Playing one sport at Harvard is difficult. Playing two is almost unheard of.
For freshman Zach Boden, playing two sports at the varsity level is a challenge he is excited about and ready to take on. Boden excelled this fall as a running back on the Harvard football team. Now, he is taking to the field as an outfielder for the Crimson men’s baseball squad.
“Zach likes challenges,” his mother Margo Boden said. “He likes pushing himself and seeing what he’s capable of doing. That’s just his personality.”
Growing up in Atlanta, Ga., Boden developed a love for sports at an early age. He played in various youth football and baseball leagues and then moved on to compete for his high school. The genes for athleticism certainly run in the Boden family: Zach’s father, Bill Boden, was also a two-sport athlete at the college level, playing both football and baseball for the University of Virginia.
“He is a natural, raw athlete,” Mrs. Boden said of Zach. “We just let him play sports. We saw from an early age that he could run fast, [and] he had great hand-eye coordination. He had the heart; he was dedicated and did what he had to do.”
Boden was recruited to Harvard for football. The freshman running back competed for playing time on the varsity team and emerged as a true talent. Twice named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, Boden scored six touchdowns throughout the season and ran 79 times for 484 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
“The football coaches were the ones who recruited Zach and laid the groundwork for him to come to Harvard,” Mr. Boden said. “Football has always been his first love.”
Boden had many options when he was deciding what school to attend and what sport he would pursue. He was recruited to some schools specifically for baseball, but he was drawn to the Harvard program.
“Coach [Tim] Murphy talked to me about what Harvard football is about: the commitment and dedication and the winning tradition,” Boden said. “That really sold me.”
But in the back of his mind, Boden held on to the thought of playing baseball. It was only over Christmas break that he sought to turn this possibility into a reality. Following in his father’s footsteps, Boden poured over the training schedules for each team, determined to find a way to follow both his passions.
“He realized that this would be the first time in his whole life that he wouldn’t play baseball in the spring,” Mrs. Boden said. “I think he saw that he would miss it because it is all he has ever done.”
Boden noted that the baseball coaches have been accommodating about his scheduling conflicts with football training. He came to Harvard for football, and it remains his primary commitment. Boden will even miss baseball games for football practices.
“When you give a commitment to someone, you stick with it,” Boden noted. “Baseball is something I’m doing on my own time…. Football is a job.”
On a typical day, Zach is up by 5:15 a.m. and heading to morning lift for football across the river. His meals and classes are sandwiched between another workout: baseball practice in the afternoon.
“During football season, he was fine with scheduling lifts and class; he was not overwhelmed,” Boden’s roommate Sergio Morales said. “But this semester, it’s going to be a little harder. He figured out that baseball was not going to interfere with football, but that means he is working out or doing athletics for at least four hours every day.”