A home away from home

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To some the gym is a place where you go to run around and break a sweat. But as Shannon Cuciz and Sports Editor Sean Tepper report, others use it to escape their everyday lives

It was just another night in Ridgeway, a Mississauga governmental housing complex. As nearby police sirens went off and mothers yelled at their sons to come home for dinner, a vicious fight broke out across the street.

Amidst all of the noise, all Cowathamen Mohan could hear was the swoosh of a basketball going through his beaten-up hoop. He had just scored the game’s winning basket.

“We had this little Fisher Price net that we would play on every day,” he said. “We would stay there for hours until our parents called us in for dinner. We had to keep fixing and re-setting the net up every time too, because the guys were so good, they would always be dunking,” Mohan said.

“We played on that same net for years.”

Most university students spend Thursday nights out drinking at a bar with friends or recreating a scene out of Jersey Shore at one of Toronto’s nightclubs.

But not Mohan.

Instead of indulging in the city’s vibrant nightlife, Mohan and 30 other basketball diehards are usually begging the supervisors at the RAC to keep the lights on for just five more minutes so that they could finish up their game.

“This is our home away from home,” he said. “People deal with yelling, screaming and violence that you don’t want to go home to after school. In the gym, you don’t face that.”

Mohan knows how important it is to have a productive pass- time.

The a first-year international economics and finance student has seen some of his best friends get involved with the wrong kinds people. One of Mohan’s friends was recently released from jail after he was charged with possession of a weapon in school and is now on probation for a year.

Mohan initially came to Ryerson wanting to try out for the men’s varsity basketball team. But he found that playing intramural sports has helped him keep focused on his school work as well as his physical fitness.

“Every kid’s dream is to become a pro athlete, but when life hits and peer pressure comes into play, they give up on those dreams and try easier options,” he said. “They turn their heads toward drugs and violence.”

The RAC serves as a safe haven for Mohan. He is just one of the many dedicated players who commute over an hour and a half each day to play intramurals at the RAC — even on the days he doesn’t have class.

First-year graphic communications management student Ben Bonsu also commutes to Ryerson from the Jane and Sheppard area every day in order to play intramurals.

“Nowhere at home compares to this,” he said. “I’ll devote my days to coming to the gym. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Not only do intramurals give students a chance to compete in a tame, yet vigorous environment, it also serves as an escape from the peer pressure that goes along with living in one of Canada’s largest cities.

Going to play competitive sports late at night with friends has become a popular alternative from the nightlife that so many students become addicted to.

“Downtown here, you feel constant pressure to go out, drink, and get involved in drugs,” Mohan said. “I personally would rather come here, sweat and feel good about what I did the next day. It’s an outlet for us to get away from the real lives we face.”

While intramurals have always been a part Ryerson athletics, this year has seen a the number of students that participate in intramural sports skyrocket. To accommodate the demand, Randy Pipher, the intramural and day camp coordinator, said gym times are being expanded and teams are being added to intramural leagues.

“This year our numbers have gone way up,” Pipher said. “More and more commuter students are starting to show up on a regular basis. For some sports our team numbers have doubled.”

Even though the gym space is limited and waiting for a court has turned into a long process, students are flocking to the RAC in an attempt to escape their real world difficulties.

“It’s like an escape for your body and your mind,” said Mohan. “You feel like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.”

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