Growing up in my native Nigeria, educational and vocational activities were always given priority over recreation and wellness programs. Thus, most of the population, myself included, had to settle for street soccer as our go-to sports and recreational activity.
Upon my arrival at Texas Southern University in 2015, I was fascinated with the provision of recreational activities and equipment at school. The fact that these services were not provided at large in Nigeria also played a big role in my appreciation of, and involvement in, campus recreation.
I was eventually given an opportunity to give back to the TSU recreation center through a youth summer program set up by the director of recreation services. I was able to establish a bond with coworkers and a rapport with patrons, which helped me gain automatic employment for the following semester.
So far, working in the recreation center has been nothing short of amazing. I would recommend working in the recreation center to friends and fellow undergraduates because of the perks that come with being on staff. Apart from wages, we have the opportunity to be directly invested in the lives of other students. We help set up events and get an opportunity to socialize with more people in the college community, which has enriched my college experience.
In addition, working in the rec center has helped strengthen my skills — skills that will prove useful while working beyond the rec center. For example, refereeing intramural activities has improved my discernment and judgment skills, as well as my ability to communicate clearly.
Most of the activities offered by TSU's rec center promote the values of health and teamwork. Intramural leagues promote teamwork but also help students socialize. The option of free agency, which allows students to sign up individually and be added to a team, gives students who may be introverts the opportunity to meet people in a relaxed and cooperative social setting.
After acquiring my bachelor's degree, I plan to enroll in a graduate program at TSU. I would like to use my knowledge gained in class and at the rec center to give back to college communities around the world. I hope to one day work with a team that will create solutions to improve sports and recreation equipment, as well as a general technological advancement of the sports and recreation field. The role of computers in sports is underappreciated, and technological advancements should aid in the improvement of all fields, including sports and recreation.
I believe in the role of recreation in helping improve the minds, bodies and souls of everyone on campus. Mental health is becoming a bigger topic in the country and the world at large, and I believe that recreation centers should have programs that help address and create awareness for mental health issues, while also providing programs that address these issues. On this front, I would commend my institution's recreation center for setting up a relaxation center and providing ongoing information sessions on meditation and relaxation techniques.
The rec center at TSU strives to provide as many activities as possible for students. In the fall 2019 semester alone, four intramural leagues were set up, as well as other activities, such as CPR training, swimming lessons and go-kart racing.
Furthermore, I believe that campus recreation and health club professionals should also promote inclusion and diversity in the field. Inclusion for LGBTQ students, as well as improved accommodations for people with disabilities, would be important, forward-looking developments that can usher us into the next decade.
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Nigerian perspective on American campus recreation." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.