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Senior Perspectives: Men's Squash's Alex Lavoie

Senior captains and representatives of varsity teams at Harvard contributed viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard. Each year the Senior Perspectives are compiled into a book and handed out at the Senior Letterwinner’s Dinner.

Senior Perspectives thus forms a valuable portion of each team’s legacy to sport at Harvard and to the permanent record built here by our varsity athletes. Throughout the summer, these senior essays will be posted to GoCrimson.com for all to see.

I was a walk-on to the Harvard men’s squash team four years ago, and just finished my fourth and final season. I participate in a variety of different activities on campus, yet the place where I think I have forged the closest ties with other members of the community, and arguably learned the most, is at the squash courts. I have learned from my teammates in ways that are not comparable in other realms at Harvard-not academic, or social, or extracurricular.

I have learned to push myself well beyond what I thought was possible, to develop my strengths and address my weaknesses, and most importantly, to be mentally strong under stress. This last lesson—the ability to fight through adversity, stay the course, and keep my composure—is something that I contend could never be learned in the more low-stress environment of the classroom.

When I first arrived at Harvard, my biggest weakness on the squash courts was my inability to fight through adversity. When I started to lose, I would get upset and my game would immediately collapse. It took a very long time for me to even be willing to recognize that I did this, let alone work on improving this flaw. Developing mental toughness under a stressful condition like a match is something that I learned primarily from my teammates, whom I could talk to and emulate. In particular, this lesson was best learned from my more seasoned and talented teammates, ones who were recruited to come to Harvard because of their tremendous squash abilities, not their academic abilities.

These students had spent countless hours prior to college refining their game both mentally and physically, and unlike me, they knew what it took to fight through adversity in the most stressful match environments. More importantly, as conscious members of both our team community and the Harvard community, they were very willing to help me develop my ability to do the same. Without these teammates, I would never have developed my squash game to the level it is at today, but more importantly, I would never have developed into the leader and person I am today. Having teammates who could teach me something so different from what I could learn from the rest of the Harvard community was a huge part of my experience in college, and one I believe that future Harvard students should enjoy as well.