Interview with a Fan
- by Chase Beeler '11 History Football
As a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I found myself confronted with an issue that appeared to have no solution. Though I had long observed the tension that existed in my life between athletics and academics, I had managed to balance the two apparently competing facets of my personality in childhood and throughout high school. At OU, however, I found myself in the peculiar position of embracing what appeared to be two ambitions that were in fundamental opposition to one another—based on the path I saw in front of me, it looked impossible to be both a high caliber athlete and a serious, devoted scholar. Try as I might to reconcile the two, there appeared to be no way to firmly commit to one without sacrificing the other. After much reflection, I made the only decision that seemed right: I would have to give up organized sports, an element that had formed a core part of my identity for, at the time, more than 15 years in order to follow my intellectual aspirations. At the last moment, however, an alternative presented itself in the opportunity to transfer to Stanford and continue my athletic career there. I realized, of course, that there was no guarantee that my identities as an athlete and student would be able to coexist any better at Stanford than at OU, but it seemed foolish to give up on a game that I loved without first making every effort to preserve my identity as a scholar-athlete.
Four and a half years later, I have not only reconciled the athletic and intellectual components of my identity, but I have also learned that, far from being incompatible, the two are actually different sides of the same coin. In spite of popular cultural stereotypes that tell us scholarship and athletics are not intended to mix, as if there is some sort of Manichean divide separating the two worlds and that never the twain shall meet, my experiences at Stanford have prompted me to realize that there are in fact far more similarities between the two than differences, and that if properly managed, the relationship between the two is actually mutually beneficial and reinforcing. The same values and mindset that foster success in the classroom can be applied on the field of competition as well (or in any phase of life for that matter). Perhaps I would have learned this truth at OU as well, but my sense is that Stanford played a central role in my coming to this realization.
That being said, it is difficult to articulate precisely what about Stanford prompted or catalyzed my thinking. Maybe it was the small size and intimacy of the student population, or the amazing climate, but I think it more likely that it had something to do with the people that constitute the university—the students, faculty, coaches, administrative staff, and others—and the community that they form. Stanford provides an environment of people who are equally motivated and driven, people who embrace hyphenated identities (as in scholar-athlete) and utilize their skills and talents not only to benefit themselves but also to better those around them. As a participant in this community, I learned that contact and interaction, between my own competing identities or with other individuals, serve to strengthen the whole, whether thought of in terms of a “whole person” or a whole community.
In the course of my discussion with Professor Rice, we touched on the community spirit that permeates Stanford and makes it a unique institution, as well as the role of athletics in fostering and reinforcing those attributes. As Professor Rice explains, she strives to get to know student-athletes as people. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to sit down with Professor Rice and discuss the contribution that athletics and athletes make to the Stanford community.