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.
Catherine Callaway, Softball
Hometown: Los Gatos, Calif.
Concentration: Psychology: Cognitive Neuroscience & Evolution
House Affiliation: Eliot
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play softball in college. I loved the game and wanted to leave that door open, but first and foremost I wanted to get the best education possible. Of course, that was before I learned I could have the best of both worlds by playing softball at Harvard.
The recruiting process was long and taxing, and softball started to feel like a grueling job. I spent countless hours emailing college coaches and playing in boring showcase tournaments where the focus shifted completely from the team to each individual’s performance in front of scouts. My parents encouraged me to give my full effort through the summer after my junior year before switching my focus to the regular college application process, so as not to look back and have any regrets. I still remember getting that phone call from Coach Allard at the end of that summer, standing in my backyard in utter disbelief that I would have the chance to play Division I softball at one of the best academic colleges in the world. It was a dream come true, and to this day I still have to pinch myself occasionally to make sure that I am really here.
College softball brought back my love for the game, as it emphasizes the team working together with grit, camaraderie, and resilience to achieve a common goal. Accepting a spot on a varsity softball team, however, means that you have to be willing to commit a huge part of your college experience to a sport that requires failure a majority of the time, even on a good day—a rare experience at Harvard, where most students are used to being the best of the best. This is not to mention the inordinate amount of time spent in early Monday morning running, demanding workouts in Palmer Dixon (or the stadium on “fun” Fridays), intersquads in the swaying, dim light of the Bubble, marathon four-game series against the same team in a single weekend, and the extra work and team meetings stealing time that might otherwise have been spent doing schoolwork, exploring Boston, or maybe even (gasp!) sitting down and relaxing.
But I would argue (I have been trained to always be arguing something in my writing, so this will be no exception) that the most grueling experiences I had with HSB are the ones I will look back on most fondly. It is the hours in an airport when we realized our flight was delayed and we were going to have to take a total of 15 midterms the next day on only a few hours of sleep that the delirious studying and team bonding reached its peak. It is after, defying all laws of physics, I somehow managed to boot a ball in the outfield so badly that the opposing team got an inside the park home run that I felt the most support, love, and, after an appropriate amount of time, laughter from my teammates. It is after a devastating loss that HSB would pick itself back up and achieve its greatest victories. The success we had in my four years here was made that much sweeter knowing how much blood, sweat, and tears it took to get there.
Perhaps the best part of Harvard softball is realizing that, although I will graduate in a few short weeks, my connection with HSB is far from over. Hardly a game goes by without several alumnae in the stands to cheer us on, no matter where we are playing around the country. One of the coolest experiences in my senior year was taking a surfing lesson with my teammates in Hawaii taught by an alumna from one of the first teams Coach Allard ever had. As I hid my multiple surfing injuries in the game later that day, I reflected on how that experience exemplified that HSB is a team, a community, and a family—with a lifelong membership. I will look back with nothing but fond memories of my softball career with my amazing friends and teammates and I look forward to joining the HSB alumnae on the other side of the fence. GO HARVARD!