Courtesy of David Schamis
Throughout the year, members of the Yale football team pay attention to their physical health in all its forms – not only hard training, but also rest, diet and, for those who suffer from injuries, recovery – to make sure their bodies are in shape for games.
At the heart of Yale’s football program is a regular training program, in which players attend a variety of weightlifting workouts, movies, workouts and more. In addition to keeping fit, team members also take steps to maintain their physical health. A healthy diet is maintained with regular check-ups of breakfast and additional drinks, and frequent meetings with medical staff help players take preventative action against injury. According to players interviewed by News, a strong sense of community also makes players feel supported, both on and off the pitch.
Their typical workout routine follows a similar pattern every week. According to Ruben Valenzuela ’25, a defensive back for the team, Sundays are a “slower tempo” which allows players’ bodies to rest and recover from the previous day’s game. On these days, the team usually does a morning comeback and walkthrough to correct game errors. 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 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on both days. Then on Thursday, the training is “lighter on [the playersâ] legs â, and Fridaysâ are more like a walkthrough âwhere the team go over the next day’s game plans.
âUsually some guys stay after training for treatment,â said Valenzuela. âEach group of positions on the team has different goals for this week. Sometimes, for example, my goals for the week might be to go to the gym three times a week, just to make sure our bodies are always in tune so that we can prevent injuries in the future. That’s what I like [the training room], it’s still open and the resources are still there.
During lifting practices, Valenzuela said players were categorized into three groups: attacking, defending or injured. According to Valenzuela, depending on these categories and the pain felt by each player, the coaches will then create a training which will allow all the players to get “a kind of individual training”.
Asked about Yale Athletics’ approach to forming the soccer team, Mike Gambardella, associate athletic director for strategic communications, referred the News to an article published in July. According to the report, the sports department stresses the importance of creating an “individual connection with each student-athlete.” Additionally, staff members strive to effectively train each player by “getting to know student-athletes at multiple levels.”
For players, success on the pitch depends heavily on their diet. Valenzuela explained that every day of the week except Monday, players must undergo a “breakfast check” to make sure they are “ready for the day”. Between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., a coach will sit with the players while they have breakfast, added Valenzuela.
Skipping a breakfast check can have consequences, such as having to do conditioning. According to Valenzuela, even injured players are required to carry out breakfast checks.
âBreakfast gives us that kind of foundation for our day, maintains our schedule for the day,â said Valenzuela. “So start early in the morning, get the food we need.”
In addition to their regular meals, players also receive a supplement after team practices. According to Valenzuela, after each practice, players are given âpuppy chowâ, a drink containing around 1,000 calories made up of âoil, milk, protein, cinnamon and sometimes fruitâ. 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 coaches always make sure team members drink enough fluids and receive enough electrolytes, according to Valenzuela.
“If … they want us to gain some weight maybe by next season or they want our target weight to become our best form, they will prepare us because in football they want us to have some amount of body fat due to the amount of hits we take, “Valenzuela said.” It just helps us cushion our muscles… it’s that armor that’s added to us to help us prevent injury and what stuff … they always give us the right nutrition throughout the week … so they give us everything we need to be successful.
Another notable aspect of Yale’s football program is the relationship between the players and the medical staff.
âWe have a really good relationship with them, we see them before every practice,â said Connor Smith ’25, an offensive lineman for the team. âThey are really good. Really nice guys.
Part of the reason for the bond between team medics and players, according to Valenzuela, 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, doctors and coaches “are still working with” the players to “make sure [their] the bodies are right.
Indeed, Smith explained that before each game, medical staff help ensure players are fitted with “ready to play” or pads that use pressure to relieve pain. Valenzuela said the coaches are always there in every practice and every game, even when traveling.
âWe always talk to them, we are always with them,â said Valenzuela of the team’s relationship with the medical staff. “So we are very close to them.”
Additionally, Smith added that team surgeon Elizabeth Gardner has always been “super helpful” in preparing players for surgery and scheduling required MRIs or X-rays.
According to Valenzuela, the football team supports itself through the âubuntu mentalityâ, where players believe that âI am because we areâ.
âUbuntuâ is defined as âembodying the various values ââand virtues of essential humanityâ. In other words, players are encouraged to improve on each other instead of just focusing on individual gain. This includes supporting teammates, on and off the pitch.
âAs a teammate you don’t want to see anyone fall,â said Valenzuela. “It hurts to see someone get injured because it could be anyone’s last game.”
The 137th edition of the Game is scheduled for November 20.