Widgets Magazine

Park: Even ProFros can be the ambassadors of Stanford Athletics

Welcome to the Farm, Class of 2018!

By all accounts, you’ve got one unforgettable, hectic, sleepless, action-packed weekend ahead of you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to go fountain hopping because of the drought, but you’ll make new friends, meet the people you’ll likely be spending the next four years of your life with, explore an unfamiliar campus and finally be able to put a face to those people whose sole purpose in life seems to be posting in the admitted class’ Facebook group.

I know that most of you got into Stanford because you’ve focused on your academics and extracurriculars in a seemingly never-ending pursuit to catch the attention of your admissions officers. Speaking frankly, a 5.07 percent admit rate is absolutely ludicrous. I certainly know that I wouldn’t have gotten in under this year’s admissions standards.

Through all of the craziness, though, I ask you one thing for this weekend that you have on campus: Try to set aside some time to make it out to a Stanford sports game, whether it’s lacrosse facing off against Cal tonight, baseball taking on Cal in a three-game series at Sunken Diamond or softball hosting No. 1 Oregon at Smith Family Stadium for a weekend set.

Stanford is a campus at which excellence is clearly visible every day, from the hundreds of freshmen working late into the night on problem sets or papers to the faculty that work tirelessly to conduct research for which they have a passion. But something that I feel is often unjustly overlooked is how the excellence carries through to the athletic department.

Raise your hand if coming into Stanford, you’re aware that this university is home to the top athletic program in the nation.

Now, I bet not too many of you have your hands up right now. And that’s exactly the misconception that I know the athletes and administrators on this campus are working tirelessly to break. They’re really doing all they can; Stanford has won 19 consecutive Directors’ Cups (awarded to the top overall athletic program in the country) and is comfortably ahead in the race for its 20th. Men’s basketball made a miraculous run to the Sweet 16, while football qualified for its fourth consecutive BCS bowl. Soccer, water polo, tennis, volleyball and women’s basketball are perennial threats to win national championships.

Yet, the conception of Stanford as a purely academic school — no doubt fueled in part by the continued regression of the admit rate and the continued excellence in the research from its academic departments — pervades society today. Even within discussions in the realm of sports, be it on ESPN or countless online forums, when Stanford’s athletic programs are mentioned, it’s only a matter of time before somebody comments on the midterms that the athletes are studying for or the classes that they must be skipping — god forbid — to play these matches.

Sure, some of the athletes have embraced that mantra. The athletic department unveiled its new #NerdNation identity and really flaunted it throughout the football and women’s basketball seasons. Newly minted No. 1 WNBA Draft selection Chiney Ogwumike even made a “N-E-R-D-S” music video, and took the image of the athletic nerd as her own.

While I admire the athletes’ willingness to embrace that image, I don’t necessarily know if it’s good for a program that’s really bursting onto the forefront of the national scene with sustained success in the “major” sports. I think that what the #NerdNation image has done is extend the reach of the already-overwhelming sphere of academic success and expanded it into the space of what should also be an overwhelming sphere of athletic success.

I think that such an image portrays Stanford as an academic school that is also really good at sports. I really don’t like that. Stanford is just as much an athletic school as it is an academic school — perhaps even more so. While Stanford’s brand of academic excellence is clumped together with that of several other schools in the country (see: “Harvard of the West”), Stanford’s brand of athletic excellence is truly unparalleled in the nation. And the sad part is, very few people outside of this campus — and quite a few people on this campus — don’t see that.

How do we change this?

Well, Class of 2018, it starts with you.

I’m sure you’ll meet some athletes at Admit Weekend, but your first taste of what the student-athlete lifestyle is like will truly come when you move in during the end of September and perhaps live next door to an Olympic gold medalist or a starter on the baseball team. You’ll see how much of their lives, their time and their identity they give to their teams in the gritty, often-thankless pursuit of again putting Stanford at the top of the nation in athletics. You’ll get rolled out by your RA and the rest of your dorm to go see them compete, and you’ll have a much more vested interest in the success of the programs here because of that (hopefully).

But this weekend, you can get the ball rolling by going out to support the personalities that you’ll grow to know and love during your eventual undergraduate career here. You can get a taste of the culture of athletic excellence that pervades this campus, and you can be part of the effort to advance that to a national stage by giving them your support. Start to take an active role in conveying their stories and their successes to your friends and family back home.

Because really, at the end of the day, the scope of what the athletes can do to build Stanford as an athletic powerhouse in the eyes of the nation as a whole starts and stops on the field, the court, the diamond or the mat. It’s really up to you to be their ambassadors.

Do-Hyoung Park is preparing for the raging tide of prospective freshmen whippersnappers with lots of youthful energy on campus by preparing a disaster kit and retiring to a hut in Yosemite for the weekend. Tell him that he’s getting old and it’s time to retire at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him at @dohyoungpark.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 honestly isn't quite sure what he does for The Stanford Daily anymore, apart from the fact that he still writes a lot about football, gets cranky at the sports editors and scares away the new freshmen. He also writes for (or has written for) The Bootleg, Sports Illustrated and MLB.com and has been a four-time Managing Editor at The Daily. After graduating in June with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science, he's begrudgingly staying on for his master's in Chemical Engineering as well. Please feel free to bother him at dhpark 'at' stanford.edu.