Melinda Houston, a professor in the Kinesiology department and Occidental’s first full-time head conditioning coach, is shaking things up in the varsity weight room. Houston’s new program emphasizes mobility and core strength in varsity workouts and enforces a strict schedule and supervision policy. She hopes to create a feeling of organization and consistency that out-of-season athletes lacked in the past.
Change is almost always accompanied by discontent, and this is certainly the case here, as off-season lacrosse, baseball, softball, swimming and track & field athletes test out Houston’s new training schedule this fall. The program asks that varsity athletes meet as a team or multi-team group three times a week, usually in the early hours of the morning. But athletes from the swim and lacrosse teams have expressed their desire for training sessions later in the day, or at least the option to go into the varsity weight room on their own time. Although there are options to attend make-up sessions, some athletes still find it difficult to make these sessions and believe there should be open hours in the varsity weight room.
“I can’t help everyone at once, at the level I would want,” Houston said.
For the benefit of Occidental athletics, students with scheduling conflicts might just have to suck it up and buy into the program for now, despite its present inconvenience.
Although increasing the availability of the varsity weight room ought to be considered, it is difficult to cater workouts to the schedules of every athlete on campus, and following Houston’s new regimen promises mental and physiological benefits for our athletes. Disgruntled athletes should feel free to use Alumni Gymnasium if they wish to train on their own schedule.
Houston’s intentions are clear, unwavering and will bolster the mental and physical state of Occidental athletics through uniformity of mindset and technique. By requiring athletes to work out as a team, they are held accountable for pushing each other and getting the most out of their work outs. If she were to allow open hours in the weight room, solo workouts would become the norm, and the team building efforts she’s made thus far would be null and void.
On the physical side of things, Houston wants to emphasize mobility and core strength as key elements of workouts for every varsity team. This focus on form and technique will not only make our athletes better, but will make them more knowledgeable about lift workouts and how to do them safely. If students buy into Houston’s program and learn to do exercises correctly and safely, perhaps varsity athletes will be allowed to train on their own in the future.
In the meantime, Houston is in a period of growth, and will re-examine her efforts after this semester. Students should look forward to new equipment and motivational posters in the varsity weight room. Houston wants the space to be one that varsity athletes should be proud to work out in, because they’ve put in the work and earned the right to be there. Supporting that effort is nothing but positive.