Red Dragons embrace online recreation


Red Dragons embrace online recreation

Nothing — not even social distancing — comes between SUNY Cortland students and the recreational sports and social activities they use to relax, de-stress, stay physically and emotionally healthy and connected as a community.

The university is helping students, almost all of whom are staying away from campus and studying remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recharge their mental batteries without leaving their homes.

A variety of university-hosted games and fitness activities are now available, from online trivia games to virtual exercise classes.

“When all the gyms shut down, I just thought of different ways we could keep people activated and motivated in these unprecedented times,” said Christopher Gutierrez ’17, graduate assistant for fitness-group exercise with Recreational Sports. “I thought I was necessary to give them an outlet from these times, essentially. I thought of a way I could get them involved.”

Recreational Sports created remote group exercise and yoga classes, which opened April 13 on Cisco Webex Meetings, the same portal students are using to participate in many of their academic courses. The activities are open to campus community members who are signed up to receive emails from Recreational Sports. Classes are open to all fitness levels and do not require additional equipment. 

Now students, faculty and staff, alumni and others with a campus connection and can chill out with their choice of 10 different classes a week, in Zumba, Butt and Gut, Pumpfit, Stretch and Destress, Total Body or ButiYoga, which combines yoga with bursts of cardio exercise.

Leading the students through challenging workouts are some of their  favorite instructors: Chris Autera, Niki Blatnick, Pearl Fletcher, Mia Teal and Clare Witham.

“They are the ones who were teaching before we launched this distance program,” Gutierrez said. “Because of their familiarity with the students, I thought the students would be more willing to join because of the familiar faces that are leading the classes.”

Gutierrez designed the program schedule, shared recently with the campus community by email, so that would-be participants can look over the week-long schedule. The schedule contains embedded links that let the viewer directly login at the start of their chosen class. The group exercise classes continue through the end of spring semester.

“They (participants) have the option of allowing their picture to be shown,” Gutierrez noted. “Or if they don’t want to, they can shut their camera off and still have the ability to see their instructor.”

Meanwhile, the university’s office for Campus Activities launched a Trivia Week program on April 7.

“It was our first time trying Trivia Week and we had 157 students login,” the first and second weekd, said Mary Kate Morris ’06, associate director of campus activities for leadership and community.

“Last week we did general knowledge trivia and the next was Disney-themed,” Morris said. “Going forward, we're going to have different trivia themes.”

Trivia Week will run weekly Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. through the end of the semester, Morris said. The Trivia Week portal can be reached through the university’s @CortlandNites Instagram account.

Students use Kahoot! for the trivia questions and responses but the platform to share the questions has changed from Instagram live to Zoom, which makes screen-share possible.

“We had a few small technical difficulties, but I think we’ve resolved them for this week,” Morris said. The two winners to date, Marianne Lopez, a first-year French and Spanish adolescence education major from Smithtown, N.Y., and Michela Risolo, a senior adolescence education/English major from Hewlett, N.Y., will be mailed their prizes of Cortland apparel from The College Store.

Gutierrez said he was delighted recently when he “dropped in” on some of the online exercise classes and saw whole families getting fit alongside their student.

“I know for myself that I’m an extrovert and I miss interacting with individuals because of our restrictions currently,” said Gutierrez, who has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and is also working as a personal trainer as he completes his graduate degree at Cortland in sport management. “It’s been hard for me, at least. The ability to see people, talk to people, and talk to a wide variety of individuals, especially your peers,” he said. “I think it will be helpful to everyone else in the campus community as well.”

Not all SUNY Cortland recreational activities are online — even during a global pandemic.

Outdoor Pursuits, a program in Recreational Sports, is making its brace of bicycles available for student use through the end of the semester.

“In an effort to provide a safe and reliable source of transportation for students still in Cortland, Outdoor Pursuits is offering the use of a bicycle, free of charge to any student in need,” said Connor Cumisky ’14, M ’18, assistant director for Outdoor Pursuits. Interested individuals should contact him directly regarding the checkout process.