As many Yalies travelled across the world during winter recess, some student-athletes braved the cold and geared up for the winter season ahead, returning to the Elm City for daily practices and competitions.
All winter sports teams — the gymnastics, basketball, squash, fencing, hockey and swimming and diving teams — trained in New Haven over break, according to Associate Athletics Director for Internal Operations Jessica Chrabaszcz. Though their time with family and friends at home was cut short, student-athletes interviewed by the News maintained that they were happy to return to campus early.
“When I decided to attend Yale, I had to acknowledge the fact that I was not only making a commitment to my academics, but also a commitment to my sport,” said Kiarra Alleyne ’19, the captain of the gymnastics team. “This dual commitment that all student-athletes understand is inherently going to include obligations that other students will not have, such as a shorter winter break. I think it is such a privilege to compete for Yale, so if I have to return to school a couple weeks early, I personally do not see it as a burden.”
According to Associate Athletic Director Jason Strong, who oversees compliance for the Department of Athletics, the Ivy League policy restricts sports teams from practicing more than 20 hours per week — or four hours per day — when classes are in session. However, during vacation periods, including winter recess, Yale’s teams are not obligated to restrict their training hours, Strong added.
Seven student-athletes interviewed by the News said that sports practices over break were more challenging than those during the school year.
“You can get incredibly sore over training, so we often finished the day with an ice bath,” India Bhalla-Ladd ’21, a fencer, told the News.
Bhalla-Ladd explained that training over break often runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with a 1.5-hour lunch break in the middle. She added that practices were “significantly more intense” than those conducted when school is in session, often consisting of lifts; challenging cardio; and conditioning, sprints and stair workouts.
Alleyne told the News that the rigorous training exercises conducted over break do not happen as often once classes are in session.
“We are able to put 100 percent of our energy towards preparing for the season without the stress of classes,” Alleyne said. “I think it also alleviates some stress to get into the swing of things and have our first competition of the season before classes start.”
Because Yale’s residential colleges and dining halls are closed during the winter recess, the players in New Haven were put up in the Marriott and Omni hotels. According to Director of Athletics Vicky Chun, the Athletic Department foots the hotel bills, which is more cost effective than keeping the University’s dorms open.
Most players interviewed by the News expressed mixed emotions about having to stay in hotels rather than their own dorm rooms.
Gabby Nelson ’19, the captain of the women’s basketball team, said that it was inconvenient to have to “live out of a suitcase,” but noted that living in a hotel with the whole team presented unique opportunities for fostering a close-knit team environment. Lucy Burton ’21, a player on the women’s hockey team who stayed in the Omni, said she was pleased by the quality of the accommodations but bemoaned how far the hotel was from the center of campus.
Director Chun, who was appointed last spring and has made it a goal of her tenure to enhance the student-athlete experience, told the News that she will continue to work with players and the Yale College Dean’s Office to explore other possible arrangement options.
Harvard and Princeton student-athletes stay in the dorms over their winter breaks.
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