What were you doing Wednesday morning at 5 a.m.? Unless you are a serious Feb Club-goer or Tuesday Night Club fan, chances are you were sound asleep dreaming of your secret crush or dreading your early morning class.
But sleep was not an option for the Yale varsity softball team yesterday.
In fact, I’m sure many of the players spent sleepless nights worrying about missing the bus at 5:30 a.m. That’s because every week in February, the team gets an early start with 6 a.m. practices to kick off the beginning of the season. It’s nothing short of miserable. Trust me.
This isn’t the only example of athletes sacrificing sleep in the name of their chosen activity. Countless Yalies run or lift weights starting as early as 7 a.m. and continue into all hours of the night. Just this past Saturday, the women’s varsity lacrosse coaches surprised their team with a season-opening midnight practice — one that let out just in time for the ladies to catch the post-Toad’s scramble.
Dedication doesn’t stop at sleep deprivation. These athletes frequently play through injury in order to participate. I tore my left labrum last spring and spent some time in the training room this past fall. I could supply endless examples of nearly arthritic swimmers and gymnasts who might as well set up cots and pay rent for the number of hours they spend tending to chronic injuries.
Athletes are taught at a young age to distinguish “hurt” from “injured,” but for better or worse, we usually overestimate our likenesses to Superman. This resolve, which sometimes borders on stupidity, keeps many athletes playing through immense pain unbeknownst to others.
But why would a hockey player get back on the ice after being stepped on by a skate? Or why would a rower train two times a day every day of the year? (That’s at least five hours a day, folks, outside of class.) And what keeps tendonitis-ridden squash players on the court?
These are not difficult questions for Yale athletes to answer.
For those who have not experienced team sports first-hand, it might be tempting to think that varsity athletes sacrifice and struggle all for their own gains. The personal glory or fame achieved seems to be a likely story until we remember where we are. You need only to vainly search for the athletics tab on the Yale University home page to realize that they receive nowhere near the same emphasis as academics. At the end of the day, we are treated as students, just like everyone else.
Tennis players fight through cramps mid-set and fencers win numerous unsung battles for a specific cause. Some do it for a love of the game. Others do it to successfully represent our school. Even more play just because they love the grass stains from the field, the bruise from a ball or the feeling of accomplishment they get after a win.
But all true athletes — who are members of team sports — compete, first and foremost, for their teammates.
“I play to stand next to my teammates who have sacrificed their time and energy for the very same cause,” softball captain Megan Enyeart ’09 told me.
“Yes, times get rough, but we’re in it together,” she continued. “When we reach that peak or goal we’ve been striving for, when we win that big game, or make that key play, we’re always in it together. I know that my teammates are doing the very same thing, and together we can make big things happen.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Tracy Timm is a junior in Pierson College.