There has never been a debate regarding the importance of NCAA Division 1 sports. Especially at a university like Yale, where the establishment of athletics predates many academic programs and extracurricular organizations, varsity sports are not taken lightly.
Some scoff at the idea of “Ivy League athletics,” believing they are significantly different from programs at schools with athletic scholarships and seemingly unlimited sports budgets. But the talent and dedication of Yale athletes cannot be contested.
With such a high level of commitment comes sacrifice, certainly, but as mature athletes not under any pressure to lose scholarship money or academic preferences, at no point do we feel absolutely chained by the binds of varsity sport.
Yale’s model of varsity sports is no different than other Division 1 schools. We follow the same rules regarding practice times: no more than 20 hours a week and at least one day off per week. Depending on the season and the sport, commitment varies. But varsity sports present a consistent regimen that promotes a very disciplined schedule.
Why then, would Yale ever want to “abandon varsity sports altogether and endorse club sports?” as suggested by Tyler Ibbotson-Sindelar’s column “End varsity for club sports” (Feb. 5). What benefits would it bring to a university constantly competing against the other Ivy League schools?
Would the abolition of varsity sports have a positive influence on individual students?
Ibbotson-Sindelar proposes that all varsity athletes “focus solely on athletics or over-commit and exhaust themselves,” but there is no reason this has to be true. Coaches at Yale accept the fact that this is an educational institution, and make exceptions for athletes who fall behind academically.
Along the same lines, even varsity athletes have time for other extracurriculars. Ibbotson-Sindelar writes that “just because some superhuman” athletes can mix varsity sports with other extracurriculars does not mean that everyone can. I consider this humbling, seeing that it is not so difficult to add in other activities, there are many opportunities to joint the “club” equivalent of a singing or drama group.
Ibbotson-Sindelar’s argument for abolishing varsity athletics relies heavily on one main point: that a better-funded club sports program would “encourage more students to play them.”
But what would the response be if we applied this reasoning to abolishing the Dramat? Instead of this dominant and highly competitive option for dramatic performance, why not have lots of drama troupes open to everyone? Then the hockey team might have time to squeeze in an experimental musical.
Well, first of all, it would destroy a tradition. The Yale Dramat was founded in 1900 and has had members of worldwide fame. But, more obviously, and for those who do not care about a loss of tradition, Yale theater would be far worse.
Getting rid of varsity sports would have similar consequences. The development of modern collegiate sports, deeply rooted in the history of Yale athletics, would roll over Yale and pretend we never existed. The Game would cease to be. And for those with no regard to history, with the abolition of varsity athletics comes pure mediocrity in sports.
Although there is nothing wrong with playing a sport for enjoyment and to stay in shape, there are differences between the athlete looking toward competing in NCAA championships and an athlete focusing on having good abs and hoping his girlfriend catches him sweating on the squash court.
Also, just because club sports take less time, students will not necessarily flock to them. Getting rid of varsity sports would not create a vacuum for eager students to fill, but, rather, it would diminish the overall athletic environment of the campus, thus negating the initiative to perform at a high level.
Logistically, too, getting rid of varsity sports would force Yale to fire hundreds of athletic employees. Ray Tompkins House would crumble to the ground out of shame. If our “model of varsity athletics hurts our campus and the students who do them,” our model of club sports would hurt the employees, the spectators and the tradition of Yale athletics.
Club sports have their place in the well-established athletic program at Yale. But a complete coup of varsity sports by club sports would not be beneficial or worthwhile.
Matt Boone is a freshman in Morse College and a member of the men’s swimming team.