June 11, 2010
Senior Perspective: Sailing's Liz Powers
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
On the morning of August 24, 2006, my dad and
I drove on the winding one-way streets of Cambridge in a torrential
downpour. I was on my way to Mather House, the dorm where the
sailing team was staying for preseason. A confusing mix of
excitement and worry filled me.
The second I stepped on the sidewalk outside of Mather, the
team captains came up to me and introduced themselves. They stood
in the rain with me and helped me pull out my bags from the car.
This simple act helped ease my worries.
That freshman preseason convinced me that I was going to love
my four years at Harvard. Even though the combination of full days
training on the water and weight lifting was challenging, I did not
want preseason to end. In just a week, I considered my 25 teammates
to be my friends. They supported me and helped me build
This feeling that I had after just a week with the sailing
team has stuck with me over the past four years. We have been with
each other through countless ups and the downs. We have celebrated
together after finishing in top positions at nationals and
comforted each other after disappointing regatta results and
injuries. We have trained together in 80 degree weather in Cape Cod
and dodged floating pieces of ice on the Charles River in 29 degree
weather in February. Just a few weeks ago, I was competing with the
women’s sailing team in Annapolis, Maryland sailing against
17 of the top teams in the country. On Saturday we spent eight
hours on the water racing in freezing rain. At midday, while we
were waiting to start our next race, the rain turned into harsh
sleet. My crew and I looked at each other and laughed. Who in their
right mind would be sitting in a sailboat with balls of ice
attacking them? Well, we would. We love the sport of sailing. We
love the family that we are a part of. Sure, the weather does not
always cooperate. Sure, we have to make sacrifices to be on the
team. We miss the fancy Sunday brunches in the dining hall each
week. We miss parties and time to relax at school. But these
sacrifices are worthwhile. The sailing team provides a community
that is central to our lives.
In one of the first weeks of the fall of 2008,
I injured my knee. This injury put me on crutches and prevented me
from sailing for the rest of the season. While the injury certainly
was disappointing, it gave me the opportunity to realize how much
my team members mean to me. My first night back in my dorm room, my
teammates surprised me with a homemade cake and poster size card.
Even though they had raced all weekend and surely had hours of
homework to do, they sacrificed their time to offer support and
encouragement to me. This anecdote is just one small example of how
my teammates have supported me over the past four years.
In addition to providing a family for me,
sailing has also helped me learn discipline and time management.
Because being a varsity athlete is so demanding, I have learned how
to limit procrastination and efficiently complete my schoolwork.
Sailing has been the perfect complement to schoolwork. It gave me
something to look forward to as I was pushing myself to write my
thesis or study for a midterm.
In February of 2009, I had the honor of being elected
co-captain of the sailing team. I was excited to have the
opportunity to help lead this community that had given me so much.
Just as the co-captains stood in the rain with me when I was a
freshman, I wanted to be there for my teammates and support them as
they dealt with academic, athletic, and personal challenges.
When I think back at my time with the sailing team, a wide
array of memories pop into my head. I think of sweating together at
team lifts and freezing together in practices in the snow. I
remember goofy van rides where my coaches and teammates were
continually amazed by my utter lack of knowledge of musical artist
on the radio. I think about lively team dinners and breakfasts
I am incredibly grateful for the time that I have been able to
spend with teammates and coaches over the past four years.