When Chrissy Hall ’05, captain of the women’s field hockey team, runs out onto the field before one of her games begins, she takes a quick look up into the stands to catch a glimpse of her parents’ faces.
Steve and Eileen Hall, who live approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes away from Yale, have missed only three of their daughter’s varsity games — including away games — in her four years at Yale. They have traveled as far as Palo Alto, Calif. to see Chrissy and her Yale teammates play.
“It’s really nice having my parents there,” Hall said. “After the game, when I’m emotional, either excited after a win or mad at the world after a tough loss, it’s great to have my parents there to talk to.”
Hall is by no means the only Yale varsity athlete with the support of his or her parents at games. Many parents of varsity athletes, especially ones who live close to New Haven, attend their children’s games. They constitute a fervent fan-base and help create a tight-knit camaraderie between the athletes, parents and coaches.
For many of the varsity sports, these relationships are facilitated by “tailgates,” or informal potlucks that occur after all home games. Though tailgates traditionally take place before a game, post-game get-togethers are usually planned by the captains of the teams and their parents, and provide food for the players in a fun atmosphere.
Kathy Lindroth, mother of field hockey forward Catherine Lindroth ’08, said the tailgates create a close-knit community.
Hall agreed with this assessment.
“Tailgates are the most rewarding part of the whole experience,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know my friends’ parents so well that I feel like I’ve known them forever.”
After the home football games, the team members and their parents converge in Lot F, the parents-only parking lot at the Yale Bowl, for a cookout.
“Football parents are really good,” defensive end Don Smith ’05 said. “They set up these involved tailgates. It’s a great way to meet everyone.”
John Orrico, father of field hockey player Heather Orrico ’07, said that parents try to pack the stands even at away games. The parents usually try to set up a table with food for the players on the road as well.
“Yale parents support their kids especially well,” Orrico said. “There are usually more Yale parents supporting at away games than parents of the home team.”
John and his wife, Maureen, have only missed two of Heather’s games over the past two years.
While the students and parents mingle at the tailgates, the parents have formed friendships among themselves during hours of spectating and planning together.
“There’s a common bond with the parents,” Orrico said. “Most of the girls share a love for field hockey and the high academic level [at Yale]. It makes it easy for the parents because their kids share the same special-ness.”
Jack Macauley, father of varsity soccer player Mimi Macauley ’07, who has attended all of his daughter’s games, agreed. He said the parents from local states get to know each other particularly well.
Kathy Lindroth estimated that nearly half of the parents of field hockey players regularly attend home games. The only games she and her husband have missed this year were in Washington, D.C. and in Ithaca, N. Y.
Parents new to the scene are quickly made to feel welcome.
“The senior parents always try to make underclassmen parents feel comfortable,” Don Smith, father of football player Don Smith, said.
Sometimes, parents from farther away will attend away games in towns or cities that are closer to them. When the women’s varsity soccer team played games in California earlier this year, many of the parents from the West Coast were able to go and watch, Nitsa Benson, mother of soccer player Eleni Benson ’06, said.
In some cases, parents who do not live within driving distance from Yale still manage to support their kids. Bob Breunig, father of Ben Breunig ’05, a linebacker on the football team, has made the trek to New Haven from Dallas, T.X. for all of his son’s games this season. Breunig’s parents usually fly in for the weekend and stay overnight at the Omni Hotel.
Dedication to the teams can be so intense that even parents of players who have already graduated still attend some games, Steve Hall said. He and his wife will most likely attend a few field hockey games next year, even though their daughter is now a senior.
During the actual games, however, the athletes said they tend to focus on the game and not their parents.
“I try not to spend time looking for them,” Tim Barrett ’05, a defensive lineman on the football team, said. “It’s really a distraction from the game, and the coaches don’t like it.”
Orrico said her dad yells instructions while her mom acts as the positive supporter. Orrico added that every now and again she glances up at them.
“It’s great to see them during and after games,” she said. “I don’t get to see them during the week.”
Most athletes agreed that while it is nice to have their parents supporting them in their athletic endeavors, they like to leave the coaching to the actual coaches.
“Especially if they’ve lost, he really doesn’t want to hear from us about how he did,” Dick McCarthy, father of football offensive lineman Ed McCarthy ’07, said. “He’d tune us out pretty fast.”
Hall also said she avoids discussing her own play with her parents.
“Sometimes my dad can give me objective advice, and he can see things about the team as a whole,” she said. “But I don’t usually ask them about how I played. Some things my dad will say, I’ll be like, ‘No Dad, you’re completely wrong.'”
After watching countless games, these dedicated parents said they have truly come to appreciate the sports their children play. But though they may be the ultimate fans, they are by no means expert analysts.
“After watching all these games, we’re still trying to figure out all the rules,” Steve Hall said.