Back to campus in 7 days. Normally, I hit this wall where I don’t feel like being home on break any longer, simply out of boredom, and am itching to get back to my dorm in Quincy House. However, I haven’t quite made it to that point yet. I think it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of reading, as well as summer internship applications. J-Term (what we call our winter break) has been very busy for me, despite having a lot more free time than during the semester. It’s not a bad kind of busy, but definitely not crazy enough that I’m dying to get back just yet. Last year, I was on campus already at this time in January, training for my upcoming volleyball season. I walked on to my team halfway through freshman year, and after being a varsity athlete as a freshman and sophomore, I decided to “retire” as a junior after realizing I wanted to pursue other opportunities during my career here. I’ve always loved volleyball, and it was my life all throughout high school. But being an NCAA Division I athlete at Harvard requires a lot of discipline and time management skills. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some lifelong friendships through my teammates (that’s how I met one of my roommates), and got to travel to some great places when I was in season and while training. My favorite memory was playing against the University of Southern California Trojans during our spring break trip to California last year. They were the defending national champions and to even step foot on the Galen Center‘s court was a dream come true. However, Harvard has so much to offer, and there’s only so many hours in a day. Between training, practices, games, and traveling, I felt like I wanted to move on to other things and focus my energy elsewhere for my last two years here.
It’s definitely different not being a part of an organized team, but I don’t think it’ll fully hit me until my former teammates have their first game of the 2012 season on January 24th. I haven’t actually experienced a spring semester here while not being in season, so I’m looking forward to what other things I’ll get involved with. When people find out I left my team, the question they ask me most frequently is why I quit. I then correct them using the word “retire” and proceed to explain. The next question I’m usually asked is whether or not I’m happy with my choice. Yes. I am incredibly happy with my decision. However, I do miss many aspects of being an athlete, and do not regret investing the past two years into volleyball. I’ve learned time management skills, teamwork, leadership, so much about myself, and met some of my best friends.
For those of you who are considering applying to Harvard and playing a sport here, I encourage you to do it. If you don’t, though, it’s not the end of the world. As a 3-sport athlete in high school, not being able to play sports was one of my biggest fears coming into college. There are so many levels of athletics here, from pick-up games to intramurals to club to varsity–there’s a level of skill and commitment for everyone. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen (how cliche of me…). I didn’t plan on pursuing volleyball in college, but things just fell into place halfway through freshman year. Of course, you need to do what’s right for you, but having athletics as part of my undergraduate experience was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s true that everyone, athletes included, are held to the same academic standards here. But Harvard professors and teaching fellows are normally understanding and willing to help make sure you have a positive experience, athlete or not. I had a great experience as a student-athlete. I will admit that I still need to get used to my roommate, Derek, running out of the room to go to practice without me, but I’ll definitely be in the stands supporting my team this spring.