Double the toil, double the trouble

If you’re the average student at Yale, springtime moves at a bit of a slower pace. On a given day, you roll out of bed somewhere in the neighborhood of 10:15 for your 10:30 class, mosey to your 11:30 and enjoy a nice long lunch in the confines of your college dining hall. Then, following a nice post-prandial snooze, you get through one more class, hook by Old Campus for a while, eat some dinner and sit through a host of meetings before getting a little work done. Finally, bed beckons around 1:00 a.m. and you get up the next morning and do it all again, maybe just a little bit slower.

For the handful of Eli athletes who play two varsity sports, their springtime regimen lies at the opposite end of the spectrum. Wide receiver Craig Tomasino ’06, who spent last spring racing with lightweight crew and training for football, found his days were over before they began.

“6:30 [a.m.] practice for crew — 8 a.m. meetings for football, classes, afternoon lift for football for an hour, a 2-3 hour crew practice — [I was] getting back to campus around 7:30 or 8,” Tomasino said.

With the exhausting pace and the extreme demands of maintaining a low weight for crew and still being able to perform at football practice, Tomasino decided not to row this year in order to focus on football, the sport he was recruited to play.

“Looking back, I’m not sure how I balanced both sports,” Tomasino said. “It was extremely difficult doing two sports and taking 5.5 classes. I guess my schedule was so structured I really did not have time for anything but classes and sports.”

For the dozen or so athletes currently involved in two sports, everything apart from the game becomes secondary, but they would not want it any other way. Their priorities completely reflect who they are: competitive, passionate and devoted to sports.

For cornerback James Beck ’05 and linebacker Shomari Taylor ’06, balancing football and track has come more naturally and with fewer difficulties. Although both encounter their share of conflicts as weekend track meets overlap with spring practices, Beck and Taylor find that the benefits outweigh the losses.

“Since I love to compete, the best thing about doing two sports is getting the opportunity to compete in a sport all year long,” Beck, a sprinter for the track team, said. “I just joined the track team my junior year. If I had to do it all over again I would have joined the track team my freshman year.”

Taylor, who had an outstanding rookie season for the Bulldogs in hurdles and the long jump, found that although he naturally loses weight in the track season, he gains valuable speed and agility that gives him an advantage when he returns to the gridiron in the fall.

“I feel like I have more endurance and I’m quicker off the line than most people on the football team,” Taylor said.

Another duo pulling double duty, Sarah Driscoll ’05 and Casey Littlefield ’07 — both are on the field hockey and lacrosse teams — were intent on playing two sports from the outset and chose Yale because it afforded them that opportunity.

“At the larger, non-Ivy, Division-I schools, it is almost impossible to play more than one sport, as an ‘offseason’ doesn’t really exist,” Littlefield said. “This abbreviated offseason allows for me to compete in two sports without missing quite as much out-of-season play.”

Littlefield, a field hockey defender and a goalkeeper in lacrosse, said “there is most certainly something to be said about having either stick in your hands for the entire year.”

In the off-season of each varsity sport, players are taught in a more individualized setting, improving their technique, speed and tactical skills. Driscoll said she notices that her teammates improve during the off-season when she returns to each sport in season. While Driscoll, who has been named All-Ivy twice in field hockey, knows that she misses out on extra training, she finds that for each squad, she can bring additional game sense and experience that comes from competing in games year-round.

“I just love being in season,” Driscoll said. “I love always being able to compete and not having to wait eight months [through off-season training].”

While this fall-to-spring transition allows time for adjustment during winter training, Christian Jensen ’06 makes the leap directly from ice hockey to lacrosse. This year, Jensen played his final ice hockey game of the season March 6 and was on a plane to Florida for the lacrosse spring break training trip the next day. Between October and May, Jensen hardly has an afternoon or weekend off, besides Sundays, but he finds that, even on the rare afternoon when he has free time, he “usually [goes] stir crazy pretty quickly and [ends] up going to the rink or field anyway.”

The Ivy League rules, which mandate seven weeks of rest, do not apply to multi-sport athletes, but the dual-season athletes unilaterally agreed that even if they were focused on one sport, the rest period would not prompt them to actually rest.

Regan Gilbride ’07, a forward on the ice hockey team who has just started joined the goalkeeping corps of the lacrosse team, said that if she was not playing lacrosse in rest period, she would be lifting and dry-land training with the hockey team.

“This way I still stay active, but there are games to break up the monotony of training, which is always a good thing,” Gilbride said.

Ali Turney ’05, an ice hockey defender, had thrown javelin competitively for 10 years prior to arriving at Yale and found she was not ready to give it up.

“I was recruited for just hockey,” Turney said. “I wanted to continue doing track, so I wanted to try and walk-on the track team as well.”

Similarly, Marly Gillece ’06, a recruited field hockey defender found that she was not ready to walk away from lacrosse, after playing for a two-time state champion team in high school.

“The more I thought about lacrosse, the more I realized that I wasn’t ready to give it up,” Gillece said. “I just absolutely love lacrosse as a sport. I knew that if I didn’t give [walking-on] a shot my [freshman] year, I would never forgive myself.”

Gillece went to lacrosse coach Amanda O’Leary to inquire about the possibility. O’Leary recognized Gillece’s athleticism and promptly welcomed her to the team. As a dual-sport athlete, Gillece has found the time commitment to be massive, but worth the investment.

“You receive a very precious reward,” Gillece said. “You become completely attached and devoted to your team — I would most definitely say the most difficult aspect of playing two sports in college is missing the team you are not able to be with.”

For the few athletes that are able to make it work, their lives are ultimately enriched. Although Tomasino eventually found that football and lightweight crew were not compatible, he said he is glad he experienced both.

“If I had to do it all over again, I think I would,” he said. “While it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, I will never forget the experiences or great times.”

Today, more than ever, the athlete is driven to specialize at an earlier age to gain an edge by training for one specific sport, making this elite group of Eli athletes so notable.

“Colleges, in general, have made it more difficult for athletes to play multiple sports, even to the point of discouraging it. I think this is really unfortunate,” Tomasino said.

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Zoe Pershing-Foley
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