Courtesy of David Schamis

Throughout the year, the Yale football team members pay attention to their physical health in all its forms — not only gritty training, but also rest, diet and, for those dealing with injuries, recovery — to make sure that their bodies are in shape for games.

At the core of Yale football’s regimen is a regular training schedule, during which players attend various lifting workouts, film sessions, practices and more. In addition to keeping in shape, the team members also take steps to preserve their physical health. Healthy diets are maintained through regular breakfast checks and supplemental drinks, and frequent meetings with medical staff help players take preventative measures against injury. According to players interviewed by the News, a strong sense of community also makes players feel supported, both on and off the field.

Their typical training schedule follows a similar pattern every week. According to Ruben Valenzuela ’25, a defensive back on the team, Sundays are of a “slower tempo” that allows players’ bodies to rest and heal from the previous day’s game. On those days, the team usually does a morning lift and a walkthrough to correct any mistakes from the game. He noted that Mondays are the players’ day off, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are more intense, when the team usually does Tuesday morning lifts and attends various meetings and practices from 2-7:30 p.m. on both days. Then on Thursdays, the training is “lighter on [the players’] legs,” and Fridays are “more like a walkthrough” where the team goes over schemes for the next day’s game. 

“Usually some guys stay after practice to go do treatment,” Valenzuela said. “Each position group on the team has different goals for that week. Sometimes, for example, my goals for the week could be going to the training room three times a week, just to make sure our bodies are always in tune so we can prevent injuries in the future. That’s what I like about [the training room], it’s always open and the resources are always there.”

During lifting workouts, Valenzuela said that players get classified into three groups: offense, defense or injured. According to Valenzuela, based on these categories and by how sore each player feels, the trainers will then create a workout that allows for all the players to get “a kind of individual workout.” 

When asked about Yale athletic’s approach towards training the football team, Mike Gambardella, associate athletic director for strategic communications, referred the News to a feature published in July. According to the feature, the athletic department emphasizes the importance of creating an “individual connection with each student-athlete.” Furthermore, the staff members strive to effectively train each player by “getting to know the student-athletes on multiple levels.” 

For the players, success on the field relies heavily on their diet. Valenzuela explained that on every day of the week except Monday, players have to undergo a “breakfast check” to ensure that they are “up and ready for the day.” Between 7:30-9:30 a.m., a coach will sit with the players while they eat breakfast, Valenzuela added. 

Skipping a breakfast check can have consequences, such as having to do conditioning. According to Valenzuela, even injured players are required to complete breakfast checks. 

“Breakfast kind of gives us that kind of foundation of our day, keeps our schedule going for the day,” said Valenzuela. “So get an early start in the morning, get the food we need to get.” 

In addition to their regular meals, players are also given a supplement following team workouts. According to Valenzuela, after every practice, the players are given “puppy chow,” a drink with around 1,000 calories consisting of “oil, milk, protein, cinnamon and sometimes fruit.” The players are allowed to drink as much as they want, with some players taking two or three servings at a time, Valenzuela said.

Players are also given magnesium pills, and the trainers always make sure that the team members are drinking enough fluids and getting enough electrolytes, according to Valenzuela.

“If . . . they want us a certain weight in maybe by next season or they want us at our goal weight to become our prime shape, they’ll prepare us because in football, they want us to have a certain amount of body fat because of the amount of hits we take,” Valenzuela said. “It just helps us kind of cushion our muscles . . . it is that armor that is added on to us to help us prevent injuries and stuff like that . . . they always give us the right nutrition throughout the week . . . so they give us everything we need to be successful.”

Another notable aspect of the Yale football program is the relationship between players and the medical staff. 

“We have a really good relationship with them, we see them before every practice,” said Connor Smith ’25, an offensive lineman on the team. “They’re really good. Really nice guys.”

According to Valenzuela, part of the reason for the bond between team doctors and players is the frequent interactions between the two. Valenzuela explained that players meet with medical staff as often as an hour or two a day. Throughout the week, he noted, the doctors and trainers “always work with” the players to “make sure [their] bodies are right.”

Indeed, Smith explained that before every game, the medical staff helps to ensure that players are equipped with “game readies,” or leg sleeves that utilize pressure to alleviate soreness. Valenzuela said that the trainers are always there at every practice and at every game, even the travel ones.

“We’re always talking to them, we’re always with them,” Valenzuela said with regards to the team’s relationship with medical staff. “So we’re really close to them.”

Furthermore, Smith added that the team surgeon, Elizabeth Gardner, has always been “super helpful” in preparing players for surgery and scheduling the necessary MRIs or X-rays.

According to Valenzuela, the football team supports each other through the “ubuntu mentality,” where the players believe that “I am because we are.”

“Ubuntu” is defined as “embodying the various values and virtues of essential humanity.” In other words, players are encouraged to better each other instead of only focusing on individual gain. This includes supporting fellow teammates, both on and off the field.

“As a teammate, you don’t want to see anyone down,” Valenzuela said. “It hurts to see anyone get injured because it could be anyone’s last play.”

The 137th playing of the Game is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Sophie Wang covers COVID-19 and Yale New-Haven Health. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a freshman in Berkeley College prospectively majoring in statistics & data science and English.
Alex Ye covers endowment, finance and donations. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a first year in Timothy Dwight majoring in computer science and mathematics.