September 6, 2002

Taking Time Out of the Year

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The Ivy League’s new seven-week off policy has become a hot topic for criticism in recent weeks as coaches and teams throughout the league begin to prepare for competition.

The policy, which went into effect this year, demands that each program schedule 49 days of rest periods throughout the academic year. During each period, which must be at least seven days in length, athletes will be required not to attend mandatory or captains practices, or any activity supervised by their coach.

There is widespread concern among those affiliated with Ivy athletics that this decision was made arbitrarily, without consultation with athletic directors, coaches, or athletes.

“I’m the one coaching, I’m the one dealing with my athletes, and I think that if someone wants to know if there are problems, they should come to this level to find that out,” said women’s lacrosse head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “I don’t think the presidents have time to micromanage on our level.

Graap feels that this rule will inhibit her team’s ability to build chemistry and cohesiveness over the course of the offseason, which in turn may negatively impact its ability to repeat last year’s Final Four appearance.

Gymnastics head coach Paul Beckwith fears that these new restrictions will have detrimental effects on his team’s ability to stay sharp and develop new skills both during the season and during the offseason.

The seven-week policy will prevent Beckwith from running supervised practices at times during the academic year, but due to legal concerns, Cornell gymnasts are not allowed to use the facilities in Teagle Hall without his supervision. So, even if these athletes wanted to practice on their own during the off periods, they would not be able to.

“In other sports, the nature of the sport allows athletes to [practice individually,]” Beckwith said, “basketball players can play, runners can run, swimmers can swim, we’re not saying they’re happy about it.”

The polo teams will face the added disadvantage in the fact that during the seven off-weeks, there will be no way to keep the horses in shape, a necessary task generally accomplished through the teams’ regular practice. This could serve as a serious threat to Cornell’s ability to defend its national championship.

Not all teams, however will suffer so severely. Members of the cross country, winter, and spring track teams are all three-season athletes, and are not subject to the seven-week policy. According to men’s cross-country and track coach Nathan Taylor, the seven-week policy has a lesser effect on individual sports such as track and swimming.

“We give kids time off whenever they need it,” he said. “It’s really different, we’re not getting a team together and doing team kind of things.”

The new policy came about in part as a result of conversations among Ivy League administrators sparked by the publication last year of the book “The Game of Life,” in which authors James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen of Princeton alleged severe tribulations in the lives of Ivy League athletes, particularly football players.

The rule stipulates that these 49 days may be broken up in any way each specific coach sees fit, so long as each rest period is a minimum of seven consecutive days.


Archived article by Owen Bochner