Monday, December 19, 2011

Shane Lebow on balancing academics and athletics at Stanford

Sports analysts and other top ranked schools have long commented that it is simply impossible to achieve academic and athletic excellence simultaneously. With now 17 Director’s Cups, and working towards 18 our athletic program has proved this assumption wrong 17 times. I am not writing to brag about accomplishments, rather to share my observations on what I have learned through being part of such an esteemed institution.
            Having completed four quarters here on “The Farm,” I am beginning to figure this place out. Those who are successful at Stanford are able to thrive in the face of challenges. While this applies generally to success in life, Stanford certainly demands this of their student-athletes. It is a reflection of the culture and standard that coaches, teammates, and alumni have developed within the athletic department and individual teams.
            Stanford is able to attract Olympic athletes and national standouts year after year. Not only do athletes turn down easier academic options, they also choose difficult majors while here. Other universities often recruit athletes with the idea that a lesser academic load will help them better integrate into the professional athletic ranks. However, in the last year I have come to the exact opposite conclusion. I believe the ability to handle the bilateral commitment to athletics and academics has been the very reason why Stanford has produced dominant professional athletes like John Elway, Kerri Walsh, John McEnroe, and Tom Watson.
            The balance of academics and athletics forces students to be disciplined in handling their performances. On almost every team there are examples of individuals like Toby Gerhart. As many know Gerhart, now on the Minnesota Vikings, was a two-sport athlete who finished 2nd in Heisman voting in 2009 while taking 21 academic units (6 more than the average of 15 per quarter). Being surrounded by an athletic program comprised of such excellence and determination has had a profound effect on me. It has lead me develop time management skills and maturity that I don’t think I would have developed anywhere else.

            Stanford Golf and more broadly, Stanford University is something that is truly special. It has already given me growth and learning opportunities that I will find valuable long after graduation. Coming off a hard academic week with finals, I can’t wait to get back to a full practice schedule. We have a great group of guys this year and saw improvements throughout practices and workouts during the fall quarter.

Looking forward to Spring Season and finding some W’s!

Go Cardinal!