Written Senior Perspective: Erin McDonnell

Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot

The 2015 Senior Perspectives is the 10th 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.

For a complete listing of 2015 Senior Perspectives, click here.

Erin McDonnell, Women's Basketball, Team Co-Captain
Hometown: Morristown, N.J.
Concentration: Psychology
House Affiliation: Cabot

I am honored to have spent the previous four years at Harvard. Having the opportunity to attend a school where everyone is the best at what they do is extremely inspiring. I take pride in the women’s basketball program and will always remember how it felt to compete with the Harvard name on the front of my jersey. Not having our last names on the back of our jerseys symbolizes the selflessness and solidarity of Harvard women’s basketball. Although we are all from different corners of the world, with different backgrounds and interests, we are unified by the love for the sport and have the opportunity to play for the name on the front of our jersey, not the back. That is what Harvard Athletics means to me. 

The saying, “teams that play together win together,” is missing the phrase “and lose together.” The basketball season is extremely long and our schedule consists of over thirty games a season. It is inevitable that every year will be filled with times of triumph and defeat. Those triumphs following defeat, like completing the extra sprint you were not able to do the week before or beating a team that you lost to earlier in the season, are filled with much more gratification than if you were able to succeed all of the time. Riding this emotional rollercoaster with my teammates enlightened me as to why rollercoasters offer such a thrill. At the end of my senior season, when the ride came to a complete stop, I realized that all of the ups and downs were worth the risk I took when I agreed to go on the ride. The rollercoaster ride comes to an end and you cannot help but to think, “wow, I really did that?” As a senior, I cannot help but look back and smile in amazement at the massive rollercoaster that I rode with my teammates, one filled with slow ups, fast drops, and crazy turns.

Before coming to Harvard I did not have any sisters. Now, I have 25. I have learned that sisters support you throughout all of the ups and downs, see you at your best and your worst, and support you through your entire journey. I wanted to become a better person, basketball player, and teammate for these incredible women. It was not just my love for basketball that got me through my four years at Harvard, but it was mainly my love for the team. The memories that we created on and off the court will remain with me for the rest of my life (hopefully, Saturday morning conditioning memories will fade). During our HWBB reunions, we will not talk about our tallies of wins and losses. Instead, we will reminisce on experiences that cannot be measured in statistics: song wars on the bus, team late meals, Kathy’s verbal slip-ups, and impossible workouts with Frazier. We will sit around, sharing hilarious stories and laughing until our stomachs hurt.

Four years ago, after receiving my acceptance letter to Harvard, the joke “oh, Harvard has sports?” seemed to follow me everywhere. Several classmates, family friends, and even strangers assumed that Harvard did not boast competitive athletic programs, let alone sports at all. Someone went so far to ask, “They have a women’s basketball team there?” Four years later, at the end of my rollercoaster, I am proud to respond that yes, indeed, they do – and it’s a damn good one.