With the opening of the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center (HAARC) in fall 2020, Colby has established the first-ever Department of Recreation Services to develop programming that encourages lifelong healthy habits across the campus community. In its first year, Recreation Services has created numerous opportunities in the 350,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility for hundreds of students, faculty, and staff with varying athletic experiences and interests.
“The desire is to continue to expand and diversify our offerings,” said Director of Recreation Services Tiffany Lomax, who was recently joined by Associate Director Nashid Bracy and Assistant Director Marc Roy to further expand the department’s reach. “We’re looking to engage as many people as possible … not only to introduce people to new things but to encourage lifelong changes, such as consistency, to inspire their desire for holistic wellness—and simply to be aware of what this place offers.”
One of those people trying out a new sport is Joseph Savage ’22, a member of the woodsmen team. “I never imagined my college experience involving chopping wood, but I’m really glad that it does,” he said. Savage believes being a lumberjack makes for a fun break in his day and is great exercise. “I also do it for the community, because we have a really great group of people here. We all care for each other and are here for having a good time and bettering ourselves.”
First-year student Haven Low ’25, on the other hand, joined the equestrian team to find community in a new place. “It’s been really helpful to have this outlet and people I can talk to about anything outside of riding,” she said.
It’s also helped with her physical and mental well-being. “I’ve had periods in my life where I haven’t been able to ride, and my mental health has kind of gone south. It’s something that I need to keep doing to clear my head,” Low said. “It’s a space where you can breathe and not have to think about anything except what you’re doing in the moment, which is super nice.”
Under Lomax’s leadership, the department runs diverse programming that nurtures the physical, ethical, and mental well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Its offerings are divided into eight areas:
- Aquatics gives the community a chance to swim recreationally in Maine’s only Olympic-sized pool.
- Club sports, led and initiated by students, are teams recognized by the College, enabling competition against other collegiate club teams. Currently, Colby has 24 active club sports, including longstanding ones like equestrian, woodsman, cricket, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, rugby, ice hockey, volleyball, and water polo. New sports include basketball, squash, and wrestling.
- Fitness offers a variety of weekly classes, such as Zumba, yoga, spin, and dance cardio fitness in the O’Neil Family Wellness Studios. Last semester, more than 350 community members attended 18 classes.
- Informal recreation allows for walk-ins and the casual use of HAARC.
- Instructional programs introduce the community to new activities and offer advanced classes, including “Learn to Skate” in the Jack Kelley Rink in the O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum and “Learn to Lift” in the Boulos Family Fitness Center.
- Intramural sports compete in tournaments or leagues and thus far include pickleball, squash, flag football, and basketball.
- Outdoor programs provide positive outdoor education, recreation, and adventure experiences. In collaboration with the Office of Campus Life’s Outdoor Education, it holds, for instance, indoor climbing nights at HAARC’s Aidan’s Climbing and Bouldering Wall in preparation for outdoor experiences, an event that drew more than 170 participants last semester.
- Special events bring the community into HAARC through events like pumpkin-carving contests and faculty and staff mixers.
The Department of Recreation Services also oversees and supplies equipment for the community, including strength and conditioning equipment, rackets, balls, and ice skates.
“A huge first step for me was figuring out how we offer enough,” said Lomax, “so that the community feels welcomed here outside of coming to support an athletic team.”
That’s why Lomax has made it a priority to develop creative programming that draws members of the campus community with different backgrounds, abilities, and interests.
“Recreation can be anything and everything with the right touch,” she said. Last year, for instance, she organized a puzzle competition. “No one thinks about that as fitness or wellness,” but making a puzzle, she said, supports mental health and helps build community. Another example would be Lomax’s collaboration with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life to host a “Learn to Knit” class, which, she said, had full registration in the first week.
“Everyone doesn’t like the same thing. Do we have enough [programs]? What are we missing? What are your desires when you engage with recreation? Is it competitiveness? We have that. Is it leisure? We have that,” she said. “Just finding what works for you and being open to new opportunities—I think that’s really what we’re about.”