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.
Walker Kirby, Men's Lacrosse
Hometown: Morristown, N.J.
House Affiliation: Quincy
As seniors nearing Commencement Day, we reflect on how we’ve changed since our days as freshmen. What have we learned? How have we grown? What were our most difficult challenges and greatest successes? We seek to define our experience here, and we all come up with different answers. For me, my experience at Harvard will forever be defined by my experience as a member of the men’s lacrosse team.
Lacrosse is a sport that I have loved since I started playing when I was eight years old, and it has taught me many valuable lessons along the way. Commitment to something greater than yourself is always more rewarding than individual accomplishments. Clear, concise communication is critical to the success of a team. Always keep your head on a swivel. “Well done is better than well said.” Your mind quits far before your body quits. Take advantage of every day to get better. You can only control two things, your attitude and your effort; don’t waste your time and energy worrying about what you can’t control. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” The harder you work, the luckier you get.
In lacrosse, when you shoot and miss, the team with the player closest to where the ball went out-of-bounds gets possession. You can take a shot at something, and even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, you still can get another shot. Take risks. They may or may not work out, but you will never know until you take the shot.
I have heard some student-athletes describe their time in Cambridge as two-sided – their time as a student and their time as an athlete. Whenever they cross the river, they change from a student to an athlete, or vice-versa. For most of my time here, I had this mindset. When I was in the classroom, I tried to forget about yesterday’s practice. When I was on the field, I tried to block out anything besides lacrosse. As I near the end of my career, however, I have found it much more difficult to find this divide, and I welcome the crossover. I seek to apply the lessons of discipline and preparation taught by my coaches to my work in the classroom. I try to learn from my classmates, teachers and friends about how they communicate and lead and apply this to my time with the team.
The athletic department of one of our oldest Ivy League rivals has the motto “Education Through Athletics”, and I believe this more accurately describes my current mindset about my time as a student-athlete at Harvard. We are not students sometimes and athletes at other times; we are always “student-athletes”. The values we stress in athletics – discipline, hard work, communication, selflessness – do not disappear when we cross the River. The lessons we learn from our coaches and teammates on the field and in the weight room remain with us, applicable in our schoolwork, in our relationships with friends, family and co-workers, and in all other aspects of our life.
I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to be a member of the Harvard men’s lacrosse team the past four years. I am grateful for all those who allowed me to be a part of such a great team and incredible university. I love my teammates and would not trade my time with them for anything else in the world.