This past summer, Seton Hall opened a refueling station for its student-athletes in the lower level of the Richie Regan Recreation and Athletic Center. The station provides student-athletes with a convenient way to eat healthy between classes and practices, as they are constantly on the go from the crack of dawn.
The summer was the perfect time for the refueling station project to get underway, as the department finally had the resources to turn a classroom in the basement of the recreation center that used to host post-game press conferences into a spot where athletes could grab a quick bite to eat.
“It was something that we said we’d like to do at some point, but it wasn’t something we could get done right away because we didn’t have the resources to do it with other projects that we were doing,” Seton Hall Athletics Director Pat Lyons said. “This summer, everything aligned where we had the resources to do it and that’s what made it really take off.”
Until a couple of years ago, a refueling area such as the one that Seton Hall now has to offer its student-athletes was not possible due to NCAA rules. Once those rules loosened up a bit, Lyons saw an opportunity to add the refueling station to the laundry list of facility upgrades that he has overseen since arriving in South Orange in February 2011.
“The refueling area goes along with our whole facility masterplan here over the last six or seven years,” Lyons said. “We’ve really enhanced our facilities here. When I first started here, I felt that it was an area where we really needed to get better at, so we’ve continually upgraded everything. This refueling area was the next phase in that process. Refueling areas are fairly new in college athletics, they took off a few years ago probably because NCAA rules changed a bit and allowed you to do something like this.”
The new NCAA rules allow coaches to supply student-athletes with “incidental meals” and as a result, many coaches around the country and at Seton Hall would keep snacks such as granola bars in their office reserved for the players. The refueling station allows coaches to centralize their efforts to keep their players fed and fueled at all times.
“If you had walked into coaches’ offices around the country since this rule was enacted, you’d notice that coaches at not just Seton Hall but at all programs, had an area with granola bars or fruit and things like that,” Lyons said. “That’s why a lot of schools said let’s centralize this and get this all into one location that people can come to get and get what they need, whether it be a granola bar, a water or a piece of fruit.”
Prior to opening, Lyons and his staff did their homework when it came to deciding what kind of food and drinks would be made available to the athletes in the station. In doing so, Lyons looked around the country to see what other schools were doing with stations and got some in-house opinions as well.
“First and foremost, we looked at what other schools did as far as an infrastructure – what sort of setups they had, what their refueling areas looked like,” Lyons said. “A majority of the schools are doing it and a majority of the Big East schools have already done it as well, so we always look to try to get best practices. As far as what we’re going to stock it with, that was a collaboration between the food services on campus, as well as our training room, our strength coaches on campus and what we were giving our athletes before.”
Since its opening a couple of weeks ago, the refueling station has drawn rave reviews from players and coaches alike. The station, which is stocked by Gourmet Dining Services and is open to the athletes throughout the day, has been a positive addition to Seton Hall’s upgraded facilities.
“The athletes love it, it’s awesome,” Swimming and Diving coach Derek Sapp said. “After morning practices I’ll come back down from my office and I’ll see half the team sitting there. It gives them another place to kind of hangout and relax. They love it.”
“It’s a great way for the athletes to get the fuel they need before and after practice,” graduate student and Men’s Soccer captain Nick Najera said. “It’s a place for us to hangout, talk about our sports, hangout with other athletes. I think it’s a great addition for athletics.”
The station’s impact goes far beyond those on campus, as it will be the latest addition to the tour that recruits will receive once they visit SHU. The station proves that Seton Hall not only cares about the health of their student athletes, but is also striving to upgrade the facilities to rank among the best in the Big East.
“It’s going to be a big factor because [the refueling station] is such a nice area, them seeing it they’ll think it’s super nice,” junior softball pitcher Reganne Camp said. “The other thing is, I’ll see other athletes down here, it’s for everybody. It’s a big community thing and that will hopefully attract a lot of new people to come here,” she said.
“We actually had a girl come in on an unofficial visit while they were working on this and we peaked in. It makes a big difference, it helps out a lot with recruiting,” Sapp said. “It really shows that we are staying in front of the curve and doing everything we can here to make things better for our student-athletes.”
When the refueling station was first announced in July, it drew the ire of many students, as they felt the athletes were being catered to as opposed to the rest of the student body. Some also felt that their tuition money was being spent funding the athletic facility upgrades instead of academic-focused and other campus-wide upgrades.
“Being a Division I athletic department requires you to invest and requires you to have certain things in place that you have to do to survive as a Division I athletic department,” Lyons said. “This is just another area where we have to make sure that our student-athletes have the best possible experience and making sure that we’re competitive. Unfortunately, I can certainly understand those thoughts, but this school has decided that it wants to be in the Big East conference and with that comes a commitment – this is part of that commitment. I will say that no school funds were used for this room. It was privately funded and NCAA subsidized. Nothing was taken out of another campus fund or anything like that.”
With the refueling station now in place, Lyons and the rest of the Seton Hall Athletics department can shift its focus to the next project that lies ahead.
“Our next project that we’ll be focusing on is that we want to renovate Owen T. Carroll Field,” Lyons said. “When you go out to Owen T. Carroll right now, the bleachers aren’t that great, there’s no bathrooms and no press box. That’ll be our next focus, that’s what we’ll shift to now.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso