For some Yalies, New Year’s will be arduous, sweaty and far from home.
Athletes on varsity winter sports teams, particularly the basketball teams, will not have the luxury of the nearly month-long winter break most Yalies enjoy. The women’s basketball team plays six games over three weeks of break, more than any other Yale team, while the men’s team plays five. Eight varsity athletes interviewed had mixed reactions to playing and training over break, though all knew about the schedule when they joined their teams.
“My family has a love-hate relationship with my basketball career,” Forward Greg Kelley ’15 said. “But they understand that playing on a sports team is really a full-time job.”is family feels slighted by his devotion to basketball. He added that the lack of time he will spend with his family and friends at home bothers him as well.
But head coach James Jones said the basketball players have never complained about a shorter holiday to him.
“It’s like having to write a 10-page paper. You see it on the syllabus, and you know what you signed up for,” Jones said.
The team played over Thanksgiving break as well.
During this break, Kelley enjoyed 18 hours at home, and he now looks forward to a one-week winter break, which will begin after the team’s last match against the University of Rhode Island on Dec. 18. By Dec. 27, however, he must fly to North Carolina to train for another game against Wake Forest University. He will then fly south to take on the University of Florida on New Year’s Eve before flying to New Haven for games on Jan. 3 and 8, the day before classes begin.
Nevertheless, Kelley said basketball has been a rewarding experience and added that he believes the sacrifice will definitely pay off.
Whle Kelley will only spend seven days with his family, some athletes cannot go home at all. One year, Jones said he brought five players to his house because they had nowhere to stay, but this year, they will stay with friends on the team who live near Yale.
Jones said several games every year must be scheduled over the breaks to ensure the team can play out its season without pulling athletes out of classes or exams. This year, the men’s basketball team will play a total of 28 games.
Jones added that he spoke with the team before Thanksgiving about the privileges of playing college basketball. The athletes, he said, are enthusiastic about the upcoming games.
“I’m kind of used to it,” forward Rhett Anderson ’12 sMichelle Cashen ’12, captain of the women’s basketball team, said the coach is most concerned that the athletes stay fit over break. The team enjoys only five days off this winter.
“They don’t baby us. It’s just how it is. All upperclassmen are used to it, so freshmen tend to adapt pretty quickly as well.”
During the five days the teammates spend at home, forward Alicia Seelaus ’13 said head coach Chris Gobrecht gives the team two workouts to complete as well. But Seelaus said Gobrecht mostly wants the players to enjoy their time at home and return refreshed.
Gobrecht could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Kenny Agostino ’15, a forward for the men’s ice hockey team, which plays four games over the break, said the hockey coaches are focused on providing the team with a fitness program to work though over the break.
Christopher Luu ’12, captain of the men’s swimming team, added that his vacation is cut short by a team training trip beginning a few days after Christmas. Three years ago the training trip went to Puerto Rico, while the last two years it was held in New Haven. This year, Luu and his teammates will travel to Florida.
Luu said the trip is a crucial part of the team’s training away from the distractions of school and added that he does not mind the shortened vacation.
Robyn Shaffer ’13, captain of the women’s fencing team, said her coaches don’t give directives about what to do over break, but it’s understood that the team needs to stay in good condition.
Shaffer added that the fencing team has time off from finals until Jan. 4.
“Athletes can take vacations like everyone else,” Shaffer said. “It’s just that we have to make sure we stay fit and stay healthy.”
Seelaus said traveling with the team fosters bonding free from the stress of classes.
Although Agostino will only have a 10-day break, he said he enjoys the time spent with his teammates, and the team’s schedule does not bother him at all.
“We’re doing what we love, and it’s a great time to bond,” Agostino said. “My parents are completely fine. They know hockey’s a really demanding sport and requires a lot of sacrifice.”
Several of the teams will spend holidays together. The men’s basketball team has a match on New Year’s Eve, while the women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey teams have matches on New Year’s Day.
Jones said the basketball team will not be joining in the New Year’s festivities.
Still, Seelaus said the time the team spends together outside of the academic term helps them get to know each other.
“But my siblings always tease me that I ruin all of their Christmas plans,” she added.