The 2018 Senior Perspectives is the 13th 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.
Marie Becker, Women's Soccer
Hometown: Kiel, Germany
House Affiliation: Leverett
In the past four years, I have changed as a player, and as a person.
Being recruited to play for Harvard I had no idea what either of those two terms really meant. For a high-school student from Germany who had never really thought about going to college or playing soccer in the U.S., Harvard sounded about as reasonable of a place for planning your future as Hogwarts. But here I was, in communication with the women’s soccer coaches who wanted me to play for them, a process that I only learned later was called recruiting.
Missing the first part of preseason because I had been travelling with the German U20 team only added to the all-encompassing confusion that would come to characterize my freshman year experience. I had no idea what was going on. Not only was I trying to catch up with freshman orientation, physicals and compliance meetings, but I also learned the hard way that I did not know any English soccer lingo (nor was I familiar with any colloquial language for that matter), and that the rules in college soccer divert significantly from those in Europe. The first time we were tied after the regular playing time of 90 minutes, I had already started taking my cleats off, when somebody informed me of the fact that we were going into overtime.
Long story short, I was benched most of my freshman year, a position that I was not used to, and I was neither physically, nor mentally tough enough to earn a starting position at the time. I was self-centered and feeling sorry for myself, and looking back, I wish I could give my younger self a big kick in the butt and tell her to get it together.
Luckily, I did so eventually.
By the end of junior season, I had been a starter for two years, won two championships with the team, and just been elected captain. I felt more dedicated to this new challenge than I ever had to any task in my life, and I had never cared so much more about a team than about myself. For a full year, the vast majority of my time, energy, and brain space was dedicated to being captain and a center back for my team, and when fall came around, I was as ready to play as I had ever been. I still remember the euphoria I felt after winning our home-opener, and the abundant energy in me that I was sure would carry me through this season and allow me to lead the team to another championship. I felt invincible and blessed.
The dream came to a premature end when I tore my PCL one week before our first conference game. What followed was a rollercoaster of emotions. I refused to accept that the season was over for me. I wanted to play, I wanted to help, I wanted to lead.
The comeback attempt lasted a full 40 seconds before the ligament gave in again. My senior season, I was forced to stand on the sideline, to coach and watch, as we struggled to find a rhythm. The lessons that having to lead without being able to help on the field teaches are some of the hardest I ever had to learn. Staying positive and proud, at least on the outside, asked more resilience of me than anything else before.
In the past four years, I have changed as a player, and as a person. A lot.
My self-awareness has skyrocketed, as have my sense of responsibility, my self-confidence and my resilience. More importantly, I found something to fight for bigger than myself. A team and a program that I am honored to be part of. But most crucially, I have found family away from home. What sounded like a sappy phrase first has become more and more of a true statement for me.
On this team, I have found friendships made to last a lifetime; people that made me feel at home in a place far away from my family. I have also found friends on other teams that have caught me when the injury, a loss in the league, and the responsibility I felt for all of it threatened to overwhelm me.
It is not the time I spent on the bench, not the injuries or the motion sickness on the way to Cornell, but the lessons I learned, and those amazing people I met that I will remember as I move on.