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.
Karly Zlatic, Women's Soccer
Hometown: La Jolla, Calif.
Concentration: Applied Mathematics
House Affiliation: Quincy
While I committed to Harvard in October of my junior year of high school, it didn’t hit me that I was going to Harvard, or even playing soccer in college, until my grandparents’ car rolled off the pike onto JFK. As we turned onto Mt. Auburn Street, tears started to quietly roll down my face. My mom looked over at me, I could not explain what I felt or why; all I knew was that it had to stop because I was about to meet my soon-to-be life long friends for preseason in Winthrop courtyard.
I think that explains the story of my college athletic life at Harvard. It was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster—there were plenty more tears in the years to come, but also smiles and laughter that I’ll never forget. Harvard soccer has filled my college life with the highest of highs, but also the lowest of lows. Playing on any team at Harvard I can only imagine to be similar: the most competitive and driven people are all put in one environment, all of us having been starters and stars of our high school teams. As you cannot play every player on the field at once, this means many players spend a lot of time getting to know the bench.
Though I was lucky enough to find a starting position as a freshman, my game fell in the following years, only working hard enough to re-establish that role for the end of my senior season. Since I saw so much success as a freshman, I was beyond embarrassed the following seasons when my family came to see me play—yet I was cheering my team on from the sidelines.
My older brother sent me an email after his visit my junior season, and it’s something I’ll never forget. Zac was recruited to play baseball in college—one of the best ball players I’ve ever seen—but he let the head game get to him, and was cut at the beginning of his sophomore year. He wrote, “I know exactly how you feel. This is what I wish someone would have told me four years ago.” He told me about how he let his coaches make him feel nervous about the game he knew he was good at, had been playing since he was eight years old. I had been kicking around a soccer ball since I was five, it’s everything I’ve ever known, I felt the same. Zac helped me realize that I was letting the coaches and my team get to me, that at the end of the day it was my decision to “1. Let them affect my confidence, nervousness and attitude, and 2. Decide what kind of experience I would have playing a college sport.” Zac went on, “The best days I had in college baseball (which were few) was where I sincerely enjoyed the silliest things like joking with teammates, holding a baseball, or even being outside.”
He changed my outlook on my sport. On my experience. On everything. The respect and admiration I have for Zac is incomparable. I saw darkness that fall semester and he opened the blinds for a minute, reminding me who I was and that I could be anything I set my mind to. My identity was soccer, and I was not ready to lose that. His last suggestion to me was to “enjoy the process.”
Looking back, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Harvard soccer made me strong where I did not know I was weak. I won’t say that getting out on the field six days a week, putting a smile on your face as you cross the river is easy. Some days, it is far from that. Stepping back and looking at what the game, the team, the school have given you, that is where you owe the hard work a smile.
With that, I want to thank Harvard women’s soccer for what it’s taught me, providing me with a new perspective on what it means to be a tough student-athlete. I want to thank my friends and teammates for joking around with me, helping me smile on the hardest of days. And most of all, I want to thank my family for providing me with all the love and support a young girl could need to play the game she loves.