The 2018 Senior Perspectives is the 13th 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.
Paige Kebe, Women's Volleyball
Hometown: Loveland, Ohio.
House Affiliation: Adams
Four years ago, it was difficult to imagine the journey I was about to begin. I had no idea what it would be like to balance college athletics and academics, how I would navigate living on my own in a new area of the country, or how quickly my team would become my second family. And now that these four years are coming to a close, I’ve found that the privilege of being a Harvard student athlete is still quite difficult to put into words.
After experiencing the highs and lows of unpredictable Ivy seasons, enduring hours of practice in the air condition-less MAC, and learning lessons from teammates that I’d never learn in a classroom, my memories of Harvard volleyball can be characterized as everything from wildly hysterical to downright exhausting. And because each interaction with a teammate, coach, trainer, or athletic department staff member is special and offers value in unexpected ways, it’s difficult to recall specific instances that capture the essence of what it means to be Harvard student athlete and the unique opportunities we have. One memory, however, stands out as a highlight of my college athletic experience.
In 2015, we accomplished our largest and most elusive goal by by winning the Ivy League and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. We faced the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in their home gym in Lincoln, and I have never seen a more impressive college athletic facility in my life. As if making it to the tournament wasn’t enough, we won the first set in front of thousands of fans who appeared to be just as shocked as we were. After ultimately winning the match, Nebraska went on to win the national championship, dropping just one other set throughout the entire tournament. Though we returned to campus in the midst of a busy finals period and our focus was forced to shift drastically, the pride I felt for my team and gratitude for the whole experience was overwhelming and continued to linger for the rest of my college experience.
Despite having this incredible memory, along with many others like playing inside The Pentagon and in Italy, the true value of my Harvard athletic experience comes from everyday interactions with my teammates. Our past four teams have had a unique chemistry that I’ve never experienced on another team, and I think a large part of our success is a result of this indescribable bond. As a freshman, I truly underestimated the power of shared blood, sweat, tears, many laughs, and a common goal in uniting a group of women and fostering a powerful familial love. Memories like singing off-key on long bus trips and having prom-themed parties with the men’s volleyball team rival the memories of winning conferences and playing in front of thousands of people.
It is impossible to summarize the lessons I’ve learned, the impact my teammates have had on my life, and the many ways in which being a Harvard student athlete has pushed me to be a better person. What I do know is that I am beyond grateful for my experience as a Harvard student athlete. It is an experience like no other and one that I will not soon forget.