Melissa Balding '17

Melissa Balding absolutely effuses joy. Her infectious laugh and captivating stories will keep you smiling for hours. But this charming, cheerful Californian has more going for her than just her humor and delightful personality. Find out more about this incredible student-athlete!

Year: 2017

House: Kirkland 

Concentration: Environmental Science and Public Policy with a Secondary in Sociology

Hometown: Huntington Beach, California 

Number in the pool: 4

Describe yourself in three words: Extroverted, outdoor-overted, and laugh-overted. I was trying to find a less #basic way of saying outdoorsy and fun... 

Spirit Animal: Cheshire Cat

What do you do on campus?

When I'm not playing water polo, you can find me bopping around Kirkland House. I'm the House Committee Publicity Chair so I put up posters about house life activities that I (and maybe only I) find entertaining. I also frequently loiter in the dining hall to pub Kirkland events and just generally talk to any unsuspecting soul who doesn't have their pretending-to-be-doing-work laptop guard up. I am also involved with HCFA, one of the Christian fellowships on campus. The HCFA community loves and supports each other in incredible ways, making it much more than just another thing I do on campus. 

What game are you most excited for this season?

I'm pumped for our game against Marist on March 7th at 6:45 at Blodgett. That was a shameless plug to encourage attendance, in case you missed that. It'll be a fun night game at home. I'm also especially stoked because Marist's coach was my club coach for four years before she went on to coach collegiately and I came to Harvard. It adds an extra twist that amps up my competition intensity in a rad way. 

What is your favorite memory from your water polo career?

After my junior year of high school, my club team placed 2nd in the national championship in August. When we won the semi-final game, I remember how great it felt to have won it as a team. We had all trained so many hours together for this final tournament and things were working as planned. When we lost the final game, we were disappointed, of course, but I do remember feeling that we had played as a team. The feeling of unity, in wins and losses, is something I remember as truly great. 

What will make this year’s Harvard women’s water polo team successful?

I think this year we will find success because we have each other's backs. We've been talking a lot about what that means as a team and I think the willingness to work hard for each other and battle for the good of the team is going to make a huge impact this year.

Do you have any advice for the soon-to-be-admitted class of 2019?

Going off to college threw me into a new world, with new people with totally different backgrounds and experiences than me. It is so important to be understanding of the fact that we all have past experiences, relationships, or character traits that shape how we view the world and other people. These things also shape how we communicate our thoughts and emotions. So my word of advice is to be receptive of that, and know that you may be misunderstood and misunderstand others. But in those times, patience and perseverance can produce meaningful conversations and relationships that you may not anticipate. These experiences, interactions with people who we just don't quite get sometimes, teach us so much about how to communicate and care for others.