JANES: An athlete’s house of horrors

Halloween is rapidly approaching, and at Yale, that means a terrifying mix of strangely-colored dining hall foods, unbelievably over-thought-out costumes and general chaos. But for Yale athletes, horrors like those don’t just come once a year. Life in the “House of Payne” is no walk in the park: ask any varsity, club or Jonathan Edwards CollegeIM athlete(who, as evidenced by their 30,000 point lead in the Tyng Cup standings clearly are training way too seriously for this stuff…) who has ever trained there. So in keeping with the Halloween theme, I thought I would outline some of the scariest things in a Yale athlete’s life. No matter what sport you play or at what level, these phrases strike almost as much fear into the hearts of Yale athletes as, say, the idea of parents’ weekend somehow, inexplicably, being scheduled for Halloween weekend. Oh wait…

  1. “On the line.” Ask any college athlete for the three words he or she would least like to hear, and I guarantee those are at the top of the list. Follow that fatal trio with “again,” and things get downright terrifying. For, as anyone who’s ever run a shuttle or suicide knows, heading to the line is nearly always followed by running away from it —at full speed — and then running back. Over and over again.

  2. “Sled pushes.” Close second to “on the line” in the athlete’s horror rankings. Sounds benign enough, but believe me, we’re not talking toboggans here. Unless, of course, your toboggan is made of heavy metal, has nothing on the bottom to reduce friction and is loaded down with, oh, 300pounds of pure lead. Somehow the climb back up that sledding hill near your house doesn’t seem quite as formidable anymore…

  3. “ACL” There is nothing — and I mean nothing — an athlete wants to hear less than those three letters after twisting a knee and falling to the ground. “MRI” “CAT,” or even “EKG” are all totally doable. But tell an ailing athlete it’s an “ACL” issue, and it simply can’t get worse. Unless of course they then have to limp to class in “KGL” (Kline Geology Lab) for the rest of the semester…

  4. “To the stairs.” One workout done by many Yale varsity teams involves running up and down the stairs of Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes “every other,” sometimes hopping, sometimes with dumbbells, sometimes with a teammate on your back… And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, Payne Whitneywas built to destroy the souls of stair-running Yale athletes. The top floor? The ninth. Totally doable, right? WRONG. Because, of course, there’s 5b, 6b, 7b… etc. So “running to nine” really means running 13 floors haunted by the ghosts that live on those mysterious upper “b” floors from which few have ever returned alive.

  5. “Testing.” Now this is something everyone can relate to. In the context of Yale athletics, it’s the time — usually at the beginning of the year — where athletes return from summer and are evaluated on how well they maintained fitness while away from the (not-so) friendly confines of the weight room. Varsity baseball does the “decathlon,” an aptly-named competition made up of 10fitness events each with a point scale so that athletes and coaches can see exactly where the team members stack up. Field hockey’s “testing” is a deadly preseason combination of timed miles, 200-yard shuttles and a grueling amount of running that would make most college athletes lose sleep. Other sports are similarly tested, some in the weight room, some at the track, all with the intent to separate those who are in shape from those who aren’t —and who therefore must work extra until they are. (See scary phrase No. 1). Think scary “testing” is two midterms in one day? Try field hockey’s preseason testing and fear no more.

So as you head into the horrors of this Halloween weekend, be inspired by the athletes around you. Whether varsity, club or overly-trained, potentiallyjuiced IM players, all face their fears day after day, week after week to compete at the highest level. That choice between a Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj costume is simply not as scary when you consider the insanity of 6 a.m. workouts, endless sprints and, of course, sled pushes. Halloween (on a Monday night…) might be scary. Mid-terms might be scarier. But if you’ve ever heard any of the above phrases, you’ve been through much, much worse.

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