Exploring the impact of the Women on Weights program offered by the Pulse Fitness Centre  

Time constraints. Fear of injuries. Lack of gym knowledge. Looking silly. These are some concerns addressed by trainers through the Women on Weights program offered at the Pulse Fitness Centre.   

This six-week program covers various resistance training techniques as well as gym etiquette, aerobic training, nutrition, the importance of exercise and the body. Taught by certified trainers, the program provides fundamental knowledge and skills to enhance participants’ confidence and comfort at the gym.  

“When I was starting out by myself, I would have never gone into the gym alone because of that intimidation factor – being in a male-dominated area [or] being surrounded by a lot of machines that you have no idea how to use. The purpose of this program is to engage and teach women of all ages and abilities the importance of exercise,” explained Elizabeth Lang, trainer and life sciences student.  

The purpose of this program is to engage and teach women of all ages and abilities the importance of exercise

Elizabeth Lang, Women on Weights program trainer and Life Sciences student

The Pulse was set to offer three Women on Weights classes in the fall semester with ten participants in each class. However, due to popular demand and a growing waitlist, the program was expanded to five classes.  

To ease participants into the gym setting, the Women on Weights program is designed to progress in difficulty and slowly introduce participants to new weightlifting movements and machines. Having taught this program twice, Meghan Kostashuk has started to notice similar trends in participants.  

“In the first week, a lot of the girls are very shy [or] anxious and have never been in a gym environment or haven’t been in a gym environment since high school. By the time the sixth class rolls around, all the girls are doing movements that they would never ever do, like deadlifting, squatting with a barbell, bench-pressing,” said Kostashuk, trainer and a biochemistry student.  

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The consistency and length of the program allows learners to develop practical skills in a short time frame. Both Lang and Kostashuk described the appreciation that participants have expressed for the program. For instance, past participants have often expressed more personal comfort in open-concept areas after learning how to use the machines in the gym.  

“I was worried that I would injure myself or just look kind of silly because I didn’t know what was going on. There’s a lot of information online but sometimes it can be overwhelming . . . I definitely got a lot more confident in myself and my ability to go to the gym alone,” explained Celina Ruan, a past participant of the Women on Weights program.  

The program provides participants with a wealth of information while also giving them an opportunity to make new friends and accountability partners through the classes. Once the six-weeks of Women on Weights comes to an end, trainers will often encounter past participants exercising together at the gym.   

“I think there’s definitely been a really big impact on the girls. I still see some of the girls around the gym all the time and they’ll always come up to me and be like “I’ve been going to the gym with so and so from our class, we’ve become gym buddies and we go together all the time and we hold each other accountable,” and that’s such a nice thing to see,” said Kostashuk. 

In addition to the Women on Weights program, Kostashuk teaches an introductory lifting program in partnership with the McMaster University biochemistry and biomedical sciences society. Moving forward, Kostashuk hopes to open a similar program for students of all gender identities and programs.  

“With clients I’ve always tried to instill the idea in them that no matter how much weight you’re lifting, no matter how new to an exercise you are, no matter how new you are to the gym, there’s always a space for you,” said Kostashuk.  

With clients I’ve always tried to instill the idea in them that no matter how much weight you’re lifting, no matter how new to an exercise you are, no matter how new you are to the gym, there’s always a space for you

Meghan Kostashuk, Women on Weights program teacher

McMaster students and David Braley Athletic Centre members can participate in programs for a reduced price. The Women on Weights program will also be offered in the upcoming winter semester. To learn more about the program and other classes offered by The Pulse, visit their website.   

Opening weekend for Marauders soccer complete after their matches against the Western Mustangs

The fall sports season is finally underway! This past weekend both men’s and women’s soccer teams kicked off their scheduled seasons by facing the Western Mustangs.  

Both teams hit the road Saturday to meet the Mustangs on their home field. The women’s team kick off was first, taking place on what was one of the hotter days of the year. Third year center back, Bryanna Caldwell, was one of the athletes to play through the heat and she felt the team still did a fantastic job.  

“I feel like our strong preseason, which built a positive team environment, helped to create strong team chemistry, in which we play for one another. In addition other fans and students who made the trip all the way out to Western helped to push us through,” said Caldwell. 

Making the almost two-hour drive to London McMaster University students Anas Takrouri and Yasir Kosso were among those who came to support the Marauders at the kick off. 

“We like to come out and support the team because we know the feeling that comes with having fans come out and support you,” explained Takrouri.  

The team pushed through the heat and ended the game tied one to one. The thrilling match saw McMaster come back to level terms with less than 10 minutes left in the match. The game tying goal came from a header by Caldwell off of Emilie Calbrese’s cross. 

Another thrilling match came from the men's team shortly after. However, the McMaster men’s soccer team unfortunately lost their first match of the season under new head coach Chris Markou, losing by a slim two to one margin against the Mustangs. 

The weekends second day of play came with much cooler weather for both teams to compete in. The women’s team kicked off again first against a Western side irate from the match before. 

Caldwell recalled the physicality of the match and the intensity in which the game was played. Both the Marauders and the Mustangs desperately wanted to walk away victorious after they walked away from the first match tied.  

“We were fighting against another team who wanted the win just as badly as we did. Each player on Mac worked hard to win their one-on-one battles. Even with a couple of injuries, we pushed through,” said Caldwell. 

“We were fighting against another team who wanted the win just as badly as we did. Each player on Mac worked hard to win their one-on-one battles. Even with a couple of injuries, we pushed through,”

Bryanna Caldwell, Third year center back

The game ended up going to the Mustangs, with the Marauders losing by one goal. 

Just after the women’s match, the men’s team lined up to take on their contempories and eager to gain points. They ended the game with a one to nothing win via a goal by Miles Green. This marked the first win for McMaster under their new head coach.  

“The pride of playing at home pushed us to get a win. We wanted to set a tone and bring energy to the home field and for the fans,” said Bryan Florent a member of the men’s team.  

The fan’s made themselves heard, cheering on the Marauders until the end of each game. A new outpour of support from the crowd has had an immense impact on the players. 

“The fans are like a 12th man on the pitch. It gets us going and fired up. A round of applause after a tackle, a goal or a shot, it gives us good energy,” explained Florent. 

With a rigorous schedule ahead, the support of fans will hopefully continue to help push both teams ahead. 

Exploring the implications of viewing dance as a sport versus an art for McMaster Athletics and Recreation

The recognition dancers receive in the sporting community is contested both organizationally and from the perspective of the general public. Some may view dance as solely an art or form of entertainment. Others might not associate dance with the physical demands sports such as football or basketball demonstrate.  

Members on McMaster’s competitive and recreational dance teams often get overlooked in favour of other university athletes.  These struggles can be summarized by their classification as a club as opposed to a varsity team under McMaster's athletics and recreation department.  

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster competitive dance team, acknowledged the artistic components of dance but she also underscored dance’s athletic intensity. 

“We encourage all of our dancers and choreographers to be really creative and express your feelings. . . but to an extent, we are very athletic individuals. We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it,” explained Arnott.  

"We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

Per Arnott, members of the McMaster competitive dance team are expected to undergo at least six hours of training a week, including a one-hour intensive group conditioning class. Dancers also have the option to sign-up and participate in extra dances, which can add up to double this mandatory time. 

In preparation for their three competitions in March and end-of-year show in April, extra weekend practices and dress rehearsals contribute an additional layer of responsibility for members.  

Even with the difficulty and commitment required by members, neither the McMaster recreational nor the competitive dance team are officially considered varsity teams by the university.  

“As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . . I do think that it definitely can be discouraging not to have other people view you as an athlete when you do put in that high level of training,” said Arnott.  

"As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . ."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

This lack of recognition has significant implications not only for dancers and their identities but also their finances.  

The Athletics section on McMaster’s impact donation page allows patrons the opportunity to provide merit-based athletic financial awards for athletes across multiple different sports. Donors may provide one-time or perpetual gifts to various sporting team funds laid out on the website. Neither the McMaster Recreational Dance nor the Mcmaster Competitive Dance Team are among those listed. 

According to the McMaster Athletics Eligibility page for student athletes, dance is not officially recognized as either a U Sport or Ontario University Athletics sport. Accordingly, scholarships and financial support for athletes provided by the university are also only offered at the discretion of U Sports and OUA policies.  

Within both the OUA model outlining G1, G2 and G3 sports, as well as the Sports Model Framework developed by U Sports, dance fails to match their criteria to be considered a recognized sport.   

Currently, both teams primarily raise money through student-led fundraising events to cover their costs. Last year the team organized a Christmas bake sale, a Fun Run, and a sticker sale in support of both Mac Dance and the McMaster Children's Hospital Foundation. 

The lack of sponsorship or external backers furthers the funding gap between dance and other McMaster Athletics and Recreation sports. This lack of financial support results in increased payment fees for expenditures such as costumes, competitions and transportation. Alongside impacts to their personal identity, these financial burdens on dancers make their recognition as athletes a critical topic of discussion. 

C/O Rob Martin

Haven’t heard of the McMaster women’s football team? Let’s change that.

Many McMaster students may be familiar with our incredible men’s football team. They can often be seen practicing outside in the Ron Joyce Stadium, geared up head-to-toe on a bright sunny afternoon. What students may not know is that three times a week, in a field tucked behind the stadium, practices McMaster’s women’s football team in the thick of winter. At first glance, it may not appear so, as one would be mistaken to find any protective equipment other than the thickest hoodies players can find.  

For those unaware of the structure of varsity sports at McMaster and across other Ontario universities, here’s the breakdown: the McMaster Marauders are registered for 16 sports in the OUA that compete at provincial levels. Of those, there are 11 sports from McMaster represented at U Sports — the national governing body of university sports in Canada. For reference, McMaster’s men’s football team is represented at the U Sports level.  

Unfortunately, although MWF athletes have the same training intensity and time commitment as varsity teams, the team is not recognized under the OUA. This means they are obligated to acquire their own funding and take on the title of a “club team,” grossly underrating the magnitude of effort invested by both players and coaches. Each year, the team is organized by a team of executive members, including the president Sophie Nezan and coach representative Justice Allin.  

“We don’t have the opportunities that the men’s football teams do. [Since] we are not recognized by varsity organizations, we are in charge of finding athletes and coaches, ensuring fields are booked for us, the finances, social media promotion and organizing tournaments,” said Nezan.  

“We don’t have the opportunities that the men’s football teams do. [Since] we are not recognized by varsity organizations, we are in charge of finding athletes and coaches, ensuring fields are booked for us, the finances, social media promotion and organizing tournaments,”

Sophie Nezan, McMaster Women's Football President

The team is under umbrella of the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Organization, consisting of 10 universities across Ontario, including McMaster. Each season normally begins in February, when the contact flag football tournaments kick off. There are usually two qualifier tournaments and a championship tournament, which was hosted at the Ron Joyce Stadium this past Saturday.  

“Thankfully, OWIFA exists, so we have a lot more opportunities because of them. They cover a huge portion in terms of organizing tournaments, but OWIFA is also an organization made up of athletes from the flag football teams. It’s definitely a lot of pressure,” explained Nezan.  

Though the teams are fortunate to be governed by OWIFA, limited budgets still play a significant role in the experience for athletes. For example, players and coaches are forced to hold nighttime practices due to limited field availabilities and often play tournaments in snowy and icy conditions.  

For good measure, the players are provided with no protective equipment (other than a limited number of generously donated soft-shell helmets) to play in the otherwise contact-heavy sport. All these factors combined make the players incredibly prone to serious injuries, knocking out several over the course of this season alone.  

Despite these difficulties, the MWF team is not a team to be overlooked. Due to a large amount of student interest, McMaster was able to register two teams in this year’s season: Team Marauders and Team McMaster.  

Team Marauders finished with an impressive five and one record on March 12 at the qualifying tournament located at Wilfred Laurier, finishing second place overall. Team McMaster earned itself the title of provincial finalists by also finishing second in the March 19 championship tournament at McMaster.  

“We would love to eventually be under the OUA and for women’s flag football to be at every university across the province and country. Not only is MWF a sport, but the engagement with other women across Ontario is also one of the best things about it,” explained Nezan.  

“We would love to eventually be under the OUA and for women’s flag football to be at every university across the province and country. Not only is MWF a sport, but the engagement with other women across Ontario is also one of the best things about it,”

Sophie Nezan, McMaster Women's Football President

Next steps for MWF include competing in the provincial intercollegiate women’s flag football championships hosted by Team Ontario on April 3, in hopes of progressing to the national championships in Ottawa in May.  

With the sport becoming more and more popular, both OWIFA and MWF continue to advocate and fight for equal opportunities for women’s football. The championship tournament was broadcasted live by junior Mustangs TV to promote fan interest and encourage folks to appreciate the overlooked sport.  

“These aren’t just women playing football; these are football players. Let’s get that out of the way right now,” stated London Junior Mustangs TV on OWIFA athletes.

“These aren’t just women playing football; these are football players. Let’s get that out of the way right now,”

London Junior Mustangs TV

It’s become quite evident that any room for growth in the world of football belongs to women’s football. With over 50 players playing competitively at McMaster alone, it’s hard to find a reason not to invest in the sport and create more opportunities for women across the country. It is unclear when the sport can gain varsity recognition, but, until then, it’s safe to say that the OUA is missing out.

C/O Pixabay

Marauders work together to raise awareness and funding for Think Pink Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Every year, around the end of January, the Marauders have gathered to spread awareness for Think Pink Breast Cancer initiatives. Not only do they spread awareness through social media accounts, but they also prompt the wider public to donate to the initiative.  

In a small description on the donations website, the Marauders explained their cause and described it as a yearly ritual.  

“Every year, Marauder student-athletes come together for Think Pink, raising funds for breast cancer research, education and advocacy,” stated the iFundMac donations page.  

 From Jan. 24 to Jan. 28, the Athletics and Recreation will change their colors from maroon to pink to raise awareness for the cause.  “Throughout the week, Marauder’s will Think Pink and bring together students, staff, and community members in support of an important cause and inspire hope for the future,” stated the iFundMac website. 

The McMaster Alumni Community has pledged that all funds raised through the campaign will be donated to Juravinski Cancer Center.  

Throughout the past week, Marauders did not only take to social media to spread awareness and gather the donations for Think Pink, but they have also conducted some in-person activities on campus that were broadcasted live. On Jan. 26 four student athletes — Victoria DiDomenico, Arianne Soriano, Deanna Mataseje and Jasmine Lewis — volunteered at the Think Pink event and have donated their hair for the cause.  

C/O Muad Issa, Arianne Soriano

To broaden this initiative, the Marauders also had the Director of Athletics and Recreation, Shawn Burt, speak about his experiences with cancer and why Think Pink is so important.  

“I, like so many in this community, unfortunately have a close connection to this cause. Nothing happens without great people stepping up and getting behind the cause,” said Burt 

“I, like so many in this community, unfortunately have a close connection to this cause. Nothing happens without great people stepping up and getting behind the cause."

Shawn Burt, Director of Athletics and Recreation

As of Jan. 28, the Athletes Care donation website for Think Pink has raised $810. Their goal is to reach $2000. 

While we don’t have a cure for cancer, it is important to raise awareness for the Think Pink cause, as millions go through the struggles of Breast Cancer on a yearly basis. The McMaster Marauders initiative may only be on a yearly basis, but the support from the community is a great way way to help. 

McMaster Athletes Care Think Pink is a yearly fundraiser. More information and how to donate can be found at the official iFundMac donation platform. 

C/O McMaster Sports

The women’s basketball team hits the ground running in the first month of play

As many McMaster students have become used to seeing, the women’s basketball team is  once again finding themselves in the midst of a strong season. Despite a fairly inexperienced roster full of athletes making their university debuts, the team went into the winter break with a record of five to one, their only loss having come to the Guelph Gryphons. 

Through the course of the season it has become very obvious that the Marauders have done a great job at playing team basketball, which has played a big part in their success. They regularly beat the opposing teams in assists by wide margins, and commonly find themselves sharing the load when it comes to scoring. It isn’t uncommon for the team to have several scorers bunched up around the leading individual point totals. 

With such a young team, it’s rare to find such strong chemistry so early on, but according to forward Amy Stinson, that’s exactly what the team has been able to create. 

“This year is very special for us. We have a lot of new girls, it’s a big new group. Going into the season in November we were really finding our chemistry, so as [games] went on, we were learning more and more about each other and our strengths . . . We were confident in each other and we were confident in ourselves,” said Stinson.

Stinson, a jack of all trades, frequently finds herself making a difference in the box score, whether it be by way of scoring, rebounding, or anything else. Stinson discussed the importance of being an all around player and how much focus she puts on scoring compared to all else. 

“I like to look at the little things, like positioning on defence, rebounds, assists. It’s the stuff I look at when I [evaluate] my all around game. I’m happy with what I’ve been doing, but I think there’s a lot more I can do,” said Stinson. 

"I like to look at the little things, like positioning on defence, rebounds, assists. It's the stuff I look at when I [evaluate] my all around game. I'm happy with what I've been doing, but I think there's a lot more I can do,"

Amy Stinson, Forward

Through the season Stinson has become a fairly consistent scoring option for the team, regularly finding herself among the teams top scorers. Despite this, she stressed that scoring isn’t actually a major focus in her game and is rather something that just comes as a result of the way the team has played. 

“Scoring has actually never been something I’ve made a priority and I think that’s why I’ve had this success I’ve had this season; I don’t put much pressure on myself. I find that when I’m just in the game and playing for my teammates, sometimes it’ll just come,” explained Stinson

This season Stinson and [Sarah] Gates have been the only players on the team to find themselves scoring double digits on multiple occasions. Despite sharing this achievement, Stinson considers Gates to be on a whole different level. 

“Sarah [Gates] is just another story, she’s just [incredible] . . . To her that stuff just comes naturally because she’s just outstanding,” said Stinson.

"Sarah [Gates] is just another story, she's just [incredible] . . . To her that stuff just comes naturally because she's just outstanding,"

Amy Stinson, Forward

After several strong performances in November, Gates was named the Ontario University Athletics female player of the month, putting up a league leading 25.5 points per game while shooting to a 52.6 per cent field goal percentage, accompanied by per game averages of 7.7 rebounds, two assists and two steals while shooting 38.6 per cent from three point range. 

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“It was my first time ever getting that award, so it was really nice! I was a little bit shocked to get it, but honestly, this will sound pretty cliche, but that’s not my focus. My focus is just to get to that national level and compete from there. We have the team to do it . . . I just see good things to come,” said Gates.

Gates, despite her own consistently strong performances, praised the efforts of her team, suggesting that they are going against the grain in what is stereotypically a “rebuilding year” in university sports. 

“We have such a unique group this year, especially since it’s such a young team. The amount of work ethic and drive our team has is pretty awesome . . . When so many new [players] are coming in, people usually say it’s a rebuilding year. I wouldn’t say that — we’re definitely really good. I like being the underdog and we’ll take that to our advantage," explained Gates. 

"When so many new [players] are coming in, people usually say it’s a rebuilding year. I wouldn’t say that — we’re definitely really good. I like being the underdog and we’ll take that to our advantage,”

Sarah Gates

One of the most notable games of the season was against the Gryphons on Nov. 13. After losing by a 28 point spread on Nov. 10, the team was able to refocus and pick themselves up before their next game on Nov. 13. Gates paved the way, having scored 38 points while shooting 67 per cent from the field and from three. She also put up 11 rebounds and five assists in the redemption game, which the Marauders would win by a final score of 74-70. 

Gates suggested that the loss was just a part of being a young team and facing their first “strong” opponent of the season. With the nerves out after the first game, they were able to play their way in the second of the two game matchup.

“We just went in with confidence and knew that if we just played our game that we could dictate the outcome. It all came with our team's confidence,” said Gates. 
With a confident and hardworking team of young players, the Marauders have a chance to make a strong push once the season resumes. Originally scheduled to start on Jan. 12, games up until Jan. 22 have been postponed, with their next scheduled game coming against the Laurier Golden Hawks in Waterloo on Jan. 26.

McMaster has taken some steps to tackle anti-Black racism, but we still have a long way to go

By: Payton Shank, Contributor

CW: anti-Black racism

There seems to be an acquiescence around the concept of accountability. That being said, this infers that there is still, despite hesitance, the act of holding one accountable. However, it wasn’t always this way; for the longest time, no one even took the steps to hold someone accountable. 

I have reached a point where I no longer accept people walking over me. I’m exhausted of people in a position of power due to their ethnicity and job title having the upper hand and getting out of instances scot-free.

Moreover, I despise the very act of sweeping things under the rug. If you follow me on social media, you’d have seen me calling out McMaster University for doing this time and time again. At this point in my life, I strive to hold those in power accountable for their wrongdoings. I insist on ensuring that they are backing their seemingly empty promises to “do better.” 

I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. There is a collective exhaustion amongst the community of Black students at McMaster. One particular demographic is the Black student-athletes. I have been a part of this demographic for three years now, and it has yet to be easy.

There is a collective exhaustion amongst the community of Black students at McMaster. One particular demographic is the Black student-athletes. I have been a part of this demographic for three years now, and it has yet to be easy.

Recently, the McMaster Black Student-Athlete Experience Systemic Review was released. It was plastered . . . everywhere. News sources covered it, there was social media outcry from students and moreover, the re-traumatization of the students that were reviewed came to light. 

However, if it accomplished one thing, it was accountability. There it was, in print — the immoral treatment of Black student-athletes on behalf of McMaster’s own faculty. Something that had been scoffed at, ignored and, again, swept under the rug, for years. All 62 pages of it. 

IT IS NOT JUST BLACK STUDENT ATHLETES THAT EXPERIENCE ANTI BLACK RACISM AT MCMASTER! Black students are experiencing anti black racism in the classroom, in leadership positions, in the lab, and on campus! https://t.co/4j1QFCofT3

— Kobina Baiden (@kobesbaiden) October 27, 2020

I feel like this report makes it seem like only McMaster Athletics is anti-Black. Let’s be real, the entire institution is complicit. The evidence here (& not included here) points to how Mac’s admin sustains such racist structures and employees that harm Black student athletes https://t.co/LwJ8lRKgps

— Theresa N. Kenney (@ToPoliticise) October 27, 2020

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty. In fact, I almost can’t. It isn’t an easy read, to say the least. It’s horrible, heartbreaking and downright infuriating. I had to break up my reading into small pieces to be able to digest it properly and I still don’t think I have.

Regardless, it needs to be read. We can’t continue to act as though everything is smooth-sailing in the well-oiled machine that is McMaster. Perhaps it is for the white students and faculty, but not for the other massive population of students and staff that are screaming out for help. 

I have a lot of mixed emotions about the review. Yes, I’m relieved that they finally took the steps needed to get the ball rolling. I’m excited to finally get to work on what needs to be done and this review was truly the match we needed to light the flame. There are certain systemic steps being taken and finally acknowledged, which will open the door for a number of positive changes.

They are, however, being done so very slowly and with caution; this is unchartered territory for Mac. However, I’m growing increasingly frustrated, not only with the immediate aftermath but with the contents of the review. How could they let this happen? How has it taken so long for someone to finally put their foot down? Moreover, where the heck do we go from here? 

I’ve been in close contact with various members of administration across numerous departments and the discrepancy between certain demographics of staff has been interesting to encounter. Some are equally, if not more infuriated as I am, demanding change yesterday. Some are still extremely hesitant, to say the least, about what the next steps are.

As we’ve seen on a multitude of occasions, “doing better” is easier said than done. This isn’t something that we have to put behind us and hope that everything clears up the next day; this is something that we have to carry with us for the rest of our lives — both in terms of those affected and in terms of modelling the future of McMaster.  

As frustrating as this process is, I am thankful for the resilience of those that have not only stepped up to take action but that have endured the very instances that have now been brought to light and will continue to shed light on others to come. I have faith that with unity, a rich lens of intersectionality and the undying desire amongst those involved to make positive change, that we will see brighter days. 

As frustrating as this process is, I am thankful for the resilience of those that have not only stepped up to take action but that have endured the very instances that have now been brought to light and will continue to shed light on others to come.

In order to rebuild, we must first break down. We are in the rebuilding process. In the meantime, keep fighting. Keep holding those in power accountable. Remain resilient and know that I am fighting for you. I will continue to do whatever I possibly can to hold those in power accountable and fight for the fundamental rights of BIPOC students in the McMaster community.

The Black student-athlete systemic review barely scratches the surface of issues at McMaster

By: Shae-Ashleigh Owen, Contributor

CW: anti-Black racism

On June 25, 2020, McMaster University President David Farrar published a letter promising to address systemic institutional racism and any obstacles to equity and inclusion at Mac. Alongside these promises, Farrar mentioned that the university's recently released Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and 2019-2020 Action Plan will challenge anti-Black racism and support Black students and students of colour at McMaster. The letter also stated that they will finally address the underrepresentation of Black faculty members at the university. 

Among their attempts to address anti-Black racism, McMaster announced a systemic review of the Black student-athlete experience, headed by Ivan Joseph. The university invited both past and present Black student-athletes to share their experiences in the athletics department. 

This review was officially launched July 27 when Fabian Foote, a McMaster football alumnus and Toronto Argonauts defensive lineman, tweeted about facing systemic racism during his time at Mac.

“We still have work to do” LOL. Y’all never started shit to begin with. Start by firing Mark Alfano. How about that? I’ve experienced a lot of systemic racism during my time at McMaster. Myself and other black student athletes brought it up to Mark & Glen and they brushed us off. https://t.co/W2F37z8sCL

— Fabion (@FabionFoote) June 28, 2020

The review, which was completed on Oct. 27, found that there was a history of systemic anti-Black racism in the Department of Athletics and Recreation. As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me. 

The review of the Black student-athlete experience in McMaster Athletics & Recreation is complete. Evidence collected during the review, which was conducted by @DrIvanJoseph of Wilfrid Laurier University, reveals a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department. 1/8

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) October 27, 2020

Experiences of those who participated in the review included: having a “jailbreak-themed” party where white students dressed up as criminals and wore cornrows in their hair; mentions of racial slurs used by alumni, fellow teammates and a coach; cancelling Black History Month celebrations; degrading comments based on race; there was even an accusation that a Black student-athlete was selling drugs.

In response to this, Farrar launched an Action Plan which aims to increase representation, implement advocacy roles and targeted supports and scholarships. On Oct. 29, the Department of Athletics and Recreation announced that 10 new athletic financial aid awards will be established for Black student-athletes each year. 

 

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I want to highlight the fact that Black students are singled out based on race regardless of scholarships. According to a census conducted in February 2020, 60 per cent of Black youth expect to gain at least a bachelor’s degree in comparison to 79 per cent of other youths. The census concludes that this gap is likely due to discrimination.

Experiencing systemic racism like this is not exclusive to Black student-athletes. This includes the McMaster Students Union and academia as a whole, as these areas of student life are not exempt from anti-Black behaviours and actions. Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population. By providing scholarship opportunities, Black students will have at least one less barrier to receiving a postsecondary education.

As a Black student, hearing about Black students’ experiences with racism was saddening, disappointing and traumatic. However, the results of the review did not surprise me.

Like many other Black students, I have faced anti-Black racism during my time at Mac. My own experiences include people shuffling their bags away from me because they seem to be afraid of stealing — no, I do not want your bag nor what’s in it, thank you. I have even heard, “Oh, you speak great English,” even though English is my first language.

In class, I feel like I have to work 10 times as hard as the non-Black students just to get the same amount of respect and acknowledgement. I often get labelled as the “angry Black woman” due to my dominant personality, which I can assume my non-Black classmates do not have to worry about. I’ve heard fellow Black students talk about the subtle racism they had to face in their classes, both by classmates and even professors.

I even had to face systemic racism from the MSU when the Pride Community Centre was closed down midway through the winter 2020 semester, right after their 2SLGBTQA+ BIPOC-focused campaign which mainly highlighted Black and Indigenous 2SLGBTQA+ folks. This decision made by the 2019-2020 executive board hurt members of the BIPOC community at McMaster. As the only Black volunteer of the PCC at that time, this deeply hurt me too. 

Statistics, such as the census, show that we need more scholarships for Black students at McMaster, as Black youth are statistically less likely to gain a bachelor’s degree compared to the general population.

I applaud the school community for recognizing the systemic issues that Black students face. This has resulted in clubs including the ratification of the Black Student Association and other Black-focused clubs. However, if Mac truly wants to help the Black student community, their actions need to be taken further. 

Reviews of racism and oppression need to be extended towards more areas of student life, including security, club life and especially education because although we pay the same tuition as everyone else, we face more barriers in getting our degree. I would even suggest that reviews need to be extended to other minority groups as well. This is a good and important start; however, there is so much more work to be done.

Wojtek Kraj (#14) is one of the top recruits for the men's volleyball team this past year. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, decisive and necessary measures have been taken to slow the spread of the virus. On March 23, the Ontario government announced that all non-essential services would be required to close for two weeks. These closures, while necessary, will have major impacts on all sectors of society. The current pandemic is effecting operations for our various sports teams due to closures of facilities and team operations. As precautions being taken against COVID-19 increase and uncertainty about the future remains, McMaster Athletics must be prepared for a long road ahead. 

Let’s begin with recruiting. Naturally, recruiting revolves around one-on-one and in-person contact with the athletes, and often involves coaches watching athletes competing. With school closures expected to last much longer than anticipated, many high school athletics teams will not see the end of their seasons.

These closures would mean that crucial areas of competition, such as city championships, provincials and nationals, will no longer take place in sports such as rugby. Therefore, the previously available opportunities for varsity coaches to base recruiting decisions on are no longer an option. 

Stefan Ptaszek, the head coach of McMaster Football, remarked that while many of the main talents have already been scouted for next year’s team, large high school level tournaments can give many players the opportunity to step up and get noticed by scouts. The playoffs often see several players step up on their roster and perform at a higher level. For some, these opportunities have unfortunately been lost, and with them, chances for scholarships.

The moments in the postseason when an athlete’s performance counts the most could be among the deciding factors for a player making it to the collegiate level. With regard to scholarships, for some students such deciding factors could have been the difference between attending university or not. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9xkAvVnV6M/

This was further acknowledged by Daniel Pletch, the head coach for the men’s rugby team at McMaster. He agreed with Ptsazek’s concerns that obstacles to recruitment could affect an entire incoming class of students.

The real challenge will be the 2021 recruits, as it’s looking unlikely we’ll have a spring high school rugby season. This means identifying the top high school players will be a bigger challenge, especially finding those ‘late bloomers’, who pick up the sport later in high school, and really rely on their grade 12 seasons to develop,” Pletch said.

According to Ptaszek, around 30-50 students per year receive scholarships for their efforts on the football team, which is roughly a third or more of the entire team. It’s clear that scholarships are an integral part of university athletics. The scholarships offered for being on the football team, for example, are held if the student retains a 6.5 GPA or higher. With the added stress and mental pressure the pandemic is putting on everyone, it is not inconceivable to think that this could affect athletes’ grades due to greater mental strain and less access to campus resources.

Official sports bodies have also taken a stance on recruitment. U Sports released a statement on March 16 declaring that it was putting a three week minimum moratorium on recruitment. This would not allow any travel, in-person visits or one-on-one contact with high school athletes, furthering the difficulty to create and harvest new relationships with budding student-athletes. With that being said, “non-contact” measures such as phone calls, video conferences and social media contact are allowed. 

Both Pletch and Ptsazek also made remarks about another main area which will be greatly affected: physical conditioning. Due to city closures and the need to practice physical distancing, it is harder for athletes to access commercial gyms and university athletic facilities. For example, on March 16 the McMaster Pulse announced it was shutting its doors for several weeks and that all athletics services in the David Braley Athletic Centre were also shutting down. Athletes who cannot afford outside facilities or personal equipment may find it harder to remain in shape for the season. 

While public health guidelines must be adhered to in order to reduce the risk of harm as much as possible, the closure of sports, schools and athletics facilities has the potential to deeply affect the lives of student-athletes everywhere. 

 

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

With the recent wave of influencers and viral fitness personalities, the world is slowly being taken over by fitness communities. With the gym-going population growing, those looking for alternatives to traditional workouts are always keeping their eyes peeled. From shake weights as seen on TV to Crossfit expanding through worldwide competitions, fitness crazes are coming and going, with some being more permanent than others. While plyometrics, calisthenics and other bodyweight exercises are not new in any way, one of the quickly growing ways to workout is through pole fitness, an acrobatic full body workout. 

Allure Fitness Inc. opened in 2009 with the mission of creating a safe space purely for women to exercise freely at any fitness level. Specifically, their pole studio offers a challenge that is unavailable in community gyms or classes. 

Mural inside the Allure Fitness space. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

“Being a woman is challenging, because there are so many conflicting expectations put on us . . . This is a space for the exact opposite of that. We want women to do what feels best for them, and to walk out of our studio with their heads held high and feeling better than when they walked in,” said Michelle Kriedemann, owner of Allure Fitness Inc. 

Kriedemann focused on ensuring that her studio served as a safe space that was focused on health and uplifting clientele. Part of Allure’s appeal is its focus on inclusivity — taking extra effort to make sure no matter what your current life situation is, you feel like you belong.

“Allure is a space that welcomes women of all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels and a mission of taking the work out of your workout. We have friendly staff and instructors and small sized classes so we can provide you with personal attention and ensure that you are getting the most out of your exercises,” said Kriedemann.

The Allure Fitness space advertising courses and athletic clothing. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

Pole dancing is a great alternative from traditional workouts and the payoff is a very rewarding form of exercise. The activity utilizes every muscle in your body, allowing you to control your movement and challenge your coordination and flexibility. The ability to use body weight and acrobatics provides a full body workout since you are mostly using muscle groups that you would have to individually focus on at a conventional gym.

Although this alternative style of exercise has many pros, the stigma surrounding pole fitness leads many people to unfairly link the activity to stripping and erotic dancing. Kriedemann hopes that this does not deter people from enrolling in classes. Once people get involved, the barriers around pole dancing often break down.

“The simplest thing that I can say about it is that the negative connotation and stigma that surrounds all things pole comes from fear and a lack of knowledge,” said Kriedemann.

Allure Fitness has expanded and evolved into a well rounded fitness studio in Hamilton. Part of Allure’s rise in popularity is due to the variety of different classes they offer, which are not confined to pole-focused fitness. For example, they offer seven levels of “Aerial Hoop”, where each class includes a full body workout and a chance to work on hoop skills. They also offer various classes that target specific muscle groups, such as “Extreme Abs”, for those who want to pursue classes similar to what they may see at gyms, but in a safe and women’s only space.

Participants at an Allure Fitness class doing exercises. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

“Pole is a big part of Allure, it is about 30 percent of what we offer. As I mentioned, we specialize in all of the fun kinds of fitness we can get our hands on at Allure because if you’re enjoying your workouts, you’re going to be inspired to stay on track,” Kriedemann mentioned. 

Allure is extremely beginner friendly. Drop-in classes are a great and low commitment way to get started on- work around a flexible schedule. Some of Allure’s highlighted drop-in classes are TNT Ballet & Pilates, Twerk Out, Circus Tease and Glow Yoga. Once you find what speaks to you, you can sign up for their six week commitment courses. Prices range anywhere $20 to $399 depending on the type of classes you take and the length of the program; however, students receive a 10 percent discount with a valid student ID. 

One of the common issues with commercial gyms can be the overwhelming environment, from seeing multiple unfamiliar contraptions to the intimidation that comes with large group classes. Smaller studios like Allure Fitness Inc., help to eliminate these difficulties and allow for more one-on-one time with instructors. 

Athletic clothing hanging in the Allure Fitness space. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor.

What do you need to bring for the classes? Comfortable workout clothing, a bottle of water to keep you hydrated and a yoga mat — if you don’t have one, you can rent it from the studio for $2. If you are taking the zumba classes, it’s recommended that you wear clean indoor running shoes; as well as kneepads for twerk out and poleflow. If you’re taking their aerial and suspension classes, leggings or long pants are recommended for comfort.

Allure Fitness Inc., hasn’t lost momentum since it opened 11 years ago, and doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. With the wide variety of alternative workout classes catered specifically for women, Allure can provide the alternative for those who hate to go to that big public gym down the street, or for those who are looking to switch up how they work out.

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

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