Vaibhav Sharma

After classes and a mid-afternoon practice on Monday, the Yale track and field team assembled in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium promptly at “Bulldog Time” — 10 minutes before a scheduled appointment — for an evening strength and conditioning session.

Student-athletes at Yale are always looking to improve their craft. While on the field training is the first thing that comes to mind when an athlete says they have practice, the work done off the court and in the weight room is just as important. To help athletes in their workouts, the Yale strength and conditioning department works with team coaches on all 35 Division I teams to unlock the full potential and minimize the injury risk of more than 1,000 student-athletes.

“Our track coaches are in constant communication with our strength coaches to make sure that our workout programs align properly,” sprinter Phil Zuccaro ’22 said. “We’ve been continuing to work with our strength coaches since the middle of last year through right now. Strength training is an important aspect of the sport to make sure that we can retain our explosiveness and hold top-end speed.”

In the weight room, the track and field team is divided among throwers, jumpers and runners. But even among these three different groups, the track athletes are further grouped into different weight classes to streamline the training process with various coaches.

For short sprinters, a typical week consists of two faster workouts, two tempo runs, two recovery days and a seventh rest day. Now that competition season has begun, coaches are constantly modifying the frequency and nature of the workouts to ensure the health of the athletes.

“Each person on the team has our trainer’s number, so if we need to get in contact with him we just shoot him a text,” golfer Kaitlyn Lee ’23 said. “I’ve never really worked with a trainer before coming to Yale, so it’s kind of a whole new experience for me. Many of my teammates, including me, have back or hip problems, so it’s nice to be able to let him know in advance before getting into the weight room.”

The Yale women’s golf team focuses on strengthening the muscles directly involved with the mechanics of a golf swing. The workouts are preceded by stretching exercises to train movement, flexibility and prevent potential injuries. To test for specific and concrete improvements in their swings, the team uses TrackMan, a radar system that tracks and records the 3D characteristics of a golf ball’s flight. Although Lee has not yet officially tested with the launch monitor, the rookie golfer has already gained several yards on her shots while improving the flexibility and stability of her swing.

Yale’s strength and conditioning department is headed by Tom Newman, director of student-athlete innovation and performance. Newman is always looking for new opportunities to give Yale athletics an edge. Some of his past projects include tracking the nutrition program of football players and working with ENAS 118 students to help improve the reaction time of the men’s lacrosse goalies.

“Beyond the obvious physical and mental benefits of strength and conditioning, we are able to push our limits and strengthen our mindset in the weight room,” women’s golf head coach Lauren Harling said. “It is also a time where we truly operate as a team and are able to verbally and emotionally support one another in a particular moment because on the golf course, we are spread out and competing in individual situations. Time in the gym builds confidence as individuals and is a big investment in our team culture as a whole unit.”

Payne Whitney is also open seven days a week for non-athletes looking to improve their strength and conditioning.

Eugenio Garza Garcia | eugenio.garzagarcia@yale.edu

EUGENIO GARZA GARCíA
Eugenio Garza García covers baseball, golf and athletic phasing. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, he is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Economics and English.