only limitation we’re facing besides budget is having space.”