Coach Tom Williams: He came, he saw, and he conquered. Or, at least, he revolutionized the way football players’ daily lives are affected by the sport. And he did it all by cavalierly doing away with afternoon practice. Contributing reporter Christine Slomka explains how the Sons of Eli are handling the changeover to an entirely new schedule, one beginning at 5:30 a.m.
While most people would find it difficult to get up earlier than 6 a.m. every morning, the members of the football team do it every day to get to the Smilow Field House in time for meetings at 6:30.
“Today I woke up at 5:33, because I just couldn’t quite bring myself to set my alarm at 5:30,” h-back John Sheffield ’10 joked.
When other Yalies are still cranking out z’s, the football players are cranking it to get to the bus on time.
“A typical day involves me … racing to catch the morning bus,” running back Ricardo Galvez ’10 said.
But it’s not as bad as it sounds, Sheffield said: “As the week progresses, meetings start 15 minutes later each day, and we get to sleep in a little bit.”
After the meeting, it’s time for practice at 7:25. Feelings about training in the morning are mixed.
“It’s tough because the majority of the day you are very tired, and you end up going to bed early… and in a few weeks I know it will be very cold that early in the morning,” kicker Alex Barnes ’11 said.
Wide receiver Gio Christodoulou ’11 disagrees.
“I think it’s a great catalyst to start my day off,” he said. “Having that practice, with the dew and the field being wet, prepares us for games with those kinds of conditions.”
The early practices may help the team train harder as Christodoulou said a morning workout helps him wake up and he can use the rest of the day to recover, allowing the squad to have more energetic training sessions in the morning.
The morning practices also lend some more flexibility to training.
“Rather than kicking during practice, we can kick before and then work on other things during actual practice,” Barnes said. “[The new schedule] has helped us to get more done, and to get better training.”
After two hours it’s 9:25, practice is over, and it’s time to get back to campus. For some who have early morning classes, a feat of quick changing is necessary to make it to campus in time.
“Since I’m a science major most of my classes are in the early morning … every Tuesday and Thursday I usually have 30 minutes to shower, change, catch the bus and run straight to class,” Galvez said. “It’s tough sledding, but that’s what being a Yale football player is all about.”
Barnes added, “Coach is good about making sure we know that if we want to take an early class, we can leave a few minutes early to make sure we make it on time.”
One of the good things about the new schedule, according to the football players, is that it has enabled them to take classes they would not have been able to take with practice in the afternoon. Barnes appreciates how morning practices have opened up his schedule.
“It is nice being able to have the afternoon off and take courses or participate in extracurricular activities that we normally wouldn’t be able to,” he said.
Sheffield said that things like Master’s Teas and other mid-afternoon activities that were formerly not accessible to football players — like community service — are now something they can take part in.
Even though there is no football practice in the afternoon anymore, there are still other team commitments. The football players have to get in between one and three hour-long lifts in a week, depending on their class year. Other forms of training take place off the field as well. There are positional meetings and 45 minutes of game film screenings each day.
There are a few downsides to the new schedule. Team meals in Commons, for instance, aren’t what they used to be.
“A good amount of guys eat together at Commons after practice, but not as many as I’d like because everyone has different schedules,” captain and cornerback Paul Rice ’10 said.