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After four years of stunning play for the nationally ranked Harvard tennis team. Crimson Captain Adam Beren simply disappeared from the lineup in the middle of this his final season. Teammates and coaches spoke cryptically about Beren's suffering from an "illness" or "diet related problems." Five matches later, the former All American returned to competition 15 pounds slimmer and with what he now describes as a radically different outlook on tennis Harvard and his life in general.
Before I was too caught up with the specifics," Beren explains. Winning the tennis match, getting As knowing the answer to two plus two. I think I've learned what [Harvard] has tried to teach. Once you come out of Harvard you can do anything you want. I really see myself doing anything now.
Beren's new attitude, which emphasizes non competition and constant introspection, took shape as he struggled with the dietary disorder that forced him out of competition this semester. A drastic switch to a no-fat natural food regime caused a sudden weight loss that Beren was unable to correct. But the Kansas native says his change of heart stems from a far more complex process of disenchantment with high-pressure tennis and status-seeking. He credits several courses he took this year, including Dr. Robert Coles. "The Literature of Social Reflection," for making him aware of unhappiness he had previously repressed.
Speaking with the calm assurance Beren says his problems originated on the tennis court. As a junior player he rarely lost on the Missouri Valley circuit. Yet still got little pleasure from his success. I would always get so nervous. I brought the whole thing about winning I would think. "I'm winning. So I must be enjoying myself, even though I really wasn't." He says he often cried on the rare occasions when he did lose.
Arriving at Harvard with several other highly ranked junior players, Beren helped build a powerhouse team, which he captained junior and senior year. But this season he not only despaired losing but also began questioning his fundamental identity as an extraordinary athlete with dreams of a professional career. "Everyone gets so caught up in the specifies and appearances. If you lose, no one wants to hear what you have to say because you're not a winner. People look at you as if you're an entirely different person just because you lost."
One person close to the Harvard team, who asked to remain anonymous, ascribes Beren's personal reevaluation to the senior's realization that he probably does not have the talent to be a successful pro competitor. Teammates, who remain hesitant to talk about Beren's situation, generally agree, but with great sympathy. Says number-one singles player Howard Sands, also a senior, but a player with professional potential: "Adam's gone through a lot of changes, and a lot of people didn't really understand why I think I understand better than most I think he's reassessing his life right now." It was Sands rigorous all natural diet that Beren imitated this year.
Warren Grossman the third member of Harvard's corps of graduating court stars, adds that Beren's recent introspection has affected his personal relationship. He's put a lot of people at a distance from him because of the changes he's gone through I've been best friends with him for the last three years, but this year he's just changed.
Beren, however, seems content with his new outlook, on the court and off "It's much easier for me to play now because I don't get so tense." He performed well during the team's late-season charge to the NCAA's Final 16 but says he's now through with competitive tennis: "I don't have to be concerned with winning, the laurels, the honors, the specifics people get so caught up in. All I have to do is play tennis."
As to people's reactions to his philosophy, Beren says. "They only listen to what they want to hear Most of my friends don't understand my new way of looking at things."
He explains that he has discovered new sources of inspiration and satisfaction in academic work, praising Harvard's ability to provoke creative thought Specifically, he praises Coles course, which emphasizes moral self-evaluation in combination with literary analysis. "I've learned that there is a purpose to a liberal arts education Harvard shows a different way of life than most people live." Referring to a new interest in modern art prompted by Professor Diane Upright's Core course on the subject, Beren calls tennis his own form of "art." "I do my best there because I enjoy it," he says, "not for any ulterior purpose like winning."
The future, without competitive tennis, remains hazy for Beren. Although he majored in Economics and his father is a successful businessman, he has no interest in big-time capitalism. "The only reason I'd do that would be to make lots of money and give it all away. The only way to make a lot of money in the corporate world is by winning, by stepping on other people to get to the top, and I no longer believe I can do that with a clear conscience."
Ironically, it will be for Beren's competitive talents and his family's wealth that he will long be remembered at Harvard. His father, a member of the class of 1947, donated the money for a new eight-court varsity tennis center that bears both his and Adam's name.
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