From arts to athletic aspirations

by Angus Dickerson / Beacon Staff • November 17, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

By his own admission, Ken Nikravesh’s eclectic background always takes a few sentences to explain.

He was born in New York, the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother. He grew up almost entirely in Switzerland. He speaks both English and French, and his voice is soft and thoughtful, with no obvious accent.

Despite being a citizen, Nikravesh has trouble indentifying as an American. His European upbringing is evidenced in part by his insistence on referring to his sport as “football” played on the “pitch”. His first allegiance in international contests is to Switzerland.

He’s a senior at Berklee College of Music where he studies jazz composition.

While music is essentially the default passion of a Berklee student, Nikravesh says soccer is a very close second.

For many Emerson students, school athletics are something of an afterthought. At the Berklee College of Music, athletics are nonexistent. There’s not even a gym or weight room for students to exercise. Despite this, Ken Nikravesh never considered giving up soccer.

“When I came to Boston, I was looking actively for a team to play for,” Nikravesh remembers. “I don’t think I could have gone my entire college career without playing any sports.”

One day in the fall of his freshman year, he noticed a pair of students decked out in full Emerson soccer gear near the Hynes Convention Center. They told him to come for a tryout if he was interested in playing. Two weeks later, he was on the team.

“The word needs to get out,” Nikravesh says. “No Berklee student comes into Berklee knowing they can play sports at Emerson. But if you’re passionate enough about the sport, it’s easy.”

Nikravesh and other Berklee students can play for any Emerson athletic team through the ProArts Consortium. Because Berklee, along with the Boston Architectural College, The Boston Conservatory, Massachusetts College of Art, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts do not have varsity sports teams, their students are allowed to compete for Emerson.

When Nikravesh began playing, there were only two other Berklee students on the soccer team. Last year, over half the starters went to school across town.

Emerson sports teams include many athletes from Berklee. For the last four years, Nikravesh has starred on the soccer team and played tennis, maintaining a passion for athletics he’s had his entire life.

On the field, Nikravesh has been an important part of some very good Emerson soccer teams. His teams have improved tremendously since his freshman year, reaching the Great Northeastern Athletic Conference (GNAC) finals in 2009 where they lost to St. Joseph’s College of Maine. Nikravesh was named to the All Tournament Team that season.

Looking back on his college career, Nikravesh has much to reflect on. While he loved his time on the team, he’s still plenty critical of his play. Ask him about Emerson soccer, and his competitiveness begins to shine through his usually relaxed tone.

“I think last year we definitely had the personnel to [win more], but not necessarily the work ethic. In the end we kind of got, not lazy, but when 10 people are showing up to practice during the last week, that’s not going to cut it,” Nikravesh said.

a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/rc-20111015-287.jpgimg class=aligncenter size-full wp-image-3814038 title=rc-20111015-287 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/rc-20111015-287.jpg alt= width=400 height=300 //a

When he discusses his seasons, his first instinct is to talk about what he and the team could have done better, and what he struggled with.

“The football style over here is very different. We play teams like Norwich, like Lasell, they’re going to come and they’re going to kick you again and again,” said Nikravesh. “It’s all very direct, balls over the top, that sort of thing, and it took adjusting. But it also made me a more agile player, in the sense that I learned to cope with more.”

He neglects to mention that, despite his struggles, he was still a GNAC First Team All Conference selection last season and Second Team All Conference player this year.

Playing at Emerson for four years, Nikravesh has been able to see a decided shift in the direction of the soccer team.

In 2008, the team won seven games. The following year, it won 12. Last season, the team won eight games, and lost in the first round of the GNAC playoffs.

“The Berklee players that have come in have really helped the program and mixed with new recruits; the level of talent is just getting higher and higher every year,” Nikravesh said.

While his fourth and final soccer season is over, Nikravesh still has one more season of tennis in the spring. Emerson men’s tennis has lost in the finals to Suffolk the last three seasons.

“It’s tough [losing], but it also says something that we’re getting to the finals every year. To make playoffs, to get to the finals, it’s not the same as doing it with a football team,” Nikravesh said.

He is by no means a casual tennis player, but the sport is relegated to second in his heart. He said soccer is his favorite challenge, and he can’t help using soccer to contextualize his college tennis success.

“I think [making the tennis finals] was made easier by the fact that the conference [for tennis] isn’t as difficult as it is for football,” Nikravesh said.

More than anything else though, Nikravesh said he is proud of the example he has set for other Berklee students. He said he believes there is plenty of untapped talent at Berklee, and he wants his classmates to know that if they’re interested in sports, they actually have some great opportunities.

“When [Berklee students] do find out, they’ve usually already lost a year of playing because they didn’t know about it,” said Nikravesh. “I think the main concern of most Berklee students is time management. A lot of people quit or give up because they didn’t think they could handle it. Ultimately, the way I feel about it is that if you like the sport enough, you’ll make the time.”

In his four years, Nikravesh has made the time for teams. His love of the game carried him down an unconventional path to a college sports career with Emerson College. While he always considers himself a Berklee student first, on game day, he said he is proud to be a Lion.