Written Senior Perspective - Katie Duncan, Softball

Photo by Gil Talbot
Photo by Gil Talbot

The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th 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.

Katie Duncan
Quincy House
Harvard Softball
Concentration: Psychology

I still remember the first time I ever played softball. I was maybe five years old when my dad, my idol and a former baseball player himself, handed my brother and me new gloves and took us into the backyard to learn how to play catch. At the outset, I was excited not only to play with my dad and brother, but also to finally learn how to play what I already knew was my dad’s favorite game. However, my mood changed quickly when my dad tried to teach me how to wear my glove. My dad wanted me to stick my pointer finger through the hole in the back of the glove in order to rest my finger on its outside. This annoyed me. I did not understand the point of sticking my finger outside my glove when there was an entire slot like all the other finger slots for my pointer finger to stay protected inside of the glove. I also had no idea why anyone would want to wear this huge piece of leather with one of their fingers uncomfortably situated outside of it, awkwardly separated from all their other fingers. As my teammates will not be surprised to learn, my skepticism and disapproval were immediately made known to my poor father. And, honestly, I’m not sure if we actually got to the ‘catching part’ after that. But today, roughly sixteen years and countless games of actual catch later, when I put my glove on, my pointer finger glides effortlessly through the hole and out to rest comfortably on the back of my glove.

The struggle I experienced performing one of the most fundamental and simple tasks in the game of softball exemplifies my experiences throughout my career. Fans of the sport love to say softball is a game of failure. And, while that’s true, people often fail to recognize what comes along with that is not an indifference or even acceptance of failure, but instead, a lot of painful struggle accompanying even the greatest successes. 

Nothing I do on the field, from putting on my glove to throwing a curveball has come ‘naturally.’ In fact, most of the things I do are still as much of a struggle as putting on my glove was on day one. During my four years here at Harvard, I have spent almost every moment on the field working on the fundamentals of my pitching mechanics. In the bullpen, I break things down with my coaches in order to pinpoint what basic movement is off in my pitching motion. It is only after we engage in this constant routine that I build my motion back up again in the hopes of throwing a decent pitch.

Playing softball is beautiful, not in spite of this struggle, but because of it. It has afforded me the opportunity to learn and grow continuously on the most personal level. It has taught me how to focus, enjoy the process rather than merely the end result, and have confidence in myself despite not having mastered anything.

While I am grateful to the sport for challenging me and enabling me to become a better version of myself through the work and attitude it demands from its players, I am most grateful for the people softball has led me to and the time it has given us to work together. When I think back on my time playing the game, I think about all the hours I got to spend initially with my dad in the backyard. I think about all the girls from my first ever rec team, The Sesame Street Krew, to the eighteen other women on HSB that I am privileged to call my family now.

My time on Harvard Softball has taught me perhaps not how to struggle less, but how to enjoy the struggle more. I’ve learned how to struggle gracefully and with purpose. And, it has taught me that ultimately what’s most important is not how well I succeed in competition, or even the actual struggle I have dedicated myself to these past sixteen years. Instead, it is the people I have been blessed to struggle alongside.

Thus, in conclusion, I want to thank everyone who has supported me during my time playing softball: first, I want to thank my parents who have been there every step of the way; second, my siblings, who always reminded me how to have fun; third, my early teammates who taught me how to love playing the game; fourth, the large network of people who supported me from the stands- from all the ‘team moms’ who knew when to give me a hug after a tough game, to my grandpa who texts me after each Ivy game he watches form his house in Florida; fifth, my coaches who believed in me more than I believed in myself. And, sixth, the women who make up HSB, taught me invaluable lessons and created relationships with me that I know will continue well beyond the time I slide my glove off for the last time this season.