Courtesy of the Yale Triathlon Team

While Yale’s 41 club sports are unable to formally practice or compete, members continue to try to stay in shape for their sport. 

With a commitment level between that of varsity and intramurals, club sports combine facets of both. Like intramurals, students in club sports have a wide range in skill level and are not obligated to attend every practice and game. Meanwhile, club teams mirror varsity teams by playing against nearby colleges and expecting students to supply their own equipment.

The News spoke to three club teams — triathlon, running and climbing — regarding engagement with their squad amid the pandemic.

Some club sports teams, like squash and soccer, have varsity or intramural counterparts; others, like polo and rugby, solely have a club team. Given this variety of options, students can play the sport they grew up with or try something new.

Zack Andalman ’23 explained how he came to join Yale’s triathlon team. “I was a varsity swimmer in high school. I wanted to keep swimming but also to try something new.”

In a typical year, the team has to practice in different parts of New Haven for each aspect of the race: swimming, biking and running. Although the competition requires athletes to swim across open water, the triathlon team trains at Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s lap pool. They then practice cycling either in Payne Whitney’s spin room or outdoors across Connecticut. The triathletes also run outdoors around New Haven as well as train at Wilbur Cross High School’s track.

During a normal season, the triathlon team competes in three to four races at either the sprint or Olympic distance. The group has five to six practices every week, but there is no attendance requirement.

“Since COVID, we haven’t been allowed to hold any official in-person practices, so our official practices consist of Zoom bodyweight and yoga sessions,” Andalman told the News. “However, many of our members get together in small groups for runs or bike rides.”

While Yale does not provide the team with equipment, coach Clayton Tebbetts allows students to rent bicycles and wetsuits from his triathlon gym.

The running club, which accepts athletes with any mile time, is another place to train with a dedicated group of athletes.

“We’re super chill and it’s really whatever you put in,” Daniel Blatt ’21 said. “It’s a great group of people to run with and it definitely provides motivation to actually run.”

Prior to last March, the team held daily hourlong practices along with twice weekly “workout” practices dedicated to sprinting rather than jogging.

Club running attends three meets every semester against other schools in the Northeast. Like the practices, the meets are optional for members.

Unlike Yale’s varsity running teams, who use Coxe Cage in the winter, club running typically practices outside every day, no matter the weather.

“As you can guess our attendance plummets in the winter,” Blatt said.

And instead of racing across land like triathlon and running, the climbing team races up it.

The Yale club climbing team practices at City Climb Gym in Science Park. (Photo Courtesy of Ella Lubin)

Before the pandemic, the climbing team held three two-hour practices each week at City Climb Gym and required members to attend at least one. Now, although the team does not currently hold large group practices, members can still go to the gym in smaller groups to climb recreationally.

“It’s hard to practice climbing without actually climbing,” Ella Lubin ’24 said. “Luckily, a lot of the sport depends on strength, so strength training is a great way to keep in ‘climbing shape.’”

Yale does not provide the team with equipment, leaving members to buy their own harnesses and specialty climbing shoes.

Lubin mentioned that the team normally competes against other clubs and schools.

“It’s a truly wonderful community who supports each others’ successes and quite literally catches each others’ falls,” Lubin said.

To learn more about Yale’s club sports and find out how to get involved, students can visit Yale’s club sports website.

Melanie Heller | melanie.heller@yale.edu