June 16, 2010
Senior Perspectives: Women's Swimming's Kay Foley
Senior captains and representatives of varsity teams at
Harvard contributed viewpoints based on personal experience from
both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard. Each
year the Senior Perspectives are compiled into a book and handed
out at the Senior Letterwinner’s Dinner.
Senior Perspectives thus forms a valuable portion of each
team’s legacy to sport at Harvard and to the permanent record
built here by our varsity athletes. Throughout the summer, these
senior essays will be posted to GoCrimson.com for all to see.
“What are you doing over Christmas
break?” That’s a questions I’ve been asked
numerous times, like many other people while growing up. My
answer was always the same. “Training. Swimming,” I
would say anxiously, and a little jealous of my classmates who
would enjoy a week of sleeping in and movie-watching. Quickly
that emotion would leave me as I would tell myself that all my hard
work would pay off. And pay off it did indeed.
My answer to this question would change once I made it to
Harvard. I would say, “I’m spending it with my
team.” While my break would still be spent swimming and
training, I would be given the added bonus of saying I was going to
Puerto Rico, Key West, St. Croix, or Barbados. The difference
between my breaks at Harvard and my breaks at home was more than
just the destination, however. My change in answer says it
all. I was part of a team, part of something bigger than me.
I was no longer training in the hopes that my hard work would
benefit myself, I was training so that an incredible group of young
women would have faith in their ability to lean on me.
Growing up, swimming was never a team sport to me. I
competed for myself, against a clock without any regard for team
scores. When I was being recruited, the Harvard coach called
me and I told her exactly this. Thankfully, she saw an
ability to change me, or perhaps she knew the magic her team, in
particular, carried. Before I arrived at Harvard as a
freshman I felt my experience over the next four years would be one
completely different from my previous ones as a swimmer.
Unlike many other nervous freshmen arriving at Harvard eager
to make friends, I had thirty of them before I even arrived.
I had a group of girls who would prove to be there when I needed
and who would support me in countless endeavors. They would
be the first to congratulate me, wish me luck, and comfort
me. We would say every year that the current team was a
special one, one capable of doing great things, and I believed this
from the moment I stepped onto the team.
The environment at Harvard can be a competitive and stressful
one. Throughout my four years I felt that walking over the
bridge was like crossing into another world. It was a place
to leave all that behind and spend some time in the water where I
belonged. Even when the idea of a tough practice seemed
daunting, knowing I would be working for and alongside my team made
it seem welcoming. Whenever I was having a rough day, I knew
there had to be someone else within this large group of girls who
needed me to help get them through whatever obstacle we were being
thrown. Knowing that I could be someone else’s
encouragement was enough to make me realize that their problems
were mine and mine were theirs. We were united in a way that
meant our lives would become entangled and overlap beyond the
Having the opportunity to lead this magnificent group as
co-captain this past year was the biggest honor that I could have
been presented with at Harvard. This team of young women who
I had relied on was choosing me to lean on in the biggest of
ways. I just hoped that I could give back in this time even
half of what I felt the team had given to me over the first three
years. I anticipated welcoming the freshmen, supporting the
sophomores, and encouraging the juniors to see how they were the
inspiration for much of the team. I can only hope that I left the
team with fond memories and maybe a few lessons.
My years over the bridge at Blodgett Pool will be some of my
most unforgettable. These moments helped me realize that my
time at Harvard was not about what I accomplished as much as who I
encountered. I do not know if I will ever have the honor of
standing alongside thirty strong women behind a single cause again
in my life. I do know that even if a similar situation
arises, I will forever remember my team at Harvard as teaching me
the emotional significance of working for more than myself.
They taught me that I can be a part of something bigger, something