For most Yalies, winter break means time to wind down, relax with family and forget about responsibility. But many Yale athletes on winter sports teams do not enjoy such luxuries.
Instead, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams and men’s hockey team, among others, will train and compete throughout winter break with a frequency and intensity that often exceeds what is demanded while school is in session. The men’s basketball team will play in Nevada, California and Iowa in a three-game, five-day whirlwind road tour, and players on the women’s basketball team will be given only five days off to stay with family during the entire break.
While several athletes interviewed admitted wishing they could spend more time at home with their families, they said they all believe such commitments are typical of Division I athletics programs and would improve their teams.
“I wish I could be home longer but playing a winter sport, you kinda know you’re not going to have a long Thanksgiving break, a winter break or spring break,” said women’s basketball team center Emmy Allen ’16. She added that while she and her teammates all “think it’d be nicer if we could spend more time at home with our families,” the winter training will better prepare the team for conference competition.
Although Allen and her teammates will play four times over the break, including an away matchup with Georgetown, the general lack of games on her team’s calendar over the break leads her to assume that practices will be tougher.
“Because we won’t be playing many games, we’ll need to have tough practices to stay sharp,” she said.
For the men’s basketball team, the winter break road trip has become an annual highlight of the season for the seniors. The team’s coaches try to organize games in areas from where at least one of their seniors hails, forward Matt Townsend ’15 said.
“This year we have guys who are from Nevada, the Bay Area in San Francisco and Iowa, so we accordingly got games in these regions,” said Townsend, adding that this makes the road trip feel almost like a homecoming game for the team’s seniors.
He added that the road trip is an effective way for the team to become closer. “We don’t need specific outings [to build team harmony], because just hanging out in hotels and on the road is a great way to know the guys.”
While men’s and women’s basketball will travel for games, Yale’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are both heading to Florida for training camps. After a 10-day break to see family, the men’s team will head to Plantation, Fla. for one week of team bonding before training begins on Dec. 27. The women’s swim team will start a day earlier in Coco Beach.
“One of the reasons we go to Florida [as opposed to staying in New Haven] is for a morale boost,” said Michael Lazris ’15, adding that if the team was just swimming in New Haven, “swimmers could start feeling depressed that they were still practicing while other students were enjoying their breaks.”
Moreover, coaches are particularly tough during winter break, knowing that this is the one time of the year when their athletes are not distracted by schoolwork, Lazris said.
“This is the reason why winter break is the part of the season where we’re pushed to our limits,” captain Jared Lovett ’13 said.
Yet, as Lazris noted, nothing brings people together more than going through hell together.