Career ending injuries are a very real and tough part of sports. Below, Phil Hausen gives an inside look into the difficult decision to step away from the team but also what he's gained as a member of the men's soccer program.
Can you talk about the tough decision to step away, what factors played a role?
It was a very difficult decision to make. This is a sport that I have dedicated my entire life towards and it's provided me with the incredible opportunity to go to school at Harvard. I have had two surgeries in high school and so I've been dealing with these specific injuries for many years. I've played through the pain for the last couple seasons, but it's gotten to a point of no return, where kicking a ball with any amount of force has become too much to bear. This was a decision that I thought about for many months and as much I want to be there to support my teammates and spend time with them, it doesn't make sense for me to invest all this time trying to play through the pain when I know it's just not possible anymore.
What has meant the most to you as a part of the men's soccer program?
Without a question, it's the relationships that I have built with my teammates. I know that I can rely on those guys to be there for me both on and off the field, regardless of what it is that I need. That's the amazing thing about the game of soccer, its ability to establish strong bonds between individuals who may have completely different socio-economic backgrounds or who may be completely different personality wise. You spend hours together every day sweating, suffering, and working towards the same end goal, and so it creates this sense of a unified purpose that brings the whole team together emotionally. You experience hardships, victories and defeats, but altogether they mold into a life-changing experience that I wouldn't give up for anything.
Can you talk about one or two of your greatest memories either on or off the field?
It would have to be scoring my first goal for Harvard my sophomore season. There's no feeling like scoring, being able to celebrate with your teammates, and feel directly responsible for contributing towards a positive result for the team.
What's the biggest lesson or life skill you learned as a part of the program?
To persevere. My freshman season was difficult and to be at Harvard your first year, where you're still trying to figure out how you fit into this new community and how to balance school and sports at a higher level was incredibly challenging for myself and the guys in my grade. That year was an emotional rollercoaster. We experienced the highs of being undefeated in the Ivy league with two games to go, only to have those last games cancelled and see our entire season erased. What I'm most proud of is how well the team responded during this time of adversity. As a team, we met almost daily to come up with various strategies on how to work within the Harvard community to fix what needed to be fixed. We met with counselors, students, deans and faculty to understand their perspective and to brainstorm ideas on how we could altogether work to generate a healthier and more respectful community and culture. We kept our heads up, maintained a positive mindset, and focused on the next most important thing and got it done.
Who from the program has made an impact on you, not only in the soccer world, but in your life in general?
I don't think I could choose one person. I think the program as a whole, from the coaches to all the players that have allowed me to grow and transform as an individual. Throughout my three years on the team, I've become better at taking and giving criticism, understanding the different personalities on my team and from that, being able to determine the most effective way for me to absorb or provide feedback. Additionally, I would say that my mental toughness has improved. Having gone through that freshman season, followed by two unsuccessful seasons, and that despite those hardships to remain motivated and determined to push yourself physically, past the point of comfort, was difficult to do consistently.
What do you plan on pursuing as a career? How will your time with Harvard men's soccer help you going forward?
I am hoping to pursue a career in consulting or to work within finance for a larger firm back in California or perhaps on the east coast. I'm hoping that I can continue to remain connected to my former teammates and to grow the relationships we have in place so that 5-10 years from now we feel confident enough to go to each other for support or advice for whatever it is. It's all about growing the relationships you've already invested plenty of time, energy, and emotions.