Juliette Brynteson Nelson ‘80
Soccer - Hall of Fame Class of 1999
Harvard Athletic Achievements
In 1979, just three years into the existence of the women’s varsity soccer program, Juliette helped Harvard establish a winning tradition. Her leadership and offensive contributions helped Harvard take the first two Ivy League titles and establish a three-year record of 36-5-3.
Serving as captain as a junior and senior, Juliette was the MVP of the Ivy Championship Tournament both seasons. She was later named to Harvard’s own Silver Anniversary Soccer Team, celebrating 25 years of women’s sports in the Ivy League.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
It comes as quite a shock to find myself writing a piece for this occasion since, as Jack Reardon often reminded me, I came to Harvard not as an athlete, but as a scholar. Well, timing is everything, and it just happened that I came to Harvard right when some remarkable women had managed to put together a soccer “club” and Title IX was reshaping women’s collegiate sports. I got a nudge from my older brother who told me I needed to find something to do here other than study, encouraging me not to worry about my lack of experience because I’d fit right in. Indeed, if you were willing to practice in the dark, in lowland swamps, wear hand-me-down uniforms and ride the subway to away games, then you were welcome. What an experience – and what fun – it was for us to be a part of those building years! Over the course of my four years here, women’s soccer became a varsity sport and enjoyed some very successful seasons, largely due to the commitment, talents, and senses of humor of the many women – and men – who were involved, as well as support of the administration. It is on behalf of all those individuals that I am delighted to be included in the Harvard Varsity Club Fall of Fame.
Once again, this whole thing took me rather by surprise as my college soccer experience feels like ancient history to me now, a lifetime ago. But as I laughed about receiving the recognition, I was reminded of something my coach, Bob Scalise, said to me late in my senior year. He told me – in an effort to be encouraging, I think – that whatever I ended up doing after leaving Harvard, I would always be able to play soccer. I remember finding that none too comforting as I faced a transition into the “real world” for which I felt rather unprepared and I honestly had no idea what I was going to do. It didn’t seem like playing soccer was going to prove very useful in any future I could imagine at the time. But now, nearly twenty years later, I can see that over the years playing soccer has provided me with both a grounding and an invaluable entrée into many worlds.
I have played soccer with my students on snow-covered fields under a full moon; with my future husband in a Sunday afternoon pick-up game; with village women in Papua New Guinea, clad in a culturally-sensitive skirt, barefoot on a mountain airstrip carved out of the rainforest; with former college teammates and new friends in over-the-hill leagues (not as fast, but just as fun); with girls from the worst of Haiti’s slums looking for an education and a way out; and now, in perhaps my most challenging, and certainly most satisfying role – that of soccer mom – I practice and play with my own kids on the North Shore of Boston. And everywhere I have found that playing soccer and having confidence I gained from playing soccer at Harvard has created special, often joyous opportunities for me, has sustained and built important relationships, and has afforded me an inroad to cultures and connections to people that I can’t imagine having found otherwise.
I am grateful for this honor and of what it reminds me, and want to share it with and thank all who were a part of it.