When you visit the campus for your official visit as a senior in high school on a recruiting trip, everyone you meet tells you all sorts of things about Yale University and the Yale football program. But there’s a lot they don’t tell you.
First of all, they don’t tell you how hard it will be: the ridiculous workouts, specially devised to make you vomit, the 4 a.m. wakeups, the practices in the snow, the brutal conditioning test, the nightmarish training camps. They don’t tell you the Ivy League is the most competitive conference in college football; they don’t tell you that in week nine of your historic championship season, people would be talking about the possibility of a 7-way tie. And they don’t tell you that yours will be the only sport not allowed to compete nationally, the only one to have your season shortened. They don’t tell you about all the guys who will leave the team — who will quit on the rest of you — and they don’t tell you how close you’ll be at one point to joining them.
They don’t tell you how tough it’ll be to do well in school, that your high school was great at football, but it wouldn’t prepare you for the unique and rigorous demands of a place like this. They might tell you how incredibly diverse your team will be, including players from all walks of life, all over the country and the globe. But they certainly don’t tell you that in spite of the great ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of your team, in spite of the social mobility your team offers to high-achieving student-athletes from under-resourced schools like yours, members of the Yale community will constantly call into question your team’s validity and worthiness. They will sign a petition to get rid of your sport; they will scorn the sight of you walking into the Ezra Stiles dining hall; they won’t know you, but they will be afraid of you and your teammates for no other reason besides the fact that you’re large people. They are students and faculty alike, and they will tell you to your face that you don’t belong here. They don’t tell you that, after all this time and effort proving that you can keep up in school — even graduating early — you’ll still struggle to convince yourself that they’re wrong. And they don’t tell you that those same people who think you don’t belong here will flock to exactly one game a year, and cheer at the wrong times because they actually have no idea what’s going on.
They don’t tell you everything will go wrong while you’re here. You’ll crash your car, break up with your girlfriend, drink too much, have panic attacks, get in trouble, get hurt, never sleep, nearly die of a nasty infection. You’ll miss home, fall out of touch with old friends — even as some of them experience unspeakable tragedies. Members of your family will die, others will be born, and you’ll be thousands of miles away. They don’t tell you how alone all of that will make you feel.
They don’t tell you any of those things because that would make it sound like you’re going to hate it here. But the truth is, you’ll still have the time of your life doing what you love in the face of adversity. The truth is, what they do tell you about Yale football is spot on. They told me I would find a family, the likes of which I had never seen and can’t find anywhere else on this campus, one that I would never be able to adequately describe to other people, one that would pick me up when I fell, one that I would have for the rest of my life. To the men of Yale football: I’m forever grateful to all of you, and I can’t wait to ride with you one last time.
Alex Galland is a senior kicker on the football team. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .