Small Gym, or Prison?


Rebecca Roll

When you think of school dances like “Sadies”and Homecoming, you may remember yourself in a small, stuffy room known as the auxiliary gym, also known as the small gym, with sweat pouring down your face as dozens of other classmates danced next to you. 


Every year from late April to mid March, the Ludlowe varsity cheerleaders are stuck in this gym for practice at least four out of up to seven days a week. 


The small gym has no air conditioning and little air circulation, and holding the four doors open allowing air in from the hallways has a miniscule effect on the temperature. For the cheerleaders who literally hold their flyer’s life in their hands, the temperature of the small gym makes their practices very dangerous. 


Annabelle Adams, a sophomore on the team, stated that “when we’re sweaty, it puts our flyers in danger because they are bound to slip out of our hands.” This makes it more likely for the flyers to fall on the ground and get seriously injured. 


Emma Kortmansky, a senior captain on the team shared that she feels like “the small gym legitimately suffocates [her],” like the air is “strangling [her].”


Studies show that performing in high heat and humidity causes an increase in core body temperature and dehydration. Sweating requires circulation in the body to provide heavy blood flow to the muscles to maintain work rate, and to the skin for cooling. As the body progressively dehydrates, the body’s circulation is further compromised and heat storage exceeds heat removal, resulting in a strain indicated by increased heart rate, sweat rate, and core and skin temperatures, which can ultimately lead to a collapse. 


In addition to the extreme and suffocating heat in the small gym, another struggle the cheerleaders face is the ‘vibe’ of the small gym, or how it makes them feel when they practice there. This enclosed space makes the rest of the team feel trapped. Lindsay Taylor, another sophomore on the team, described the small gym as “a dark dungeon that gives [her] sad and depressed vibes.” Adams added that “the small gym makes [her] feel depressed. The dim lights that flicker every so often make it feel like [they’re] in a prison.”


The big gym, with windows that allow the team to view the outside, and doors leading to the outside to let fresh air in, is definitely the cheerleading team’s favorite place to practice. “The big gym just brings good vibes because it’s so open and you don’t feel trapped or suffocated,”  Kortmansky noted. However, the varsity basketball teams usually get first preference over the big gym. 


The combination of high temperatures, humidity, little air circulation, and a sad mindset caused by extreme fatigue and feelings of being trapped inside a compact space with no windows is detrimental to not only athletes’ work ethic, but also mental health. If the school wants their six-time FCIAC champion team on their A-game, there must be a change in their practice conditions.