The Morris Family Olympic Training Center opened its doors in July, welcoming Olympic sporting teams and athletes. The goal was to build an atmosphere for student-athletes to grow in their physical and mental well-being.
The facility was designed for cheer, cross country, golf, rowing, soccer, tennis, volleyball and track and field, giving these sports their own training areas away from football and basketball.
(Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)
“It is really nice to have something more focused on the other sports at K-State and not just football and basketball,” senior rower Rachel Harman said. “It is also really nice to not have to be a guest in a building, because we used to lift in the football facility and it just felt like we were guests and didn’t really belong there.”
As Danny Cavender goes into his 16th year as Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning director, he is grateful to see the community expand its support for the Olympic teams.
“To be the first director on the Olympic side and to have an opportunity to work in this facility is unbelievable,” Cavender said. “Being able to see how happy our students are — there is nothing more I could ask for.”
Cavender, along with other members of the athletics team, was working to create a new facility focused on Olympic sports since 2019. Cavender said this new facility allows for student-athletes to gain not just physical training but mental support as well.
As students bend their schedules for their sport, some struggle balancing their social, athletic and academic lives. To combat mental exhaustion, the Mental Health and Wellness Area provides student-athletes with direct access to psychiatrists daily.
“I would say three-and-a-half hours a day we are at practice pushing ourselves and then trying to get homework done and everything can be really stressful,” Harman said. “Having that space to go and decompress and talk through things that our other friends wouldn’t understand is really helpful.”
Reflecting on his past four years as a hammer thrower, senior Kade McCall said being a student-athlete has taken a toll on his day-to-day routine.
“For me, I think it is always tough to balance everything — I don’t think it’s something you can fully get over,” McCall said. “It is mentally exhausting and sometimes you just want to rot away on your couch.”
Cavender said the new facility’s structure was created in a way that allows for student-athletes to conveniently gain access to professionals in hopes of helping students find a healthy routine in and out of the weight room.
(Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)
“You know, our athletes aren’t always happy to be here at 6 a.m. but being here makes it a lot better,” Cavender said. “This building brings a new freshness to what we are trying to do.”
As he witnesses well over 100 students use the facility for training, Cavender believes this new facility is one of, if not the best, college Olympic training facilities across the country.
Housing 14 full squat racks, an indoor plyometric ramp and a hydrotherapy recovery area, the 23,000 square foot facility allows for full capacity of all seven teams compared to the Vanier Family Football Complex with 1,800 square feet for all 14 sports.
“It is pretty great, especially for track, and some of the other sports that are using the facility are sports that aren’t as recognized, and so I think this facility is showing us some more recognition,” McCall said.
As she regularly uses the facility multiple times a day, Harman said personally thanking the donors for their support during the facility’s ribbon cutting ceremony continues to motivate her this season.
“I don’t think people understand how big of a deal it is to get a brand new facility for the other sports,” Harman said. “Hearing from the volleyball girls especially, what that meant for them means a lot, because it seems we are getting more recognition now than we have in the past.”
While the Morris Family Olympic Training Center has only been in use since July, Cavender said he already sees the teams benefiting from the upgrade.
“I take great pride in trying to get our Olympic side something like this, especially our female athletes,” Cavender said. “Being able to give them representation where they feel proud to bring people in here and have their own spot and not feel like they are being shoved out is amazing.”