Long nights working on problem sets. Early morning practices. The class load of a Stanford engineer. The athletic demands of a Stanford varsity water polo player. These may seem like incompatible demands on one person’s time, but for junior two-meter Forrest Watkins, it’s a daily schedule.
Watkins is the men’s water polo team’s second-leading scorer this season with 16 points in 11 games–even so, he believes his game is strongest on defense. Watkins scored the tying goal this past Sunday before No. 1 Stanford pulled ahead 6-5 to defeat No. 5 UC-Santa Barbara. Watkins also tallied a goal in Stanford’s 9-5 victory over No. 8 Pepperdine last Friday night.
But Watkins wouldn’t be at Stanford if water polo were his only talent. Last season, he was named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) All-Academic List–and said he would like to raise his grades even higher. After slugging through the requirements earlier in his academic career, Watkins now loves his Management Science & Engineering major. He is currently working on a group MS&E project to develop a social “bucket list” network in which people can cross items–like skydiving–off their bucket list together, meet people with similar interests and get discounts for these activities.
The rigorous combination of academics and athletics has Watkins out of bed every morning by 7 a.m. Between practice, class and meals, he is busy for the first 12 hours of his day.
The secret to his success?
“Figure out solid blocks of time to get work done,” Watkins said.
Watkins and his friends manage to stray from that simple advice often, but it comes as no surprise that Watkins enjoys working hard in the classroom–after all, that’s why he came to the Farm.
“When I think of Stanford, I think of coming here as a student first,” Watkins said. “It’s balanced. I feel like [at] other schools they have athlete dining halls, athlete dorms, athlete everything so you only hang out with athletes and you’re just an athlete and whatever you can fit in for a major is secondary. I like being able to do an engineering degree, do whatever I want and still balance a sport.”
Growing up, Watkins said he was “terrible” at land sports but always a strong swimmer. His father suggested he try water polo when he was six years old. In middle school, he became teammates with current Stanford driver Austin Trinkle; the duo co-captained their high school team for two years and are now in their eighth year as teammates. Watkins says the two have great chemistry in the pool together, especially when Watkins can tell Trinkle is ready for the ball and ready to shoot.
Watkins scored seven goals last season as a redshirt freshman, including two multi-goal games. He tallied scores in the Cardinal’s MPSF semifinal upset over No. 1 California and in a title-game loss to USC.
Watkins said that the team began building around the defense at the end of last season and has carried that through into this season, especially in the preseason, when some players were away with the U.S. National Team.
“All of preseason it was ‘work on defense, work on defense,’” Watkins said. “When guys come back, we’ll figure out the offense.”
The Cardinal is still figuring out the offense–it has three one-goal wins in 11 games this season–but the defense has led the team all the way to No. 1. Stanford beat USC 5-4 on Oct. 2 by holding the Trojans to four goals on 11 shots after USC scored 12 times in the two teams’ last meeting. In its most recent victory, the defense kept Stanford in the game until the struggling offense scored two goals late to beat UC-Santa Barbara 6-5.
If the defense keeps working away and the offense finds some rhythm, Watkins could see one of his major Stanford goals come to fruition–a championship. But win or lose, he will keep working at his other goals: graduating with a degree in MS&E and creating his own start-up with friends and teammates.
“I want to build something from the ground up,” Watkins said.
No need to know whether he’s talking about the No. 1 water polo team or a start-up.