Dear Harvard Tennis Family,
Our season officially concluded on Friday as our top doubles team,
Ashwin Kumar and Sasha Ermakov, fell one match short of being
All-Americans in their loss at the NCAA
Tournament in Tulsa to UNC's top tandem. It was a great effort and
well contested match.
It was a terrific season and we are proud to be housing the
Ivy League trophy back in Cambridge. We appreciate all of your
support throughout this year!
If anyone would like to make a
financial contribution to the team you can go to:
Harvard Tennis online giving and earmark "Friends of Harvard Tennis" for your gift.
As a closing note, I wanted to share my end of year banquet speech that
highlighted one particular accomplishment of this year's team.
On Liberty and Freedom:
by Andrew Rueb
College tennis is an interesting and often precarious compromise between the Emersonian ideal of the self-reliant individual and the interdependent relations of the team. In singles, we know all too well that no one can hit that second serve for you with the match hanging in the balance at Columbia. And, no one can force you to get out of bed for an early morning hit when the Charles River is frozen over. Yet, at the same time, it is equally true that we are literally tethered to the team. We depend on others for everything from practice to coaching, from "Fitz" [Craig Fitzgerald], our strength coach, to Karl Gregor, our volunteer assistant. And to take it a step further, we literally couldn't play without our alums donating the facility that we enjoy, and our Friends Group, headed by Debbie Goldfine and Alex Seaver, whose support allows us to compete nationally. You might be wondering exactly what is new here - that you've heard this all before in one version or another.
While much has been made of "self-reliance" in American life - perhaps too much in a culture that values individual achievement - our understanding of the team is less nuanced and less well articulated. We hear "There is no 'I' in Team" or know enough to recite other platitudes about the 'wolf and the pack.' I want to take a few minutes to explore the dynamics of the group or team by looking at the origin of the words "liberty" and "freedom" by the famous Brandeis historian, David Hackett Fisher, in his book On Liberty and Freedom.
Fisher describes the origin of the word "liberty" in the following way, and I quote, "Liberty comes from the Latin 'libertas' and its adjective 'liber' which meant unbounded, unrestricted and released from restraint…" The Roman definition was set against the condition of slavery - a position without liberty. Now, we have basic liberties: to pursue your own religious beliefs, for example. In America, we are used to being able "wear my own hat" in a match or "not to have to wear a tie" on team trips (to pick on one of our players) for another way to think about liberty. Yet, how far we do want to push our individual liberties - to avoid restraint and restrictions from cramping our individual style or self-expression? Ellie Wiesel, in a class that I took at Boston University, once told a story about a small group of people who hired a wooden rowboat to make a river crossing. Half way across, one of the passengers starts boring a hole under his seat. Everyone cries out in horror, "what are you doing? You can't do that?" And he replies, "I paid for my seat, I can do whatever I want." As the Harvard Tennis Team, we are all in the same boat together.
"Freedom," on the other hand, has a very different origin and stems from the more barbarian tribes of northern Europe not the Greco-Roman tradition. I'm quoting Fisher's book again, "The English world free is related to the Norse fri, the German freii… These words share an unexpected root. They descend from the Indo-European priya…which meant 'dear' or 'beloved'. The English words freedom and free have the same root as friend, as do their German cousins frei and Freund. 'Free' meant someone who was joined to a tribe of free people by ties of kinship and rights of belonging."
I'm interested in the irony that freedom comes from being bound to a group -exactly the opposite of our modern understanding of the concept. The source of our freedom lies in belonging, sharing and being joined together. In Scottish tribes of the highlands or the Doran's [John and Gareth from Dublin both played on our teams] ancestors in Ireland, belonging to a clan was the only way to be free. And fittingly, the greatest punishment in those cultures was not the rules you had to follow, but being banished from the group. One could not survive on one's own. And we still can't.
I was reminded of this conception of freedom as I watched this team year's team come together. I wanted to linger on this concept of team because you should be so proud at having been a living enactment of an interdependent community. This is not something, as we have seen in the past, which just happens or materializes without work and shared vision. There were plenty of openings for things to veer off course - whether it was a player not being elected captain or those playing 7-9 not to throw in the towel and still anteing up each day with no tangible rewards in sight. Or having those at the back of the team playing their role to the best of their ability and not complaining or bickering. In the language of the team, we kept staying in Column A (how we can help the team) and kept out of Column B (how we can hurt the team). This was a whole team - no one was ostracized from the group. There were no factions. And you can get a lot of stories from Dave and me about past teams that were split into 2 or 3 or 4 factions.
When recruits visited everyone took pride and stepped up to pitch in - the recruits were impressed and continue to talk about our team chemistry. I cannot tell you what a wave of support you have left wherever you traveled - be it at Knollwood [our host club in Santa Barbara], Tenacity, with our professors at the Faculty pro-am, other coaches, parents and alums… you were again and again acknowledged as upstanding young men. Whether it was Charlie's [Atkinson's] bass voice pronouncing, "Now is the time" on break points during Clayton's match, or Henry "Hank" Holmes, who drove down from San Francisco to watch our match at San Louis Obispo. You made him feel so welcome and part of the team that he is still emailing and extends his congratulations on the Ivy Title. I believe your legacy to the future teams of Harvard tennis will be your freedom. Great season guys - you should be very proud.
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