Playgrounds and outdoor games equipment have a long history, both in the community public space and in both primary and secondary educational bodies. The latter two of these have both embraced and accepted the idea that these are not just necessary parts of the school system, but in fact they offer essential benefits that give children outlets and essential educational benefits.
However at the tertiary education level the subject is less readily relished. While increasing numbers of universities around the world are investing in effective and valuable outdoor sports equipment, the broader opinion remains that such things are an extravagant luxury. Something only to be invested into when a university finds itself in a comfortable and well established financial position. A non-essential that does not provide the kind of ancillary benefit or necessary advantages to be considered a facility of urgent need.
An increasing body of evidence however shows that this kind of thinking could be misguided, and that in fact universities and colleges need to look more seriously at sports equipment not just as a luxury to be enjoyed by the more athletically gifted students among their number, but as something that could be of extreme benefit to the university as a whole, staff and students alike.
Attracting the best students and staff
With university in general around the world becoming a more and more expensive endeavour for students, and many other career opportunities opening up to the well educated professionals who might have otherwise become research staff and teachers, games facilities become an important attraction factor for students and staff alike.
Depending on your country, and how your school is set up, charges between subjects and universities may not vary as much as is necessary to make competing on price a viable option, and the ability to offer access to specialist health and fitness facilities could be a vital swing factor when potential new academic staff are looking for, especially when you’re not able to be more flexible on salary or other more traditional benefit systems.
This attraction goes further than just the students and staff who are directly considering your establishment. With a wider array of sports facilities, your institution can host more events. This in turn gets its name into more situations, widely increasing your mind share in the broader population. A very valuable commodity when trying to get the best possible students and staff to come to your institution.
Structured non-classroom socialising
One of the most difficult things for many students making the tough transition between secondary and tertiary education is the lack of structured social time. Their daily routines will mostly lack the same kind of rigorous planned arrangements that they were more used to at secondary level. This can cause problems when it comes to things like making friends, forming social groups, and developing the kinds of connections that came much more naturally in earlier life.
Sports facilities solve this problem by providing an environment that is both structured and social. Somewhere that students can develop the kind of interactions and connections that can support them in their efforts to turn their university routines into a new kind of everyday life, and takes halls of residence and transforms them into homes and communities.
Lower stress and increase confidence
Despite the seeming platitude-ish nature of the claims that better sports and fitness facilities can improve the quality of students life, the data does consistently support this proposition’s truth. During a wider study by Purdue university conducted from 2010 to 2013, over one sixteen week period, when a group of 110 students who regularly took part in voluntary gym classes such as yoga and kickboxing were compared to 100 students who made no visits to the recreation facilities at all, the study found that the former group all reported lowered levels of stress and anxiety related to their academic matters, and higher overall levels of confidence.
This kind of benefit leads to a much more important output – improved grades. A 2014 study at Michigan State University found that their students who enrolled in memberships at the University’s Sports and Fitness Centres had average higher grades, and better consistent attendance over their first two years. They also found there was a substantially higher GPA, and 14% more gym-membership students became sophomores than non gym students.
This is just the briefest surface scratching into the matter, and from even this brief consideration, the results are clear. The kinds of benefits that sports facilities offer to universities are not ones to be ignored.
Author Name – Michael Trimmer
Brief Author Bio – Michael is a professional writer and political sciences academic who has worked in religious journalism, UK parliamentary affairs, corporate education consultancy, and student affairs magazines.