Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Thank you to the Harvard Varsity Club for this incredible honor. It is particularly special to be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside so many fellow classmates and friends.
It is also wonderful to be back at the Harvard Club where my squash career actually began. I played my first tournament here in 1982 at the age of ten, and won the girls twelve and under category. This tournament was also significant because it was when I first met Steve Piltch, who not only became my college coach, but also a lifelong friend.
Being a member of the squash team was the epitome of my experience at Harvard. But my association with Harvard squash actually began a few years before my freshman year, during summers spent at the Dave Fish Squash Camp, where I followed my older brother Jeremy (class of ’92 and a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee) as both a camper and a counselor. It was at camp where I forged strong relationships with some of my future teammates. It was also where I got my first glimpse of the camaraderie and spirit that coaches like Steve Piltch and Dave Fish fostered.
Once I began freshman year, playing on the team gave me an instant sense of belonging in an otherwise intimidating environment. The courts at Hemenway Gym and the squash office were my haven. Having Jeremy already there was one of the reasons it felt like home, but Steve Piltch was responsible for making the team feel like a family. Steve not only taught us how to be better players, but more importantly, how to be better people. I think the best way to illustrate this point is to relay a story, which, to this day, has remained one of the most important lessons I have learned.
Despite my sense of comfort in the halls of Hemenway Gym, I was having difficulty in another area. Until college, I had never before played on a team, aside from the handful of times that I had represented Canada at specific international tournaments. The concept of a team had never been part of my daily fabric, or the way I thought about the sport. More than that, I was used to training by myself, or selecting people with whom to play who were better than me. By the time I was fifteen, there weren’t any women of my level in Montreal (where I grew up); this meant that I only practiced with men.
When I joined the Harvard team, I expected to repeat the pattern that I was not only used to, but that had been working for me until that point. Coming in freshman year as number one, I was at the top of my game, especially after having taken the previous year off to train and compete. Not only was there no one on the women’s team who could beat me, but also none, I assumed, who could challenge me, either. With my brother on the men’s team, I also assumed I could train with them, that it was what I needed to improve, and what I needed to win the national singles title at the end of the season. Which I also assumed was a given.
But it wasn’t. I didn’t win that year. And I didn’t deserve to.
Instead of trying to understand what went wrong, I blamed my loss on not being able to keep up my game and train the way I was used to. I told Steve how I was feeling, that maybe it would be best if I quit and started on the bottom in a sport like cross-country running, instead. He listened respectfully and then suggested that if it was a challenge I wanted, he would meet me at the track in the mornings before class and train me. I agreed to try it, and soon after, Steve (despite having a young family, the demands of coaching both the men’s and women’s teams and his own graduate studies) followed through on his promise. Adrian Ezra trained with us, and pretty soon, both teams caught on and the morning sessions became an official part of practice.
It was during these sessions that I began to reevaluate my relationship to the team. I realized that the friendships I had formed were really important to me – much more important than the winning or losing – and that I didn’t want to give that up. I also started to realize that I had something to contribute.
That season I made a point of playing with everyone on the roster during practice, in an effort to help their individual games. It didn’t take long to discover that giving back to the team and my own game’s improvement were not mutually exclusive but quite the opposite.
It was that year that I learned to let go and to be part of something much bigger than me. That was also the first year I experienced the ecstatic high of winning a national team championship for the first time. Our win was certainly a result of hard work, but it was also something more. It was proof that we could grow and come together as a unit, that the whole was, in fact, greater than the sum of its parts.
That was also the year that I won my first intercollegiate singles title. But that victory felt lonely in comparison to the one I shared with my teammates just two weeks before. Ultimately, however, what made winning the championship particularly special was that my brother Jeremy won the men’s title on the same day, just a few minutes before me, a few hundred miles down the road at Vassar College, on my birthday to boot.
One of the best parts of this lesson, for me, is how I learned it. Steve didn’t shove it down my throat, or point out how I was being selfish and getting in my own way. Instead, he gently guided me in the right direction so I could come to these conclusions on my own in the best and most lasting way possible – through experience.
It was through Harvard squash that I learned the value of community, of pooling resources to accomplish a goal, and how these are the things that enable us to realize the most authentic versions of ourselves.
I’m also grateful to have had such wonderful, accomplished roommates at Harvard, amazing athletes in their own rights, like Francie Walton Karlen, who is being inducted with me tonight, and Emily Buxton McCann, who is married to another fellow inductee, classmate and friend, Sean McCann. I loved going home to our suite every night and sharing the highs and lows of our lives, on and off the court, field and rink.
I would like to thank Bill Doyle, who, following in Steve’s footsteps, coached us to two more national team championships. I’m grateful for the hours he spent working with me to go undefeated my senior year, culminating in another singles title. I also feel lucky to have been coached by the legendary Jack Barnaby, and to have witnessed his passion for squash. I will always remember Jack driving alongside the team van for away matches, even after he retired.
Lastly, I would like to thank my family. First, my brother Jeremy, who has been an exceptional role model and is the reason I started playing squash in the first place. And to my parents, especially my mother, who encouraged us and made sacrifices so that we could excel and go to Harvard. She logged thousands of miles in the car and countless hours in nameless clubs across North America so we could compete, often putting her own career on hold for us. And finally, I would like to thank my husband, Alex LeVine, for his constant love and support, and for making me feel like I’m always part of a team.