Ahh spring. That magical time of year that brings us March Madness, the Masters, the consistently genuine and misplaced optimism of Cubs and Red Sox fans that this is finally their season, Easter, 70-degree weather, an explosion of green vitality across campus and, just as certainly, an article in the News detailing the evils of Yale athletics.
As sure as Duke reaching the Sweet Sixteen, such an article is bound to show up sooner or later. You know the one. It starts off by comparing the SAT scores and GPAs of athletes to those of their not-recruited counterparts. It cries of the injustice done to all of those poor, deserving 1600s out there who cannot realize their dreams of becoming scholarly Bulldogs because some meathead linebacker from Texas stole their admissions spot. The author claims these single-minded jocks just do not appreciate the depth of a Yale education and fail to utilize the vast resources this University has to offer its undergraduates. Their misguided sense of priority prohibits such athletes from appreciating Yale fully, and they leave with a microcosm of the wealth of experience that their fully devoted academic brethren receive. Why allow athletes into Yale when they will not fully capitalize on the education offered, especially when they were not as intellectually worthy in the first place? The article demands Yale take a stand, put an end to this abomination and eliminate varsity athletics, or effectively do so by disallowing athletic recruiting.
I agree wholeheartedly that there needs to be a massive transformation of athletics at Yale. I also agree that the current scope of the Department of Athletics is prohibiting many students from realizing the fullness of what their Yale experience could be. No, my disagreement with this annual bashing of intercollegiate athletics is more fundamental than that. You see, instead of eliminating or vastly cutting back Yale athletics, I think the Department of Athletics should be expanded tremendously — to the point where it would be able to accommodate mandatory athletics for every Yale student.
Yes that’s right, I said mandatory athletics for all Yale undergraduates. Every year, I disagree with the aforementioned article because I think the exact opposite of what it purports to be true. Involvement in varsity athletics enriches and broadens a Yale education, supplementing it in ways classroom interactions never could. I see it as a vital institution that cannot be overlooked on the road to graduation and (hopefully) maturation. That is why I am suggesting a new requirement for graduation: participation on a club or varsity athletic team for at least one season.
I am a senior and four-year member of the football team, and I cannot imagine my Yale career without the countless hours devoted to my sport. I could recount the merits of my time on the team for pages and pages of print, but as my space is limited to this column, let me focus on a few that mean the most to me.
Football taught me to seek a common goal with people whom I may not have anything else in common with other than that common goal. The team is comprised of 105 individuals who come, in many cases, from vastly different backgrounds and face vastly different futures. Yet we learn to put aside differences and function as one organic body, striving towards the elusive goal of winning an Ivy League Championship. I cannot think of a more valuable skill to be equipped with for life after Yale than the ability to work with a diverse group, as a team moving towards a universal purpose.
I have learned from football how to manage the finite resources that time most often is for a varsity athlete. I must discern on an almost daily basis what activities will behoove me most and where I should focus my time and energies. If that means making the trade-off between doing every bit of assigned reading in order to go out to dinner with my teammates and family after a game, then so be it. I would rather have a B+ and time with people I care about than an A- and time with my course packets any day. Life in the “real world” is not going to become less hectic, and opportunity costs will be a prominent part of our daily routine for the rest of our lives.
The skills I have learned from participation in athletics I will treasure and draw from for the rest of my life. They pale, however, in comparison to the impact of the most important thing I take away from football — the lifelong friendships I have formed with my teammates. There is a certain bond that comes from giving yourself daily out on the practice field with the same group of guys. An unspoken connection that comes from sharing the glories of victory and, more importantly perhaps, the agonies of defeat. To know that a group of guys unconditionally “has your back” is an indescribable sense of security I think everyone should have the privilege of knowing.
Athletics have been a fundamental part of my existence here at Yale — in a sense you could say they have “made” my time here at Yale. Football has contributed a richness to my four years, a richness I can only hope is matched in every one my fellow Yalies’ lives in some capacity. So the next time April comes into view and maybe you start to feel the urge to dismiss Yale athletics as a waste of energy and time, just remember one thing — there may be a lot more to that meathead’s experiences than first meets the eye.
Chad Almy is a senior in Trumbull. He was a tight end on the football team for four years.