Out of season, not out of shape

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Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

For a varsity athlete at Yale, the offseason is anything but a break.

Although athletes are most visible at their in-season performances, they spend many hours weekly during the offseason in workouts designed to increase their strength and endurance. Whether these workouts consist of practice swings or sprints in the basement of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, athletes interviewed agreed the offseason is no breeze. In fact, the intensity of the offseason can be more taxing than the season itself, they said.

“The offseason is much more aggressive,” said Jesse Pritchard ’14, a guard on the men’s basketball team. “During the offseason, we lift four times a week, have conditioning twice a week, captain’s practices three times a week, and two individual practices, for a total of 11 workouts per week.”

In comparison, he said the team practices six times per week and lifts two to three times per week for a total of eight or nine workouts during the regular season.

Despite the increased number of workouts, Pritchard said the regular season is different than the offseason, but not necessarily easier. During preseason, the team focuses more on strict conditioning activities, such as sprints. During the regular season it leans toward more team-oriented drills.

Members of the men’s heavyweight crew team agreed on the difficulty of offseason training. During the winter, they are unable to row on the water and instead must erg in the basement of Payne Whitney. Although they have the same number of practices as in the regular season, crew team member Zach Johnson ’14 said “[the offseason is] psychologically harder because it’s more monotonous.”

Lawrence Lopez ’14 added that crew team members would rather be outdoors in the fresh air than indoors erging by themselves.

But erging has its benefits, Lopez said: it places emphasis on building strength, while practices on the water place greater emphasis on stroke technique. Although the offseason may be tedious, Lopez said it is important.

Matthew Bieszard ’12, captain of the men’s track and field team, said that track practice during preseason is a little bit more demanding on the body than practice in season. Offseason track practice is quicker and faster, and builds more endurance, he said. He added that preseason work is also important for injury prevention, he added.

Preseason training has a similar purpose for the baseball team.

“The offseason is more about getting stronger and getting in shape for the season,” said Kevin Fortunato ’14, a first baseman and pitcher on the baseball team. “That’s when you push yourself.”

He added that once the regular season begins, players are looking to maintain their strength and work on skill development.

While the fall baseball offseason is fairly relaxed, Fortunato said the practices become more intense once the players take their training indoors, where they take thousands of practice swings in preparation for the season.

The more intense preseason preparation begins in February. While fall practices may only be about an hour in length, Fortunato said practices in February may be four or five hours. The baseball season begins in March, when the focus of practice shifts to team skills that need improvement.

Members from the four teams interviewed said they practice at least five times per week in the offseason.

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