Like many student-athletes at Harvard junior Victor Crouin had his world turned upside down when students were sent home in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The star first seed on the Crimson’s elite squash squad managed to return to his hometown of Marseille, France, just before the nation went into lockdown.
“Last March, I traveled back home straight away. And I got lucky because France had a national lockdown just three days after I came back home,” Crouin said.
Although the lockdown kept Crouin off-court for almost two months, he was able to hit the ground running as soon as courts reopened in May.
“It's justified that during the lockdown, we weren’t able to go on the squash courts,” Crouin said. “So in May, when they eased the restrictions, the first thing I wanted to do is to go on the courts and hit the squash ball. I was really motivated to go back on court and to train again.”
According to Crouin, he has been able to train regularly since returning home, maintaining a rigorous regimen that sometimes includes two workouts in one day.
“I've been training broadly, once every day, sometimes twice, when I don't have classes or feel like I've got enough time to spend two to three hours on court,” Crouin said. “But, most of the time, I train in the morning, and then when class is taught at 9:00 a.m. [Eastern Standard Time], then it's 3:00 p.m. here in France. So I've got time to have lunch and then get ready to go to classes.”
This past year, Harvard’s cancellation of all three sports seasons left many student-athletes dejected. Crouin felt that without the structure of Crimson sports, he had to dig a little deeper for motivation.
“It’s a little bit hard to keep the motivation every day when you don't have [competition],” Crouin said. “I guess I just learned to motivate myself with other means than a competition, and just to focus on personal growth and [improve] without having to compete against someone else — to just keep being able to enjoy competing against myself.”
For Crouin, one of the silver linings of being back home has been getting to train with his father again. According to Crouin, his father was his first coach and continues to play a key role in improving his game.
“I'm training as much as I used to when I was on campus,” Crouin said. “It's just instead of having team training, I'm really having individual training with my dad, who's my main coach, at home.”
“We've always had a close connection,” Crouin added. “On the squash courts, since I started playing squash, he has been my coach from the very beginning. And so it was nice just to be home and be able to interact with him on a daily basis, whether it was on the court [or] outside of the court, share ideas, and then we could continue to evolve my game.”
Crouin hopes for a return to normalcy this fall when he will look to lead by example as one of the team’s four seniors. According to Crouin, older players on the squash team play crucial roles in helping new teammates adjust to the lives of student-athletes.
“I always aspire to help my teammates just get better by inspiring them through work ethic or just knowledge about the game,” Crouin said. “When I was a sophomore already, it was weird not to be a freshman anymore, and to have incoming freshmen in the team that we had to manage and help to adjust to the campus environment.”
“'I’m looking forward to being this ‘big brother,’ just helping the younger students getting [into] the team and being ready to help the next generations [of players].”
Crouin also deeply misses the camaraderie of the squash team and looks forward to making more memories with them during his final season competing for the Crimson.
“[I’m excited to] share amazing moments with my teammates, on- and off-court,” Crouin reflected.
When Harvard athletics (hopefully) return beginning fall 2021, Crouin will lead the charge as the Crimson aims for a third straight title. Harvard won the 2020 College Squash Association Men’s National Championship against No. 3-seeded University of Pennsylvania last March, just days before the March 10, 2020, campus shutdown
— Staff writer Eliot Min can be reached at email@example.com.