Senior Essay: Gina Wideroff

I stepped off the plane, arriving from Fort Lauderdale, and I was pleasantly surprised to not immediately break out into my typical South Florida sweat. Furthermore, I was shocked at the lack of geriatric population and abundance of young intellect. The moment I was shaking the hands of my teammates, I had butterflies in my stomach knowing the fact that these were my predetermined best friends but at the same time had a small sense of fear that I would not relate to them. I made my way over to a few of the older girls who welcomed me with open arms and enough sarcasm to make Jerry Seinfeld look like an amateur. At that moment, all of my fears disintegrated, and I was excited to make this my new home.

Two Ivy League titles, numerous unforgettable victories, and countless memories later, I am proud to say that my senior classmates and I had an experience worth telling my future grandchildren. With two consecutive berths to the NCAA tournament; trips to Italy, California, and Florida; and training sessions, team meals, and social gatherings, I could not have asked for a more desirable four years. Playing for Harvard women’s soccer meant being a part of something larger than myself. It was an incredibly humbling opportunity to play on the historic grounds of Ohiri Field on behalf of hundreds of women who have played before me. I will never forget putting on that Harvard jersey every Saturday morning, lacing up the cleats, and screaming “I Will Survive” as my teammates and I walked in two lines along side the football stadium with one thing on our minds: Harvard pride. Each year, we became more successful on the field, which can be attributed to the progression of our team mottos, consisting of “flip it,” “26 strong,” and finally “all in” my senior season. Harvard women soccer will forever be ingrained in me.  

I have created everlasting connections with so many extraordinary young women. Since freshman year, I looked up to the older girls, using them as role models in all aspects of college life. As I grew older and acquired a leadership role, I enjoyed assuming that mentor position for the younger players. Working with my teammates on a daily basis taught me how to be a better teammate, friend, and leader. After working with the coaches in and out of season, I learned how to be coachable and accept constructive criticism without taking it personally. I inadvertently developed these skills during my younger soccer days, but it was not until my Harvard experience when I could recognize and implement these qualities in my athletic career and daily life. Each day presented itself with a new challenge, whether it was overcoming injuries and surgical operations, helping a specific teammate through a personal issue, or rallying the entire team for the Ivy League championship game.

Physically, I am beat and have accepted the reality that I am a retired collegiate athlete. However, I understand my fortune to have acquired certain personal qualities from my Harvard experience that will last a lifetime. When looking back, I am grateful for the time I spent with my teammates and coaches and the many goals we accomplished together. I am so proud to forever consider myself a member of the Harvard women’s soccer family.