Crimson Characters: Volleyball's Gil Weintraub

Crimson Characters: Volleyball's Gil Weintraub

Editor's Note:
The feature story below on men's volleyball co-captain Gil Weintraub, is part of a year-long commitment to highlight Harvard's captains and other intriguing student-athletes. For more question-and-answer features click here and enjoy the high-caliber student-athletes whom we have come to enjoy.

Junior co-captain Gil Weintraub is the cog that makes the offense go for the Harvard men's volleyball team. As a setter, Weintraub's main duty is to get in sync with his attacking teammates as he distributes the ball. It certainly worked in 2009, as Weintraub finished fourth in the EIVA and 14th in the nation in assists per set with 12.29, helping to lead the Crimson to a share of the EIVA Hay Division title.

What is your concentration?
Human Evolutionary Biology (HEB)

What would you like to do for a career once you are done with school?
Hopefully, I could go into medicine. The plan as of now is combine my interest in athletics and medicine in orthopedic surgery. Professional sports teams need doctors too, so I will look into that.

What has athletics taught you that made you a better student? What have you learned on the court that has helped you in the classroom?
Athletics has taught me to be resilient. In sports, no matter how good you are, at some point you will lose. You learn to pick yourself up and try again. The same is true in the classroom; it is important not to get discouraged.

What is the most rewarding part about going to an Ivy League school and competing in athletics?
Arguably the most rewarding part of being a student-athlete at Harvard is competing at a high level in both athletics and academics. Neither sports nor school is the end-all-be-all.  It forces you to be balanced in both arenas.

What class have you taken so far that sticks out in your mind the most?
A literature class called "The Politics of Music." The class lectures were a combination of political rhetoric and timeless music from all genres. The class exposed me to music I would never have come across otherwise and has really expanded my interest in music.
The team played well down the stretch. To what can that be attributed?
Everyone worked hard this offseason. As we came down the home stretch, being strong enough to compete at a high level for five games proved to be crucial to the team's success.

Has it been difficult transitioning from one coach to another during your time here?
In my three years at Harvard, I have played for three different coaches. While I think it has been difficult for the program not to have a permanent face, I personally feel I have managed to benefit from the experience. Each coach brings a different skill set, philosophy and strategy. Being exposed to many different types of coaching styles has definitely expanded my skill set and made me a more balanced player.

How is West Coast volleyball different from East Coast volleyball?
My first instinct is to say the tan. Beyond that, though, it is probably the proficiency level. A lot more people follow and play volleyball on the West Coast, making it easier to field high-level squads. On the East Coast, there are a lot fewer strong programs.

What are the easiest and hardest parts about being the setter?
The easiest part about being a setter is the actual action of setting. After being a setter for almost eight years, it is pretty much second nature to me. Deciding where to put the ball is the hard part. It is a combination of looking at your blockers and getting good match-ups with hitters while still distributing the ball in a balanced offense. This is something that just improves with time.

Plays happen fast in volleyball. How are you able to stay in sync with the other players as you are setting them up for an attack?
Practice is the best way to develop team rhythm. We put ourselves in game-like situations as much as possible to simulate the speed and confusion of live matches. Playing with these guys everyday makes it much easier to know what everyone will do on a given play.

What do you hope to accomplish for the Harvard program before you leave?
My goal is to help the team reach the Tait Division and stay there. The Tait is home to high-level teams like Penn State, and the next level for Harvard men's volleyball. If we can get that done while I am here, we will have made great strides.

How do you think you have improved since you first got to Harvard?
I think I have become a much more patient player. Matches are pretty long, and there are plenty of opportunities to win or lose sets. Knowing when to push and when to wait for opportunities has really help me cut down on my errors.

Describe where Encino, Calif., is and what life is like there.
Encino is a suburb in the valley of Los Angeles. It is a pretty relaxed community, but it has great location. You can be at the beach or be hiking in the mountains in a little over 30 minutes.

What were some fun activities to do in and around Encino when you were a kid?
I had three activities that I loved doing all in the same day. My friends and I would start off with a round of miniature golf, then go bowling and end the day at the movies.  We had a strict meritocracy going where losers would buy the food, so there was always a strong incentive to win.

When you are playing an important match, what are some things you do to get ready, both on and off the court?
I am all about rituals. The day of a match, I always watch highlight videos of the Brazilian national team to get motivated. Once we get on the court, when referees check our rotation lineups, I always stop to tie my shoes. The referees always used to say it was because I was trying to control the pace of the game, but really I just kept forgetting to tie my shoes. Regardless, it has become tradition so I do it every time now.

If you could spend a day doing anything, what would it be?
It would be a day at the beach. Get some sun, body surf and maybe even play some beach volleyball. There is something very relaxing about the beach that always puts me in a good mood, so I am always up for a day at the beach.

Have you thought out your plans for the summer? Any place you are going to or would like to visit?
This summer I will be in Cambridge doing summer research for my senior thesis. If I was not doing that, though, I would love to go backpacking around Europe. With any luck, I will convince some friends to come with me next summer.

What would people be surprised to know about you? How about a teammate?
I have never had coffee. I do not really like the taste or the idea of being wired. If I am tired, I just sleep. As far as teammates go, few people realize that Matt Jones does a ridiculously good impression of the Joker from is terrifying.

If you could meet and spend a day with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
It is always hard to choose one person, but I would have to say Benjamin Franklin. The man did it all. He was an author, a printer, a satirist, a political theorist, scientist, inventor and one of the founding fathers of the United States. I would be curious to hear from him firsthand how he got it all done, and ask if he had any suggestions on what I should do.