For Sydney Guerrier ’20, weigh-ins at the gym have become part of his daily ritual.
Guerrier is a linebacker on the football team, and is one of many players who are given personal weight goals to achieve during offseason.
“I’m already at a disadvantage because linebackers are usually 6’ 2’’ to 6’ 7’’ 280lbs to like 320lbs,” said Guerrier. “Coming out as a freshman, I was only 6’, 185 lbs. Putting on weight would make it easier for me to take on blocks, people coming at me. Even if they’re coming at me slower, their weight overpowers me, so putting on weight helps me compensate for that.”
While the weight gains are not mandatory, a player’s weight is a strategic advantage that can influence their performance and therefore whether a player starts.
“Depending on how much weight you put on and how that affects your playing style, could affect how much you play in the future.” said Guerrier.
Players have to think about their weight as often as they exercise. Each calorie burned is a calorie that needs to be consumed.
“For a lineman, losing too much weight in a season due to excessive conditioning that you might do, isn’t good for you in the gains that you’re trying to compensate for,” Guerrier said. “Eating more in the dining hall, taking tupperware so you can eat a quick meal before you go to sleep, so you can maintain your weight, rather than lose it completely.”
Weight-gain strategy changes in offseason. According to Guerrier, summer is the time for football players to bulk up on muscle before the next season starts and energy needs to be saved for games.
Although some player’s positions do not require them to gain as much weight, they are still expected to stay in shape during offseason.
Austin Stern ’18 is a safety this season, but was recruited as an outside linebacker. As safety, Stern relies more on speed than weight, but he still puts in effort to keep up his weight during the summer.
“Over the past three summers I would go home and then try to put on maybe 10 pounds of muscle, which is hard because you have to eat very clean, and you have to eat a lot of it,” he said. “You have to make sure that you lift and run constantly while you’re doing it so it’s the right kind of weight. I mean you could sit on the couch and eat cheese doodles, but that’s not going to help you when you get on the field.”
Stern believes that many times the weight goals set by the coaches are unrealistically high, but are only intended to encourage athletes to do their best. For example, the heaviest Stern has ever weighed was 200 pounds at the beginning of junior fall, while his expected weight was 210-215 pounds.
“You have a defensive lineman who the coaches feel is very underweight. They will be very vocal in stating the fact that he should pick up weight, eat more and lift more in order to get that size and that mass. The same goes if they think you should lose weight,” he said.
“That being said, I think the coaches do a good job of recognizing ability, so even if you are a little undersized, or if you haven’t shaved your weight, there are no immediate repercussions. It’s just them seeing in their ideal world what you would look like.”
Ideal worlds are often divorced from reality. Players learn how to game the system.
“If you were to go down to Farley and see us all weighing in you’ll see a lot of the upperclassmen have gallons of water in their hands,” said Stern. “Just before we step on the scale we usually drink half a gallon or the whole gallon just to quickly add a few pounds so we’re listed as a higher weight on the roster.”
For players like Stern and Guerrier, these expectations have become normalized. Guerrier is much closer to his goal weight now than as a first year—his old clothes hardly fit—yet he calls weigh-ins a habit.
“There is a lot of emphasis on weight in football, whether that be the weight you lift or the weight you are,” said Stern.
The Orient reached out to Coach J.B. Wells for a comment, but did not receive a reply.