One year ago, I wrote a column about spring break for Yale athletes. I’ll say this much: going back and reading something I wrote a year ago … frightening.
In any case, I highlighted all of the fantastic reasons why varsity spring sports need long, out-of-region spring break trips to begin their seasons. These included a chance to leave the tundra for warmer weather, the opportunity to play better competition out-of-region, the increased team bonding experiences and, of course, the all-important personal sanity provided by a trip off campus. All of this was meant to be a sort of argument to the powers that hold the purse-strings of Yale Athletics to keep this tradition alive.
Unfortunately today, although this tradition is still alive, it is not well.
This year, each of the spring varsity sports will see a large cut in their spring break travel. Teams are only allowed one trip out of region, and many of these trips have been shortened dramatically. For example, the softball team, which used to enjoy a10-day, 12-game, multi-opponent tournament at the Rebel Games in Florida, must now settle for a seven-day, five-game tournament at the Stetson Classic in Florida with only three opponents. Not exactly ideal for an outdoor sport looking for more varied competition and more time in favorable weather.
Budget cuts are something that the entire university has felt with full force. Obviously, we are living in much more difficult times, and some things must be set aside in favor of the bigger picture.
But I just don’t buy this argument for spring varsity sports.
I’m not saying that the spring break trips are the best part of the season. In fact, much of the time, they are the most challenging. The school takes on a liability with out-of-state travel. This mandatory travel prevents these athletes from going home or having a “normal” spring break. The competition is harder and the days are longer.
But it is precisely all of these things that contribute to the team as a whole and, more importantly, to the season as a whole.
The most important part of a varsity season is undoubtedly the games against Ivy League opponents. But the build-up to Ivies in the non-conference schedule is crucial to the success of every team. Without the proper preparation, diverse competition and valuable team bonding, it might be difficult for our teams to remain competitive.
Now, I want to give our teams a little more credit. I’m not saying that the softball team will inevitably crumble because of a few less days in Florida. That’s not my point at all.
The point is that these teams are being robbed of a key part in their seasons, a time that is not only important to their success, but also important to their overall athletic experiences at Yale.
Hopefully, our varsity spring sports will overcome any disadvantage this change might bring. But more importantly, I hope that those in charge of the varsity financial distributions will see the importance of this tradition, and we will see change in the future — a little less tundra and a little more bonding time.
Tracy Timm is a senior in Pierson College.