ACADEMIC INTEGRATION COMPETITIVE EXCELLENCE

IN DIVISION I ATHLETICS

 

Senior Essay: Ali Zindman

Being a varsity athlete at Harvard is a unique experience that, due to its very nature, creates a special bond between all individuals currently participating, those who participated in the past and those who will participate in the future. As a member of the Harvard squash team, my coaches were always sure to instill in both myself and my teammates that we were a part of a special legacy; and that while competing we were not only playing for ourselves and the college but also all former players and supporters. This sense of unity and connection to history was something that I had never experienced before. It was made very apparent, however, upon looking at the pictures on the walls of the Murr Center and the banners that hung from the courts. Many of the names adorning those placards were legends within the squash community, and it was certainly an extraordinary experience to wear the same jersey and become a part of a tremendous history of athletes.

Playing squash for Harvard has been one of my most rewarding and treasured accomplishments. Through Harvard, squash became more than a sport; rather it became a vehicle through which I was afforded the opportunity to achieve things that I had never thought possible. I consider my teammates to be sisters, and I will always cherish many of the memories that we share, whether from the locker room, practice or actual competition. I have learned a great deal about myself, and I attribute this growth to my teammates because together we have done so many incredible things. This can perhaps be best exemplified by the team’s service trip to India in my junior year. I had never been to Asia, and upon being immersed in the Indian culture, from the cuisine to the clothing to the people, I was completely out of my comfort zone. Our coach was sure to show us every aspect of India. The most rewarding experience for me was our time at the squash center he opened in a village outside of Chandigarh. I had never been exposed to conditions such as these before, and at first I was deeply saddened. The children that we worked with, however, were so enthusiastic and excited to play with and learn from us. It was truly moving as they proudly showed us around their village and shared parts of their culture. This trip exemplifies an opportunity that I would not have been able to share with my teammates had it not been for Harvard squash. Not only did the team become closer as we learned to rely on each other in our new surroundings but also we all grew as individuals from this truly life changing experience. I believe that it was this connection and unity that we created on this trip that enabled us to win the coveted Ivy and national championships that season.

As a senior, it becomes easier to reflect on Harvard as a whole and contextualize your athletic experience within that framework. Upon becoming a senior and inheriting the team from the previous class, a sense of responsibility sets in. Suddenly, a new class of freshmen will be looking to you for guidance, and the rest of the team will follow the example you set. I have really enjoyed this part of my senior season because everything became more meaningful as I realized that this was the last time I would play squash at such a high level and the last time I would compete in a Harvard jersey. Additionally, I began to look at the relationships I had formed with my fellow seniors. We were all from different countries, and somehow squash and Harvard brought us together. For that I will always be grateful because once again I was able to see that squash was serving as a means through which I was gaining something far more valuable, namely, incredible friendships with people I trust implicitly as we watched each other grow and mature. Therefore, as I think about Harvard, many of the images that come to mind are connected to athletics in one way or another; whether the faces of my teammates, our many trips together or just gathering at the courts. Because of this clear presence, it is fairly simple for me to say that Harvard squash has been the single most defining aspect of my Harvard career, and I will always look back on my time here fondly because of it.