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.
Luke Mendola, Men's Lacrosse
Hometown: Ithaca, N.Y.
House Affiliation: Kirkland
Being a senior gives you a tremendous amount of responsibility, both on campus and in athletics. As an elder, whether you like it or not, your actions set the tone for your community. Personally, I have found that people not only enjoy life more, but also play better when they are living/playing loose. A challenge I faced particularly as a senior was finding a balance between being a disciplined leader while also working to foster a culture filled with youthful enthusiasm. Too much in either direction and players will be too lackadaisical or grip their sticks too tight and play on edge, rather then with an edge. What I have observed and learned from others is that being able to effectively master both sides of that coin gives you an incredible boost during games. The big question, though, is how? I believe that the intersection of these two seemingly contrasting ideals is passion. This realization has perhaps been one of the most important things I’ve learned in my four years here. Just about every D1 athlete is passionate about what they do. Letting your passion for the game and for life run free and taking time to cultivate your passion is just as important as getting in extra reps in Palmer Dixon or eating right in the Dhall. The most successful teams I have been on have always had a palpable amount of passion, we would have a burning desire to win but also have an extraordinary amount of fun because we truly loved what we were doing.
Playing on the lacrosse team over the last four years has also taught me how making the right decisions in the classroom and my life outside the lacrosse team positively impacts my play on the field. It’s easy to make excuses as an athlete for not being part of more communities outside your team or for not doing as much schoolwork as our peers. And trust me I have certainly been a culprit of making said excuses. Albeit, every time I find myself giving an honest effort to all aspects of my life, I find that I feel better, healthier, more fulfilled, and have more clarity on the field. Working hard so you’re able to feel confident about your life outside of the team allows you to fully dedicate yourself to your craft when you make the walk over the river and into the locker room.
Being a senior has given me the opportunity to pass down what I have learned to be most important about the game and life in general: playing with a burning desire to win, with youthful enthusiasm, and most importantly, with raw passion. Being a senior has also pushed me to give my all to every aspect of my life in hopes of setting an example for those younger then myself- just as countless student-athletes have done before me.