My arrival at Yale freshman year was plagued with questions.

Despite the concerns of shipping bedding from Texas, finding space in L-Dub and meeting three strangers for roommates, there was one thing about which I was certain.

I never once worried that I would be lonely.

This comforting feeling came from the fact that, upon arrival at Yale, I was already part of the varsity softball family.

I will never forget my first night on campus. While other freshmen were scrambling around town with newly introduced suitemates or random acquaintances, I was sitting in a nicely furnished apartment with 17 other girls who would soon become my best friends. As a mildly insecure freshman, I was overjoyed — to say the least.

These friendships have blossomed into what I consider to be my family away from home. And I would venture a guess that any athlete on any varsity team on this campus feels the same way.

Currently, this spirit of family is epitomized by the Yale women’s ice hockey team. As one of their teammates faces an unfortunate illness, their strength as a family has grown exponentially.

Mandi Schwartz ’10, a forward on the team, was diagnosed with leukemia in December. She is currently home in Saskatchewan receiving one of four rounds of chemotherapy and searching for a bone marrow donor.

Most of the attention surrounding Schwartz’s illness has been centered around the team’s annual “Pink at the Rink” event this past weekend. The players wore Schwartz’s number on their helmets, left a spot for her during pregame introductions and sported pink bracelets in honor of the greater cause of fighting cancer.

These public displays are wonderful testaments to the team’s concern for their teammate and resolve against cancer. However, what I consider to be the greatest displays of friendship happen behind the scenes.

For instance, Schwartz scheduled an emergency flight home just one day after her diagnosis. Knowing that there was little time for packing, the entire team descended upon her dorm room. Some two hours later, the team had packed all her belongings, and she was ready for the journey home.

Also, while Schwartz battles her illness in Canada, her teammates strive to keep her struggle in their daily thoughts and prayers. Schwartz’s jersey is currently hanging in the women’s locker room, and her locker remains just as she left it, awaiting her return.

As a former varsity athlete, I can attest to the fact that I would have done anything for my teammates, as they would have done anything for me. In fact, my teammates were the only things keeping me going through the inevitable struggles that come along with being a student-athlete at Yale.

These families that athletes inherit at matriculation are blessings in and of themselves. Although it sometimes takes a near tragedy or a gut-check to make us realize their true value, every athlete on campus knows that in a time of need, they will never be alone.

Tracy Timm is a junior in Pierson College.