Timm: Spring break, sports style

With the official start of spring behind us, Yalies all over campus will soon begin to enjoy the longer days, blooming flowers and improved weather of this much-anticipated season.

Yeah, right! Maybe if we lived south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Freshmen, just so you know, it really won’t get warm here until May. It’s the honest truth no one has the heart to tell you. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we live in the tundra.

Although this fact may encourage those of us of a delicate Southern constitution like myself to stay indoors, it is precisely this time of year when varsity spring seasons begin. Yale sports fans now have the pleasure of watching Ivy League competitions in golf, tennis, lacrosse, softball and baseball.

But most of these seasons did not begin in Connecticut. (See tundra explanation above.)

Traditionally, seasons start during or before Spring Break. This means that while you were raging on the beach in Panama City, dodging crooked Mexican authorities in Cancún, or saving the world one Reach Out trip at a time, many of our athletes were flying, busing or driving to compete all over the country.

These trips are essential to the spring varsity experience, and I have whittled down the reasons why.

1. Weather: Need I say more? I realize I’m whining here, but hey, it’s cold! Until you’ve done it, don’t tell me we should expect our softball team to play in the snow. Ever taken a 65 mph dropball off the hands in 30-degree weather? It hurts. Enough said.

2. Competition: This one has a lot to do with weather, in some cases. For the most part, the best competition in the country for outdoor sports does not develop in a region where it snows from November to April. Check the rosters. Most of the athletes here are from warmer climates. I know this isn’t true of all varsity sports (read: men’s lacrosse absolutely destroying teams in California), but in general, our spring sports teams need to travel outside of this area to find the best competition.

3. Team bonding: What better way to get to know your teammates than by being forced to live together for two weeks? Time on the field aside, the real bonding begins during the down time spent at hotels or condos, by the pool or at Disneyland, depending on where the team travels. Being in an unfamiliar place brings teams together. Then, once they are together, they continue to bond with endless arguments about who pulled the most over-the-top prank. I still think the aluminum foil– or Post-it–covered condo looks the coolest, although there are many more that are much harder to clean. All jokes aside, the chemistry built during these two weeks is invaluable for any team’s success on the field.

4. Sanity: This may be the most important. Remember that itch you felt the week before Spring Break? That nagging feeling that you have been on campus for way too long and need some sun in your life? Athletes get that too. And staring down the barrel of an impending season with no distance from Yale and still no tan is enough to drive any athlete insane. Without a chance to get away from New Haven, even for just a week, anyone would go stir crazy. It’s hard to imagine an urban case of cabin fever, but I guarantee you, it happens.

Unfortunately, there is a buzz within the athletic community about the effects of the worsening economy and a possible lack of funding for spring trips. I think the best response to this stir is letting everyone know just how necessary these trips really are.

The highlight of my two seasons at Yale definitely centered around the softball team’s annual trip to Florida. One milk-chugging gallon challenge alone was enough to solidify friendships and bond a team together — on and off the field.

Today’s mission: Ask athletes about their spring trips, but don’t let them tell you any scores or stats. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Tracy Timm is a junior in Pierson College.

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