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.
Harvard Women's Squash
I first picked up a squash racquet when I was eight years old. Looking back on my 13-year long junior and collegiate career, squash has been a significant influence in my life. It has helped shape me into the person I am today.
When competing in squash, you are competing completely on your own. Quite literally, you are competing in a glass box with the eyes of the audience on you.
Dating back to 2015, Harvard women’s squash has won five consecutive Ivy and National titles and is currently riding a 65 game winning streak. This year, we swept all thirteen of our matches 9-0.
When walking onto the court for our matches this year, I knew my team was aware that as the number one seed we had the target on our backs. However, we also all carried the silent burden of continuing the streak. For me personally, I was co-captain this year and my older sister was co-captain the year before. As the leader of a team with such a legacy, I felt an additional responsibility to ensure that this streak and level of excellence would continue on to the next generation. Wearing the H is a privilege, but the H also comes with added pressure.
In the Harvard squash program, our coaches emphasize the importance of practicing the mental side of the game, just like we practice our shots. As a team, we visualize ourselves playing important matches and how we are going to play the big points when the score is close. We picture ourselves playing in front of loud opposing crowds and how we are going to respond if the referee makes a decision that doesn’t go our way. We write down, or “script” how we want to think, feel and act when we are on court.
We also immerse ourselves in stress once a week. Every Monday, we play a challenge match against a teammate. One week you challenge someone above you, and the next week you challenge someone below you. As the College Squash Association wrote in its 2018-19 preview of Harvard women’s squash, “the battle for playing time within their own locker room will be fierce.” Fighting it out against your teammates and best friends seems odd. It seems antithetical to the concept of “team.” However, these matches let us practice dealing with pressure and how to maturely handle setbacks. No matter what happens on Monday afternoon, your opponent is your teammate come dinnertime. We review, we adjust and we repeat.
Squash has added so much more to what I learned in a classroom. When I have important exams or presentations, I mentally prepare for them the same way I prepare for squash matches. A test really isn’t that different from a challenge match. You do the best you can, you leave it on the court, and then you move on. Sport has taught me to embrace the pressure and to embrace the challenge. Pressure, I have come to learn, is a privilege.
I could never have imagined when stepping onto a court so many years ago just how much of an impact squash would have on my life. Harvard Squash has been an integral part of my four years at this school and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to play for the H.
HWSQ 19, thank you for the most incredible final season.