They say that every athlete experiences two deaths; one at the end of their life like all other men and one at the end of their athletic career. Our first death is so painful, for we give so much of ourselves to perfect an art which we will most likely never seriously do again. For most of us, we will never go through our pre-game routine again, never feel the rush of competing again, and never have the feeling of looking forward to competing again.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play softball in college. I loved the game and wanted to leave that door open, but first and foremost I wanted to get the best education possible. Of course, that was before I learned I could have the best of both worlds by playing softball at Harvard.
It feels surreal to reflect on my senior season and my athletic career as a whole here at Harvard. I don’t really know where to begin, as the past four years playing here have both been incredibly difficult and truly worthwhile. This season has been fantastic, yet oddly, it is how wonderful this year’s experience is that makes the past three years feel even more bittersweet.
The recruiting process is an intense thing for 17- and 18-year olds to go through. For me, I recognized that this was the first time that my decision in regards to where I wanted to go to college, would affect the path the rest of my life took. Lots of variables ride on the decision -- the school I chose would affect the coaches and mentors I’d be around, as well as friends, potential academic fields of study, and various other opportunities I’d be exposed to.
Being a varsity athlete at Harvard has definitely been the most rewarding, yet challenging, experience of my life. I can confidently say that I would not be the woman I am today were it not for my four-year long career as a member of the swimming and diving team.
Being a member of the cross country and track and field teams for four years at Harvard has been easily the most difficult, rewarding, and humbling experience that I have had in my life thus far. This program has taught me countless lessons, given me many meaningful relationships, and pushed me to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life-- all in ways that I truly believe I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
When most of my fellow students analyze my life as a student-athlete at Harvard, they see all of the things I can’t do. Between practice, meets, diets, and recovery. Offers and invitations to lunches, parties, events, trips, outings, concerts, and late night stops to one of the upperclassman grills (no, curly fries are not a part of my diet, Quincy Grill) had to be declined. Some of my friends couldn’t understand how I could say no to so much, including events like Yardfest and, yes, even my own graduation.
I walked into Harvard thinking I was done with competitive sports. But here I am four years later: a two-sport Division 1 walk-on and a varsity letter sweater to my name. For me, my time on the lightweight crew team and then the alpine skiing team split my college career right down the middle. Looking back, I feel like I have had college divided into two two year chunks. Each taught me very different lessons and I cherish for very different reasons.
My career as a college athlete ended on senior night in mid-February, so I’ve had ample time to sit and reflect on what it means to have worn a Harvard hockey sweater for four years. It’s a strange feeling knowing that something that was once such a huge part of your identity is no longer yours. It’s strange, but also comforting, because I know that no matter how many years removed from the program I get, I will always have a home in Harvard hockey.
Any sport can teach you about time management, teamwork, and grit. Varsity sailing taught me that as well. But it also taught me about attitude, respect, community, and about the person I want to be when I leave Harvard, more than any class I took in the last four years.
Harvard football has given me the experience of a lifetime. I would have never imagined my college experience to be filled with intellectual conversations and experiences with my brothers on my football team or the incredible people that I have met across the river. There is barely a day where I still cannot even believe that I am about to graduate from Harvard University and I constantly go back to the day where Coach Conlin, who is now the offensive line coach at Yale, called me where I was in my high school gymnasium and I thought he was talking about another type of “Harvard.”
Harvard Athletics not only afforded me the opportunity to continue my lifelong passion of fencing, but it also gave me the entirely new experience of participating on a team. As a senior, I look back and realize that it was this team dynamic that defined much of my college experience. I remember how quickly I learned freshman year what it meant to have my athletic efforts contribute to a group greater than myself.
I have never in my four years here thought of Harvard as a cut-throat place. Thankfully we don’t rip out pages of textbooks and secretly hope for our classmates’ failure so we get the better end of the curve. However, Harvard is, without a doubt, an extremely competitive place, with every student striving to be the best of the best. If you think about it, this is the very best thing about our school!
My first several weeks of freshman year were a big adjustment. Aside from the usual social and academic acclimation, I was wading through pre-season Harvard golf meetings. During these meetings, the coaches introduced me to unfamiliar phrases like “controllable factors,” “process focus,” and “positive self-talk.” I was not impressed.
I did not have the athletic career that I had hoped for. Recruited as a multi-eventer, I dreamed of competing in the heptathlon. A string of hamstring injuries forced me to quit training for seven events, and refocus on how I could make a meaningful contribution to the team in other ways.
Looking back on my senior season, I still have a sour taste in my mouth. The 2016 Harvard football team had the opportunity to complete something that has never happened before in our history—it could have won its fourth straight Ivy League championship.
When the final buzzer sounded, signaling the end of my high school career, I was overcome with emotion not only because I would never again take the court alongside my classmates, but also because at that moment I realized that I likely had played my last competitive game of basketball. Without a single offer to play in college, I didn’t have another season to prepare for.
While I committed to Harvard in October of my junior year of high school, it didn’t hit me that I was going to Harvard, or even playing soccer in college, until my grandparents’ car rolled off the pike onto JFK. As we turned onto Mt. Auburn Street, tears started to quietly roll down my face. My mom looked over at me, I could not explain what I felt or why; all I knew was that it had to stop because I was about to meet my soon-to-be life long friends for preseason in Winthrop courtyard.
The state title lies only a hundred yards away. Five others, teeth grit, squirm impatiently for their shot at glory, but my confidence has already determined the outcome of this race. I tense into ready position with practiced movements, awaiting the starting buzzer. My mind tickles with subtle introspections. This is swimming: my sport, my fire. No matter how sore I am or how “bad” I feel, I’ve learned I can always come out on top.
My experience as a student athlete here at Harvard was, as I’m sure many have said, an incredible one. After suffering a season ending injury literally hours before our first game my freshman year, I slowly but sure rehabbed and fought my way back onto the court, earning myself a starting role and a captainship.
As I write this sitting along the banks of the Charles River warmed by the radiant sun and slight spring breeze, gazing towards the infamous JFK Bridge (well technically the Anderson Bridge), I can’t help but think back to just four and a half years ago. It was a blustery January day when I crossed the bridge for the very first time as an eager prospective student.
They say tennis is a lonely sport, where you travel alone a lot of the time and compete alone on the court. It certainly did feel like this before college, but college tennis gave me a total 180-degree shift in my perspective regarding this sport.
My time spent as part of a varsity athletic team has been the most rewarding part of my time at Harvard. As a graduating senior, I have been doing a lot of reflecting about my time on campus, in the classroom, and at the pool. I am unbelievably proud and honored to have been a part of the Harvard swimming and diving family as well as Harvard Athletics on a larger scale.
Wrestling packed its bags just a few months ago, but what did it leave behind? Scars, of course. They’re more like tattoos at this point, reminders from moments I barely remember about the events that defined me. And lessons too. The experiences that have guided the whole mission.
Entering college, everyone tells you these four years will be some of the best in your life. And how could they not be — we are so fortunate to be surrounded by an incredibly engaging peer group, some of whom will become our life-long friends, and to have access to world-class professors who push our intellectual boundaries. What many people do not tell you when they share their own highlights of their college experiences is how much you grow as a person during this time.
Being a part of Harvard’s track and field team has taught me so much about what it means to encounter major challenges and remain resilient. I was recruited based on the potential that I could do great things, score major points, and be a top competitor. Not reaching that potential has been one of my greatest struggles. But as much as I’d love to have been a success story of the athlete who faced incredible ordeals and overcame them to be a champion, I’ll be writing a different story.
Legacy… how will you be remembered once you leave Harvard? The concept of legacy was described to me on my official visit to Harvard in October 2013 by former assistant coach, Morgan Brown. I immediately reflected upon this concept and evaluated how I had attained this in my high school experiences and how I wanted to pursue a legacy in my four years at Harvard.
Competitive distance running is tough, especially if you’re a Harvard student. That is the first thought that comes to my mind when I look back at my collegiate, athletic career. Running 110 miles per week, traveling every other weekend, missing classes, trying to get 10 hours of sleep every night while also waking up early for practice, and watching what I eat in the dining hall is all very hard.
Each game this fall, before stepping out onto the field, Harvard field hockey players would gather in the locker room to hear a pump-up speech from a teammate (or two). For the underclassmen, this was a time to get the team excited and energized for the competition ahead. For the eight seniors, these speeches were an opportunity to reflect on what Harvard field hockey has meant to us, how the team has impacted our Harvard experience, and why we chose to give 20+ hours per week to this sport. When my turn came around, I decided to speak about the family I have found in this team and the invaluable experience my teammates have given me.