In a swelter pool in the basement of McGonigle Hall, both the men’s and women’s track teams practice once a week.
Though it may look like fun to the outsider looking in, it isn’t a joke to the athletes.
It’s a chance to work on strengthening muscles and improving speed without risking pulls and sprains. It’s a chance to rejuvenate weary muscles, to interact with each other in a less stressful environment.
And it’s a change of scenery from the monotonous and cold practices on the track.
Despite its hard work, the men’s team has been as cold lately as the track upon which they practice.
Although the women’s team did well at the Penn State Invitational earlier this month, the men have stumbled.
They placed ninth and eighth in the first two competitions of 2003.
In all fairness, the reasons for the team’s struggles are somewhat beyond their control.
George Phillips, who coaches both squads, shed some light on the situation.
“The men are not funded the same way as the women,” said Phillips, sitting poolside while watching both squads go through their workouts.
“So, there are less scholarships and less scholarship athletes. It makes it very tough for them to be in the top echelon.
“The Title IX issue,” Phillips added, “all relates to football in relationship to all the other men’s sports. Since football gives out so many scholarships, they have to compensate through Title IX for female teams. So a lot of the other minor men’s sports are really under the standard for scholarships. It just makes our job a lot harder.”
Phillips said men’s track and field has five scholarships to award while other teams are given 12.
Although the athletes that do receive scholarships are lettering in the top 10 in their respective conference events, the majority of the team is made up of walk-ons.
There are at least 10 walk-ons on the men’s team while the women’s team only has three.
This means Phillips must pick and choose his spots.
With only five grants at his disposal, Phillips has to either split the scholarship up or choose the events in which he wants to be competitive and reward the money to those particular athletes.
This, and the inability to give full rides, also plays a factor in the recruiting process.
Phillips also said the team’s lack of depth hampers its progress.
“We have such a small team that we don’t always score very well,” Phillips conceded.
“Say, in Rhode Island, if we go to the conference championship, they’re allowed to enter 34 athletes. We only have 16 guys on the team, so we’re down by half. And we can cover only so many events. Right now, we can cover only eight or nine of the 19 events in the conference championship.”
Between instructing his submerged teams, the fourth-year coach also cited lack of facilities as a major hindrance.
There were times when the team had to shovel the track before they used it, practice in the garage and even run in Septa’s subway concourse.
Phillips said that police had consequently admonished them while practicing in the concourse.
To remedy the problem, Phillips’ team can now use the track on the top floor of the IBC Recreation Center.
“We don’t really have a true indoor track facility, but this year we were allowed to get into the IBC indoor facility jogging track early in the morning, and that’s been a super positive,” Phillips said.
“It really made a effect on our kids, and we really appreciate it, and we want to thank Recreation Services for giving us the shot.”
Despite the rough start for the men’s team, senior sprinter Rob Leite-Young sees a bright future ahead.
“We have a young team, but things will be alright,” Leite-Young said.
“We have a lot of injuries though. A lot of people have hamstring injuries. It seems like when everything starts going well, people get hurt at the last minute. So hopefully everyone is strong enough now.”
With the Atlantic 10 Championships only two weeks away, and the famed Penn Relays looming on the horizon, Philips says his team is getting fired up.
“The guys are going to put it all out because they are going to try all kinds of events,” Phillips said.
“Were going to try to cover as many events as we can. So some guys are going to be doing two or three events. A couple of guys are going to be doing things they haven’t done all year. But, everybody is making some big sacrifices to get points because they’re trying to meet their goal.”
Calvin Gorrell can be reached at Cgorrell@temple.edu