Amidst tragedy, Yale games in doubt

In the midst of perhaps the greatest American tragedy of this generation, worrying about sports seemed completely irrelevant, but for Yale’s athletic community, there was no other choice.

The massive terrorist attacks on New York and Washington sent shock waves reverberating through the Eli sports family, calling into question the teams’ weekend competitions and uniting athletes, coaches and administrators in a time of utmost tragedy.

Fall sports teams met with athletic director Tom Beckett in the gym yesterday to discuss the prospects of cancelling upcoming athletic competitions, field hockey captain Caroline Thompson ’02 said.

“In light of everything that happened today, playing games this week seems trivial and disrespectful,” Thompson said.

Following the meetings, Beckett informed team captains that Yale would withdraw from games for the rest of the week, and that he would ask Yale President Richard Levin for a week-long moratorium on all Eli athletic competition.

A source within the football team said head coach Jack Siedlecki informed the team in practice yesterday that the squad’s season-opening game Saturday at Towson (Md.) University would definitely be cancelled.

Beckett will announce the department’s final decision regarding the rest of the weekend games today, assistant athletic director Steve Conn said.

But on a day that will go down as one of the deadliest in American history, issues far more important than collegiate sports dominated the actions of all involved.

After a morning meeting with Levin and department heads from around the University, Beckett convened all Bulldog head coaches and told them that the role of the athletic department was to ensure students that Yale would be a resource for them.

“Whether it means [meeting for] practice, meals, gathering with college deans or anything else, the most important thing is that the athletic department ensure that the students are taken care of physically and mentally,” Conn said.

Siedlecki and other coaches met with athletes in Commons to assure them that their players were safe and to provide support.

“This all makes [sports] seem pretty insignificant,” Siedlecki said.

Men’s hockey coach Tim Taylor took a different approach, staying by his phone to reassure each of his players’ parents that the team was safe in New Haven.

Field hockey head coach Ainslee Lamb called her players throughout the day, then convened a team dinner to check up on the players and discuss the squad’s immediate future.

The team decided to attend the University-sponsored vigil on Cross Campus together last night. Today, the team will skip practice and go to Yale-New Haven Hospital to participate in a blood drive.

For coaches and administrators, the day brought up tragic memories from the past.

Taylor likened yesterday to the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a year after Taylor graduated from Harvard.

“There are a lot of parallels to [the Kennedy assassination],” Taylor said. “Sitting at the table this morning I felt the same paralyzed and helpless feeling that I felt then. I’m so saddened by a world event like this, it’s just incomprehensible that mankind can do this to itself.”

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