Syracuse uses coffee to bolster performance

Zach Barlow | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse has embraced using coffee as a way to boost the Orange's performance.

What the Syracuse players really wanted before their game in the Sportco Kick Off Classic in Las Vegas was some caffeine. Despite a Starbucks not being within five miles of the team’s hotel, Jocelyn Cater said Mike Bosch had the bus driver take them to a nearby Starbucks.

“I was like, ‘What are we going to do?’” Cater remembers asking Bosch, SU’s head coach. “He’s like, ‘We’ll have to take the bus.’ So we took the bus for everyone’s pregame coffee because that’s our thing.”

That was back in February, but 46 games into the season, SU players have relied on coffee to get through early morning workouts, weeknight doubleheaders and weekend series on the road. The cup of joe has become a significant part of the Syracuse (25-21, 9-11 Atlantic Coast) culture.

Many of the Orange players developed their addiction to coffee at SU. AnnaMarie Gatti’s affection kicked in right away, as a freshman in fall 2014. She didn’t consider herself a big coffee drinker in high school, but now she’s hooked. She won’t throw a pitch without having had a cup.

“As long as I can get it in my system before I start to warm up, I’m fine,” Gatti said. “But if not, I can’t function.”

Before a recent Saturday doubleheader, SU players shared a big jug of coffee while watching film. That day they played 22 total innings. In the 22nd inning, they won on a walk off.

After last week’s doubleheader versus Colgate, Cater sipped a Starbucks coffee while leaving the field. Usually her pregame Starbucks only lasts her through the first hour of batting practice, but on April 20, she had extra.

In the fall semester, players wake up for 6 a.m. workouts every day. After those workouts, to stay fresh during a day of classes and afternoon practice, Cater and teammates make Starbucks runs.

“When you have 6 a.m.’s,” Gatti said, “you have to (drink coffee) or you won’t be able to survive.”

A central nervous stimulant, coffee can raise peoples’ heart rates, induce jitteriness and make drinkers “just a little amped up,” said Jane Burrell Uzcategui, an instructor of nutrition in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

Side effects include insomnia, upset stomach and diarrhea, but timely, moderate coffee consumption can enhance athletic performance.

“It usually peaks at about an hour,” Uzcategui said. “Having (coffee) an hour before the game would be good timing.”

Uzcategui noted that for the average size athlete, three grande coffees from Starbucks can put an athlete above the NCAA’s caffeine doping level. SU players limit themselves to one cup before games.

On the road, finding good coffee can be a challenge, as was the case during the team’s first weekend out in Las Vegas. If Starbucks is inconvenient, Cater will resort to hotel coffee which is “not so good.”

“It’s a treat on the way to the airport,” Cater said. “If we’re lucky, Coach Bosch lets us.”

Cater drinks coffee after cardio workouts, during batting practice and after games. Even before bed, she’ll down a cup and still go to sleep fine. Between classes, she’ll make pit stops at Starbucks.

Other players swear by coffee. Corinne Ozanne said what her roommates find most annoying about her is the constant smell of coffee. She lives in an off-campus apartment with Cater and Sydney O’Hara. The trio has a three-tiered stand dedicated to coffee.

The top row is a Keurig machine, espresso machine and line of mason jars full of Wegmans tea. The second is littered with an array of coffee mugs. The bottom shelf contains coffee flavors ranging from Reese’s peanut butter cup to mint chocolate chip and blueberry. The roommates have more than 30 types of coffee in total.


Courtesy of Corinne Ozanne

“It’s just crazy,” Ozanne said.

“(Ozanne’s) the reason I have a downfall with it,” Gatti said. “I pretty much lived with her all of last year. I would sleep in and she’d bring me coffees.”

Every other week, Gatti gets coffee beans sent to her door. Ozanne, who gets her coffee grounds from Freedom of Espresso on Walton Street in Armory Square, uses her French press to get her coffee crisp every time. She introduced the methods to Gatti.

Gatti frequents Recess Coffee because it gets its beans direct from farms with sustainable and ethical practices. The team also frequents the Starbucks behind the College of Law.

“You know there’s something wrong when the people at Starbucks know your order and know your name,” O’Hara said, laughing.

Growing up, O’Hara would sometimes come home to a refrigerator filled with five Mountain Dew bottles. But while sharing an apartment with Cater and Ozanne, she was inevitably overwhelmed by her roommates’ coffee. Now, she’s another addict.

“Whether he believes it or not, (Bosch) is a big coffee drinker,” Ozanne said. “Him, Anna(Marie Gatti) and Jocelyn (Cater), if there’s no Starbucks, they are not happy campers.”


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