Written Senior Perspective - Niki Young, Women's Soccer

Written Senior Perspective - Niki Young, Women's Soccer

The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th 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.

Niki Young
Kirkland House
Harvard Women’s Soccer

Last fall my grandma came to watch one of my soccer games. I remember how excited she was to wear her crimson Harvard women’s soccer t-shirt. The next day she called me to catch up. Without any hesitation she asked me, “Why are you still doing the soccer thing? Aren’t there other things you’d rather take advantage of at Harvard?” This question was prompted by the fact that I hadn’t played one minute in the game she watched—not unlike the rest of my college career.

Four years ago, I walked-on to the Harvard Women’s Soccer team. It was a dream come true. Literally, I had dreamed (probably even prayed) about becoming a Harvard soccer player for longer than I can remember. I worshipped the players—they were cooler than celebrities. Because my parents raised me to believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to if I worked hard enough, I persisted even after the 2019 HWS class was set without my name on the roster. Needless to say, when I did earn a spot on HWS, I was ecstatic.

But my work wasn’t done—I now had a new goal: to play. So, I kept on doing everything and anything that might bring me to the level of my elite, recruited teammates. I truly believed that if I put in enough effort, I would succeed. I ran extra, I lifted more, I went out before practice to get touches on the ball. All to earn playing time.

And I failed. For the first time in my life. Week after week as I stood on the sideline and watched my teammates play, I was reminded of that failure. Throughout my initial years on HWS, I felt lower than ever before. But, for some reason, when my grandma asked me why I was still playing soccer, my immediate response was: “Are you kidding?! I’d never quit this team.”

It wasn’t until this year that I realized why. I hadn’t failed. Sure, I never earned a starting spot on the field. But playing soccer at Harvard taught me that success comes in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be the number of minutes on the field, goals scored, or points accumulated in a career. It isn’t even what other people define as success. It is what you get out of giving everything to something. I gave so much to HWS, and I gained even more. From learning how to put others before myself, to lifelong friendships and everything in between, my experience with HWS has shown me how to find positive in the most negative. That lesson is one I will carry with me far beyond Harvard athletics.