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October 26, 2016
“The strong get stronger and the weak get weaker! 100 percent 100 percent of the time! Just one more.” These were a few of the commands that our leader from The Program, a former marine, called out to us during our two-day team building activity earlier this Fall. The varsity tennis team is a relatively small team as teams go, so with seven incoming freshman joining six upperclassmen, Coach Green felt it was imperative we learn how to be strong teammates early on in our Fall season, be accountable to ourselves and our teammates, and develop standards that we could all abide by.
The Program is like no other team building I had ever experienced. I have done the “trust” team builders, the inspirational speakers, team building games, but nothing compares to the amazing journey we took as a team on the beach at Lake Winthrop. This team building process was physically and mentally challenging and took all of us out of our comfort zones.
Day one felt like ROTC 101. All 13 of us were on the Rugby field ready to go. I thought I would be brave and volunteer for the first exercise – big mistake. They asked for a volunteer, my arm shot up, they told me to come to the front of the group, I jogged and immediately got yelled at for not giving 100 percent. Little did I know that I was supposed to sprint. “100 percent 100 percent of the time!” My teammate, Nika was the next up. She learned from my error and sprinted to the front. The Program leaders told her what the exercise was and it was her responsibility to get us to complete the mission, perfectly in complete unison. If we failed, it was on her. Perfect rows, perfect columns, perfectly in sync and vocal. Sound easy? Not so much with 13 people.
This was all in preparation for day two. We all piled into a van and drove 30 minutes to a Lake in Winthrop, Mass. First, we had to get our life vests on. There is a particular way to tie the life vests and we had to do it in a certain amount of time. It took us at least eight times to do it right and it required us to work together as a team. We then took three steps forward into the icy cold water where we did planks, mountain climbers, pushups and jumping jacks all in unison. When we weren’t doing army crawls on the beach sand with Mac (one of the former marine leaders), who was trash talking us to distract us from our focus, we were in the lake. We linked arms, walked into the water waist high and dunked together and had to get up while still linking arms – ever tried it? Pretty tricky – took a lot of non-verbal and verbal communication to succeed.
We had two zodiac boats and four manual pumps for each boat and we had to figure out how to pump up the boats in four minutes or less. Everything had to be done to the highest standard. We then split into two teams and raced in the boats. At one point, we had to jump out of the boat, dunk our heads under and get back in. Our boat had some trouble getting back in the boat and we were drowning in laughter. Although the laughing was not commended by the marines, it was all part of this incredible team experience. When we lost that round, one would think that our boat would do the extra workout exercises, but instead the motto is the “stronger get stronger and the weaker get weaker.” The winning team had to do exercises while waiting for the other team to cross the finish line.
The Program experience was intense and it helped us understand that before every decision we make, we need to think about our teammates. Being a teammate means taking care of each other and holding each other accountable. With two days of The Program under our belt, we are not perfect, but together we are working towards setting the highest standards on and off the court. We want our work ethic, attitude, and communication on the court, in the locker room, in the classroom, and in the Harvard community, to define who we are. As Mac said, “Leadership is a contact sport and to be an effective communicator you need to CLAPP” – clear, loud (appropriate volume), authoritative, pause, posture. We have taken the key tenets of The Program to heart and it is part of who Harvard women’s tennis is and wants to be. Can’t think of 12 other warriors to be by my side when we fight for the Ivy Title in April!