The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th 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.
Jillian Leslie, Softball
Hometown: Gilbert, Ariz.
House Affiliation: Leverett
When I first set foot on campus as a freshman back in August of 2013, I was consumed by instantaneous fear and apprehension. I was leaving the comfort of my home in Arizona to attend a university 3,000 miles away, and I had never felt so anxiously unprepared. However, I was unaware of how quickly my nerves would dissipate after meeting my teammates and stepping onto the Harvard softball field. Four years later, I can proudly say that I have made life-long friends, unforgettable memories, and found a forever home within Harvard softball.
I have been fortunate enough to wear the name “HARVARD” on my chest for four years. I’ve had the privilege of playing with 40+ talented teammates, and have been trained by several commendable coaches. I’ve played SEC and Big Ten teams, and traveled to places like California and Hawaii for huge collegiate softball tournaments. Our 2016 team won the North Division, and had the honor of fighting for the Ivy League Championship title. But, perhaps the most cherished and unforgettable memory I have was hitting my first collegiate home run during my senior year against the University of Hawaii. The rush of excitement and feeling of achievement was instantaneous. Nothing will ever compare.
While I wouldn’t trade my collegiate experience for anything, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t filled with persistent struggles and endless frustrations. The commitment it takes to be a student-athlete is rigorous, but the love I have for my teammates and this sport is what truly guided me throughout my collegiate career. Being a member of the Harvard softball team has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences in my life. From four-hour practices in the bubble to ten-hour game days in forty-degree weather, you feel like you’re constantly facing physical and mental obstacles. On top of those struggles, softball is essentially a sport of repeated failure. Succeeding three out 10 times at the plate is considered to be a remarkable accomplishment (and most the time, you don’t even make that mark). Some days, practice was filled with numerous strikeouts, never-ending bad throws, and countless booted ground balls. I left those practices feeling ashamed and embarrassed – I had worked so hard and gave so much heart, yet the disappointment was imminent. But, whenever these frustrations seemed to be more than overwhelming, I remembered to play for the six-year-old girl who once fell in love with the sport.
Although the difficulty you face in collegiate softball is relentless, you learn to deal with the adversity for your teammates. You learn to high-five your teammate after a tough at-bat and hope she hits the game winning RBI. You learn to pick your head up after you make an error that loses the game, or support your team if you’re riding the bench. Largely, you learn to play for the name on your chest and the twenty-three other girls on your team. You push through the pain because one day, you’ll be the player hitting the walk-off home run or throwing the game-ending strike out. And in that moment, your teammates will rally behind you and commend your success. This trade-off is essential for maintaining sanity in the game of softball.
All things considered, being a member of the Harvard softball team has molded my life in so many unique ways. One of the most invaluable lessons I have learned from my athletic experience is that being gritty can push you through the toughest times, and strength comes from the numerous hurdles you overcome. Playing for Harvard softball has taught me to become the toughest and most resilient version of myself, and I am proud of the adversity I have repeatedly overcome. I am eternally grateful for the experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly) HSB has given me, and I will forever love this team with all my heart and soul.