Monday, June 04, 2007

All-Ivy honors... National Team Sportsmanship Award for May, and Senior Essay...

All-Ivy Honors:

•Chris Clayton, first team singles
•Gideon Valkin, second team singles
•Sasha Ermakov and Ashwin Kumar, first team doubles

•Harvard Men's team voted winner of the ITA National Team Sportmanship Award for the month of May, 2007

•Harvard selected Gideon Valkin as Harvard's nomination for the NCAA Sportsmanship and Leadership Award (selected from among all of Harvard's 41 Varsity teams).  Gideon's senior essay was also selected for inclusion in the Senior Letterwinner's Dinner program...

Text below:

Gideon Valkin
Harvard Men's Tennis Co-Captain
From: Johannesburg, South Africa
Concentration: Government
House: Kirkland

"You either win or you learn," said Head Coach Dave Fish after our third consecutive 4-3 loss at the start of my senior spring season.  As my remaining days with the Harvard tennis program diminishes, my appreciation for it multiplies, and on this day Coach Fish's comment hit me like a volley to my stomach.  Every day for the last four years, I had crossed that unearthly cold river at some inhumane hours of the day in order to learn some of my most valued life lessons and become a winner. 
I remember my first match starting for The Crimson.  I was one of two freshmen traveling with an experienced lineup of some of the best players in the country.  One of my teammates woke up sick on game day, and I was in.  In short, my match was a series of shaking limbs, nervous breaths, and prayers that it would not come down to me.  Needless to say, I lost after being up, and one of my senior teammates clinched the win soon after.
Opportunities to learn and to develop as a competitor and as a teammate increased as my role on the team grew.  Invaluable tidbits from my coaches and my teammates would ultimately enable me to overcome fear and embrace the defining moments and challenges.  I was taught to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and to maintain clarity in my game when it counted most.  I was taught to act positively and professionally regardless of the score and to take risks on the most important points.  I learned to value competition for its own sake; to play to win, without being scared to lose. 

Emphasis on the team over the individual changed the way most of us visualized success.  I was valued more by how much I contributed to the team than by my personal victories.  It was not until I was prepared to work harder than my teammates that I became a true leader.  As clichéd as these lessons sound to me now, they were unknown to me the day I joined the Harvard Tennis Team. 

Harvard Tennis is a century marked with national level competition, Ivy-League championships and All-American players.  To date, success has not interfered with the principles of education and development to which each team member is continuously exposed.  This tradition has prepared me, and many before me, for the challenges of life.  It is the tradition to which I owe my days of glory, and of which I am eternally proud.  I thank my coaches and all those before me who contributed to the values of the program.   

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