Imagine hearing your name booming over the loudspeaker and across the field. Imagine the referee blowing the whistle and starting the game. Your heart is pounding; it’s your first intercollegiate game.
Like all other freshmen, student-athletes face a great challenge adjusting to college life. Add in more experienced senior athletes and early practices to the equation and anyone would be scared.
Fortunately for the newbies, veteran players and coaching staffs have taken steps to welcome incoming freshmen and have made the transition smoother.
“The team really just welcomed me, and that really made it easy for me to really feel comfortable and not have to worry about being the young guy,” said Scott Armbrust ’13, a member of the men’s soccer team.
Armbrust, who has already scored four goals this season, noted that, although freshmen do have certain additional duties like washing laundry, their overall experience is quite like that of upperclassmen players.
Cross-country runner Demetri Goutos ’13, who was the fifth Eli finisher at last weekend’s meet, agreed. “I’m still in a new place with new people, but it really helps that all of these people are here to help out with everything that I’m going through, whether it be classes or just moving to a new place,” he said. “I’ve got 20 guys on the team who’ve done it before.”
Having other freshmen on the team who share the same experiences and schedules also helps the athletes adjust.
One of the standout freshmen on the field hockey team, Maddy Sharp ’13, has scored two goals and notched two assists so far this season. Sharp said that the field hockey team spends a lot of time together, even off the field.
“A lot of the time, we’ll go to the library to study together,” she said.
Goutos believes it is actually easier to adjust to college life as a student-athlete because of all of the advice he received from upperclassmen.
“I was talking to some people about how I was having trouble following chemistry lectures. The reassurance really helps,” he said.
Some teams also have formal mentoring programs in place to provide support and advice to their freshmen athletes. The football team is home to a “Big Brothers Program,” where a freshman is matched with an older player who, according to head coach Tom Williams, knows the ins and outs of life at Yale.
“[They know] the lay of the land and have been around campus,” Williams said. “[The seniors] mentor the younger guys about being student athletes and meeting our expectations.”
The field hockey team has a similar program in place, where sophomores are paired with freshmen. A senior is also assigned to them as what Sharp calls a “Momma.” The men’s soccer team is less formal.
“During the summertime, players would call the freshmen just to see how they’re doing and what they’re doing in preparation,” Armbrust said. “We get to know each other as much as you can on the phone.”
Jordan Capellino ’13, a fullback on the football team and the only freshman who started in Saturday’s game against Georgetown, added that it was it easy to talk to anyone on the team because the older players were not that far out of the freshmen’s age range.
Capellino believes that being around the other players helped the team bond.
“Camp was pretty intense,” he said. “We focused on football 24 hours a day. The practices were really intense, but it was a really good experience.”
This helped to prepare him for his first night under the lights, an experience Capellino said he was a bit nervous for but enjoyed.
It was particularly special for him considering his father flew all the way from California to see him play.
The dynamic student athletes of the class of 2013 have made a smooth transition to college life and intercollegiate competition. Being freshmen has not stopped these Yalies from helping the Elis win. In fact, Mary Kubiuk ’13 on the women’s soccer team scored the game-winning goal for the Elis on Tuesday. Kubiuk is just one of many rookies who will look to make an impact on the field, court, rink or other venue in the coming year.