The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Lower Gym effect

Kalissa Huang
Photo of the Castilleja Lower Gym while it is empty

With Upper School basketball and volleyball finished for the year, members of various teams have complained of side effects of practicing in the Lower Gym, including blurry vision and headaches. The slippery floors of the Lower Gym have also led to a few accidents and minor injuries.

Kirat Kaur ’27, a varsity basketball player, said she has dealt with problems in the Lower Gym since 7th grade. During middle school basketball tryouts, Kaur was making a layup but, due to her momentum, slammed into the door handle of a storage closet. She said she still has the imprint on her back.

In being asked what could be improved, Kaur responded, “If there was more space and people stopped using it as a multi-purpose room and instead just as a gym… right now it’s being seen as a storage room, it’s also a rock climbing room.”

As a member of Gatorbotics who constantly works in the Lower Gym, Kaur also said she regularly gets pulsing headaches: “I was in the Lower Gym for about two hours, and then I just started getting like these pulsing waves of pain in my head, and I was like, ‘Oh maybe it’s just been a long day.’ But this always happens every single Saturday when I’m in the Lower Gym for two hours.” Kaur thinks it is because of the “low lighting, lack of space, and ventilation.”

However, Jessie Surface, Director of Sports Performance, said that ventilation in the Lower Gym should not be an issue due to up-to-date maintenance. Rather, she said sleep and hydration are likely greater factors contributing to any side effects a student may experience. Especially in combination with physical exertion, the side effects of blurry vision and headaches are heightened.

“Hydration, sleep, nutrition… any lack of those pieces in someone’s life are going to create those similar symptoms [headaches, blurry vision],” Surface said. If one does not have a brain and body optimal for processing and moving at high intensity, then the Lower Gym’s characteristics will make things more difficult and thus heighten effects of dehydration, sleep deprivation, and malnutrition.

Varsity basketball player Naya Sangoram ’25 explained that she gets dizzy and has blurry vision when practicing basketball in the Lower Gym. But she does not believe it is because of dehydration.

“It just feels different down there,” Sangoram said.

In further search of the answer as to why the ‘Lower Gym Effect’ exists, Sangoram said that being underground also contributes since you don’t have access to natural light and are only left with dim lights.

According to the Sleep Foundation, the dim, warm lights of the Lower Gym induce sleep. With the Lower Gym’s lack of windows, there is less blue light, let alone any natural blue light, which tell our brain to stay awake. This is the same reason why people try to protect themselves from the artificial blue light of their devices: to make sure their sleep patterns aren’t disturbed.

“I think the Lower Gym gives a more chill, sleepy vibe, so when I’m down there, I don’t give it my all, but when I’m upstairs, I feel like I work harder,” basketball player Chloe Culver ’28 said.

In contrast to the Upper Gym, there are several windows and significantly brighter lights. Therefore, some students have found a disparity in practicing in the Lower Gym.

Additionally, the colors of the Lower Gym may contribute to difficulties in visual processing. The various colors on the gym floor are coupled with the low contrast between the walls and the floor. The Upper Gym, on the other hand, has a more solid color scheme as there are only volleyball and basketball court lines.

These color schemes can cause visual fatigue, according to a study from the National Library of Medicine. The study was conducted to find the cause of visual fatigue in control rooms. Low contrast and reduced light levels were found as causes of visual fatigue; the Lower Gym has these two attributes. Constant glare and frequent changes in focusing distance were also found to be causes.

Accordingly, visual fatigue hinders concentration and causes blurry vision.

These symptoms are the ones currently associated with those of the ‘Lower Gym Effect.’

“[The Lower Gym is] making me less productive, not only at school but also at home,” Kaur said regarding her lasting headaches.

Having two gyms is a necessity when considering all of Castilleja’s sports teams, Gatorbotics, and fitness classes. However, perhaps to support these extracurricular groups, changes should be made to ensure that productivity, safety, and comfort are optimized. As Surface said, decreasing the Lower Gym Effect’s onset comes in the form of taking care of yourself first.

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About the Contributor
Kalissa Huang
Kalissa Huang, Photographer
Kalissa Huang ‘27 is a photographer for Counterpoint. She is currently a freshman, and enjoys baking, playing sports, playing the cello and, of course, taking photos!

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