The 2016 Senior Perspectives is the 11th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2016 Senior Perspectives, click here.
Hannah Schmidt, Women's Volleyball, Team Co-Captain
Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Concentration: East Asian Studies
House Affiliation: Cabot
I constantly dream about volleyball. It makes sense, really, because it’s the thing that my body is most used to. It’s the thing I think about most. It’s difficult to encapsulate something so huge in a small amount of words, something that meant so much to me and dominated my thoughts persistently over the past four years. It feels like a crime to attempt to express my experience on paper. I’ve been playing volleyball now for 11 years, and it’s a sport and a lifestyle that I will carry with me, and that will overflow into all aspects of my future. Volleyball feels like my true mode of being, my primal, natural state. It has been hard to adjust to life without it.
I don’t know how I got lucky enough to have the opportunity to do my favorite thing at Harvard, of all places, but I will forever be grateful. “Athlete” is the foundation of my identity, and I am only now, as a retired athlete, beginning to realize all the advantages of being a Harvard student-athlete, and how much I have grown and developed. Volleyball has forced me to step into roles I was not comfortable with, say things I did not want to say, wake up earlier than I wanted to, put my body through workouts I didn’t think it could do. Volleyball did not give me friendships, but created the most ideal opportunities for the best friendships to develop. Volleyball gave me hours of practice every day with the same group of girls, and through literal blood, sweat, and tears, friendships were created and reaffirmed every time we put our kneepads on. There was something absurdly special about the Harvard volleyball I have been a part of. Not just the NCAA history we’ve made or the two additional banners in the gym, but the level to which we just vibe as a team. Not only on the court, but also in the locker rooms, the showers, the countless buses we’ve sang on, the cities we’ve taken over, and the airports we’ve played games in. It still blows my mind to think about how people I’m able to love so much have ended up with me at Harvard, playing volleyball – sharing my passion.
As heartbroken as I am to no longer be a Harvard student-athlete, I think the brevity of the experience only increases its value. In these past four years I’ve set the ball millions of times, taken a couple hits down the line straight to the face, and personally lost match point in the fifth set. Volleyball has caused me to ricochet between both ends of the emotion spectrum many, many times, and for all different reasons. The downs made the ups that much better, and the ups made the downs worth it. I flourished in the competition, while at the same time it humbled me. I cared about the team more than I cared about myself, and it was exhausting. I never once considered quitting; it was the only thing I was completely sure of in my time at Harvard. The entire experience of volleyball at Harvard, now coming to an end, has consistently shaped me, caused me to go after things unimaginable, do things I would have never thought to even attempt before. Both Harvard and volleyball, together, have given me the remarkable tools and confidence necessary to chase my dreams, however big or small.
I still dream about volleyball.