Noting Harvard’s ‘Other’ Athletes

About one fifth of Harvard’s undergraduate population play on a varsity sports team, but it is estimated that more than four times that number are athletically active. According to the Harvard University Admissions Office, “When club sports, intramurals, and varsity teams are taken into account, it is estimated that over 75 percent of our students participate in some level of athletic activity.”

Athletics play an incredibly important role in providing certain life skills and health benefits to Harvard undergraduates. In fact, one of the first comments about Harvard students on College Prowler (a website that compares various universities) is that “there are very few overweight people.”

Being in shape also gives you a confidence in yourself that goes beyond just looking more “swoll.” It can improve your mood and boost your energy levels. The next time you feel like you’re falling asleep in the middle of a research paper, try going for a run instead of hitting up the coffee machine.

Exercise can even help improve your sex life. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help get those hormones running as well as give you the energy for a long night.

In addition to improving physical health (and maybe help getting a few dates), athletics can play a valuable role in developing life skills like self-discipline, teamwork, dedication, and dealing with failure—something that can sometimes be a very valuable lesson for Harvard students.


Even just being a fan can help contribute to the community atmosphere of a university, teach one to be empathetic, and provide a stress-relieving study break.

Making the walk across the river to catch a game also helps support the varsity athletes who spend hours a week training. In fact, the life of a varsity athlete at Harvard is not an easy one.

Things that may just be minor inconveniences for some of us—dining hall hours for example—can actually prevent some athletes from eating breakfast before a morning lift session, or force them to skip dinner for a 4-7 p.m. practice. Shuttle schedules, strict academic absence policies, and large time commitments are all challenges that face a student-athlete at Harvard.

Considering how much Harvard brags about its commitment to athletics, I think that the administration could make a few more concessions to the student-athlete population, especially considering that these varsity competitors are by no means the only Crimson athletes.

In fact, if the 75 percent figure holds true, that means more than 50 percent of Harvard students exercise on their own time; some nearly as much as those in the official Crimson uniform. You can find them any given evening swarming the Malkin Athletic Center, playing intramurals, going for group runs along the Charles or walking down JFK Street to a club sports practice.

So if these students are so motivated, why the “appreciation” part? Well as approximately 75 percent of you know, exercising can be tough sometimes. There are always those days when you roll out of bed in the morning, intending to go for a run then realize how comfortable your pillow was, or how much you’d rather just go to the dining hall and make a Veri-taffle.

Or for those varsity athletes, who have no choice, there’s that moment when you’re leaving for early practice and realize that p-set that you were up till 3 a.m. finishing had another page.

And as fall comes to a close and the weather starts to change, it’ll get harder and harder to slip into those trainers in the mornings and head into the cold air.

So this is where appreciation comes in. First appreciate what athletics do for you, whether as a Crimson fan, a casual jogger, a supporter of some team back home (we’re fine with it as long as it’s not the Yankees) or a varsity level competitor. Appreciate how fine you look in your jeans after a day in the gym and how good you feel when you do decide that it’s worth the effort.

Second appreciate others. Take some time to support varsity Crimson athletes, or the person on the elliptical next to you, push your roommates to go for a run or play some pick up ball at the MAC.

At the end of the day, athletics play a major role in Harvard student life, and it’s up to us to appreciate it.

—Staff writer Cayla C. Calderwood can be reached at