Athletics is a vital part of undergraduate life at MIT, promoting not only physical fitness but also leadership, teamwork, and community spirit. By helping students gain such skills both on and off the sports field, MIT’s programs play a tremendously important role in preparing young people to become the leaders and innovators of the next generation.

To meet this challenge, our graduates will need exceptional communication skills, experience in team activities, and endurance to thrive in a rapidly changing global economy. Modern organizations in business, government, and academia deal with complex problems, which require teamwork and demand the ability to both teach and learn from others. That is why MIT’s strong commitment to athletics – a long-standing Institute tradition – matters more than ever before.

MIT has had many outstanding athletes, including Olympians in crew and track and field, but rather than strive to develop a small group of individual stars, our main goal is to encourage as many students as possible to be athletically active. Currently, approximately 20 percent of our undergraduates compete in at least one varsity sport, while 75 percent of the entire student body participates in intramural sports.

MIT offers one of the most broadly based intercollegiate sports programs in the world. We have 41 varsity programs (21 teams for men, 17 for women, and three coed); 17 intramural programs; and 38 club sports teams, including figure skating, rugby, and white-water kayaking.

We have made a great commitment to athletics over the years, but we need to do more. Some of our current athletic facilities were developed in the 1930s and 1940s, when the student body was less than a third of its current size and included only a handful of women. As a result, today we are unable to accommodate everyone on campus who wants to swim or take part in other indoor athletic activities.

To help meet our growing needs, we will begin construction this fall on a $45-million athletic facility to be completed in 2002. The new MIT Sports and Fitness Center will include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, three times larger than our existing pool; six squash courts; a multiple-activity court; a sports medicine center; and a state-of-the-art health and fitness center.

The new facility will have a profound impact on the MIT community. Not only will it accommodate a large number of students who choose to participate in MIT’s sports programs, but it will also serve as a centerpiece for an increasingly dynamic campus.

We know that students can profit enormously from the pressures and rewards of athletic competition and that physical fitness is energizing, relieves stress, and promotes a healthy body and mind. We believe that by challenging our students in both mind and body, we can contribute to their success in life.