More than just a gym

Students find a home at MizzouRec.

Zeph France uses the basketball courts at the MizzouRec
Zeph France uses the basketball courts at the MizzouRec Nov. 13, 2020. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

By Jesse Berlin

On a campus of more than 30,000 students, it can be hard to find a home. But MizzouRec, MU’s award-winning student recreation facility, provides some with a sense of belonging.

Sophomore Zeph France has made it part of his routine. Every weekday, at 5:45 a.m., he hits the weight room and works out until at least 7:30 a.m. Then he’ll return that afternoon and spend two to three hours on the basketball court.

It’s there, shooting baskets, where France can truly get lost in what he’s doing. For a while, it was the center of his social life on campus.

“Well last year, I used to come here because this is how I met people,” said France. “This is how I met almost 95 percent of my friends, playing pickup basketball.”

France sees pickup games as a better social experience than parties because, on the court, “everybody’s on the same chord.” They’re bonding over a shared activity, whereas at parties, “it’s like everybody’s kind of doing their own thing.”

France says MizzouRec gives him more discipline. “When you’re in the weight room, it’s like you got to work out if you want to get results,” said France. “If you want to get better at shooting, you have to shoot.”

Manny Adetayo surveys MizzouRec during his shift as he reinforces Covid-19 safety protocols
Manny Adetayo surveys MizzouRec during his shift as he reinforces Covid-19 safety protocols Nov. 18, 2020. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

For senior Manny Adetayo, MizzouRec is a place to get future career experience.

Adetayo’s goal is to be a NCAA coach, so when he transferred to Mizzou last year, he applied almost immediately to MizzouRec to monitor club sports.

Once hired, Adetayo stood at the sidelines with a first aid kit and what he calls a “code kit,” which is how he would notify, via a radio, the appropriate personnel for assistance if a player was injured.

Not only is MizzouRec getting Adetayo coaching practice, he says it also gives him real-world lessons, especially when it comes to emergency response. Now, he feels prepared to handle, for example, someone fainting because he was trained to act quickly and efficiently.

“You’re just used to doing it because you’ve been doing it at the Rec,” said Adetayo.

Although MizzouRec operates differently because of the pandemic, MizzouRec Director Stephen Byrd says it needs to remain accessible because he understands it’s a vital service on campus that can help relieve stress and boost mental health and well-being.

“One of the reasons I believe in university recreation is that students who engage in university recreation services do better than those who do not,” said Byrd. “If you stop providing those services to students, you’re literally taking something away.”

He also says that MizzouRec, pandemic or not, provides opportunities students can’t get elsewhere on campus, including 40 virtual group exercise classes, esports tournaments and athletic training services.

“The range of different things that can be engaged in, both in-person and online, it’s very much not just a gym,” said Byrd. “Some of the different spaces we have I think regardless of the type, of how you get your well-being needs met, there’s a good chance that we have an offering that will help meet that need.”