While going through the recruiting process, it’s pretty easy to get wooed away by the hometown powerhouse, which was Ohio State for me. On the other hand, I was always advised, “If you experienced a career ending injury on day one, would you be happy with your choice?” With that in mind, it was pretty hard to turn down Harvard.
My experience as a student-athlete at Harvard was about as far away from what I expected as possible. In fact, at the start of my career it was hard to even think of myself as a student-athlete. A broken foot and three knee surgeries sidelined me for my freshman, sophomore, and junior years. I was blessed with incredibly supportive and encouraging teammates, but it was still hard not to feel like an outsider on the team. Without the thrill of playing in games, or even practices, my college experience felt empty and I felt like a disappointment.
When I entered the Harvard track and field program as a freshman, I thought it was just about scoring points, contributing to the team, and bettering personal records. But over the past four years my experience as a student-athlete has become so much more than that. Every day I get the opportunity to walk across the river and practice a sport that has taught me so much about who I am and more importantly, what I am capable of. I’ve learned valuable lessons, met some of the most amazingly talented and hardworking people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, and made lasting memories along the way.
“It doesn’t always get harder.”
Our assistant wrestling coach Sean Harrington told us that early on in the season this year. He was quoting an ultramarathon runner who was trying to explain that running 50 miles isn’t twice as hard as running 25. At some point, it stops getting harder. It sounded crazy in his Boston accent, but it would become a theme for the season as we went on to compile an 8-4 dual meet record.
“Why don’t you just quit?” It’s a question my blockmates have asked me numerous times over the past few years, a question I have never taken the time to answer. Why didn’t I quit volleyball? I rode the bench for nearly all of my first three seasons. Even when I finally broke into the starting lineup this year I became a role player. Understandably, from an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like the time and energy I was putting into volleyball didn’t pay off. So, why wouldn’t I have just quit?
Overall, my four years on the Harvard football team have been truly remarkable and I look back fondly on nearly every moment that I spent on that side of the Charles. Some of the most crowning achievements include winning three Ivy League championships, ending with a 36-4 overall record, and going unbeaten against Yale. These are successes that all of my fellow seniors can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Wrestling is an incredibly personal and emotional sport. A win can make you feel like you’ve conquered the world, but your next loss can easily leave you in tears. At the NCAA tournament it is not a rare sight to see grown men broken down after falling short of their goals. When it’s all said and done, only a few lucky wrestlers get to end their careers on a high note. But I would argue that almost every wrestler would refuse to trade in his career for anyone else’s.
I was 15 years old when I dreamed of being on the Harvard alpine ski team. I skied for a small private school in Connecticut and during a tri-state ski race, I saw a girl wearing a Harvard GS suit. My first thought was, “Harvard has a ski team?” My second thought was, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if one day I could wear that GS suit?” It became a recurring dream until December 15, 2011, the day I was accepted to Harvard.
cannot imagine what the last four years would have been like if I had I not been a member of the Harvard sailing team. I still remember my very first practice with extreme clarity. Assigned to sail with a junior who was a starter, I was both intimidated and excited to begin my career as a collegiate athlete. I could not wait to get on the water.
Playing your senior season in a Crimson uniform is a bittersweet experience. There is a unique balance between intense focus on the present – each practice, game, inning, and pitch carries more weight than ever – and nostalgia for the past. As a spring sport athlete, the closure of an athletic career parallels the end of an educational journey, making it that much harder to transition away from the home that Harvard has provided.
My afternoons during the fall of sophomore year were occupied by Statistics 110, a rigorous course in probability. On one particular afternoon, Professor Joe Blitzstein, eccentric but engaging, was set to lecture on “story proofs,” a method to intuitively understand complex mathematical ideas. After four hours of practice in the morning, I was strapping in for a long afternoon in the classroom when Professor Blitzstein slipped in this quote from Isabel Allende, a renowned Chilean author: “What is truer than truth? The story.” I can’t explain why this phrase stuck with me for the last two and half years, but it resonates as I look back at my four years as a member of the Harvard golf team.
Having focused successfully on individual prowess prior to college, most Harvard varsity student-athletes arrive at their first captain’s practices with the aim of balancing self-improvement and team accomplishment. As I began participating in Harvard fencing team captain’s practices, however, I gradually realized the importance of building a close-knit, goal-oriented team far outweighed the importance of strengthening the abilities of each of us, even walk-ons such as myself.
My older brother is my hero. He believed in me from the moment I was born. He allowed me to believe that I could do whatever I set my mind to. The dream to play basketball at Harvard started because of him. This dream became a reality because of Kathy Delaney-Smith. Even four years later, the shock doesn’t wear off. I’m at Harvard and Harvard is forever.
The first time I put on a pair of gloves was one lunchtime during my sophomore year of high school. I had been beefing over AOL Instant Messenger with another student (I suspect it had something to do with a girl), so we decided to settle our differences with an underground boxing match. My opponent lifted weights, so I inevitably felt he had the advantage.
My experience as a student-athlete at Harvard has really helped to establish a set of principles by which I will continue to live for the rest of my life. While this four year process sometimes feels like a battle of attrition, the commitment made to your team supersedes these difficulties. Decisions that promote on the court excellence and off the court success become obligatory.
Looking back over the last four years, I can easily say that being a part of the women’s varsity volleyball team has been the most rewarding experience of my time at Harvard. From the moment I stepped on campus my freshman fall, I was instantly welcomed into a new family of teammates, mentors, and most importantly, friends who I know will be with me for the rest of my life.
As an outgoing senior, there are many powerful stories that I could share. Harvard hockey has provided me with countless memories and lessons that I will certainly reflect upon in the years to come. But those stories wouldn’t exist and my experience wouldn’t have been the same without my teammates. For me, the group of guys that I have grown with over the past four years is what I will remember most.
“Stay inside yourself.” This is possibly the most confusing advice I have received from a coach. My assistant coach, Naree Song, gave me this recommendation as a general comment about my golf game. She said this and walked away. I inquired what she meant, and she just repeated, “Just stay inside yourself.”
As I look back on my time as a member of the Harvard football team, some words that come to mind are thankfulness, pride, and gratification. First, I am thankful for so many people that are part of the program – the coaching staff, equipment staff, the alumni donors, my teammates, and my parents – who make Harvard football the consistent, successful, life-altering program that it is.
Upon completing high school and arriving on Harvard’s campus in 2012 as a freshman, I was convinced that I was done with organized athletics. I had been a twelve-letter tri-varsity athlete in high school, captaining my cross-country, squash, and track teams as a senior; therefore, I was sure that I had no interest in trying out for any team. I had not been recruited and I wanted to spend my four years concentrating on my academics with the goal of being accepted to medical school.
The swimming experience is transient. Yes, swimming is a lifetime sport and I could go to Blodgett tomorrow and swim if I wanted to. I still have the skills to propel my body through the water and keep the appropriate technique. But swimming in college, for Harvard, is an experience that doesn’t last forever. Coming to terms with that is harder than I ever thought. As I’ve taken a step back from everything, I’ve realized that while the experience doesn’t last forever, the lessons from it do.
As a member of Harvard women’s swimming and diving, I have cherished every moment of this incredible experience. Coming from a Midwestern suburb and a highly individualistic swimming program, I only knew how to swim for myself. However, at Harvard, I learned the team came before the individual.
Over the past four years, I have been fortunate and blessed with the opportunities to attend Harvard University, lead as captain and compete as a member of the varsity wrestling team, and learn many valuable life lessons along the way. Both Harvard University and the wrestling program have made a tremendous impact on my life and I will always be grateful.
This past weekend, the women’s soccer team finally had our end of the year banquet. As we looked back on the 2015 season, and even further to the three seasons before, I couldn’t help but feel so many emotions as it became official: my career with Harvard women’s soccer has finally come to a close.
“You can do this. You will do this. Let’s go boys. Crush Yale,” Coach Murphy closes out our final pregame meeting the day before the Yale game. I’ve heard these exact words multiple times, yet every single time I heard those words, I gained a sense of confidence. I started to believe in my teammates, my coaches, the process, and lastly, myself. I began to reflect on my four years as a Harvard football player and the changes that I have undergone. My time as a Harvard football player has taught me many things, but the greatest lesson I will take with me for the rest of my life is how to approach adversity.
Half of my life up to this point has been dominated by wrestling. My commitment has elevated me to the top of podiums and driven me down into the mat, making effort on my part synonymous with sacrifice. Thinking it would make me great, competitive wrestling was the sport I idolized as a child (everything else was just playing).
I was prepared to give up my hopes of playing softball at the collegiate level in order to apply to colleges of higher educational standards when my recruiting process did not go as planned. I applied to thirteen universities my senior year of high school, with my Ivy League dreams at the top, down to my safety schools. The moment I found out I got into Harvard was one of the happiest I can remember.
I’m not a talented runner. It’s not “in my genes,” I was solidly mediocre in high school, and in my first-ever 5k I was beaten by my younger sister (she still never lets me forget it). However, talent is just one small aspect of running. Talent is of little importance if you do not enjoy the hours spent at the track each day with your teammates: long-run Sundays, speed development, repeats on the cross country course or the track, and double days.
Coming into my freshman year at Harvard, I wasn’t sure how long I would end up being a collegiate athlete. Harvard never recruited me, but I reached out to the football coaches about playing for Harvard after I was accepted by the university. After a lot of back-and-forth communication with the coaches, defensive backs coach Ryan Crawford told me in June 2012 that I had a spot on the team. I was ecstatic, but I was also afraid that, as a walk-on, I wouldn’t be able to keep my spot.