Senior Perspective: Women's Squash's Katherine O'Donnell

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 for all to see.

I could not be more proud or honored to be a member and co-captain of the Harvard women’s squash team. You will not find a more hardworking, honest team anywhere.  My experience for the last four years has been up and down in terms of our success on paper.  Freshman year, we came so close to winning, falling to Princeton in the national championship final, a trend which would continue through my junior year.  We had some rough losses, coming in fifth my sophomore year, but none of these losses did anything negative to our team morale or unity, in fact, it brought us closer.  The three years of coming so close to victory and watching it slip away laid the foundation of motivation and dedication for this season.  My co-captain,  Hanna Snyder, and I decided from the beginning that this year would be different, that we would not leave Harvard without Ivy League and national championships.  We had been robbed of it for too long, and we needed these titles for ourselves, for the team, the program and the coaches.  Through a lot of hard work and dedication, we achieved these goals.  We became the first national champions in Harvard squash since 2001.  We became the first national champions in any sport at Harvard since 2006.

From the day we all stepped on the court this season, we were one.  We came to practice every day dressed in the same uniform, proud to represent Harvard.   Things didn’t always go right for us.  Winning wasn’t easy.  People had ruts, we were tired from the school work and the three hour practices.  We had some injuries.  We cried (well, I certainly did).  There is a Mia Hamm quote that we hung in our locker room and we think describes our team perfectly: “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.” We were put in the spotlight only a few times this season; during matches.  The rest of the time we spent working our butts off, doing extra sprints, coming in for extra sessions alone or with the coaches.  While other students partied during their season, we wanted our bodies in tip-top shape.  We sacrificed for this championship.  It didn’t come easy, but it sure was worth it. 

But, winning isn’t everything. The times I will remember most about Harvard squash happen during practice, during team dinners, during our bus trips to matches and during the times when we lost and ran into each other’s arms and cried.  I have developed bonds with people through this team that will never be broken.  When you run, sweat, cry and collapse with people, you can’t help but become closer.  I have so much respect for this team.  I learned to be more disciplined, to be a leader and to appreciate and rely on your teammates.  As I go off to serve as an officer in the United States Navy, I will remember my times at Harvard fondly.  The lessons I learned on the squash court will help me every day in my career and my life.