Going Pro: It’s Not Just for Athletes

Stanford Men’s Volleyball player Conrad Kaminski finds a way to go pro with his faith

The NCAA used to run an ad on TV advocating its commitment to educating student-athletes. Between highlights of game winning Hail Marys, record-setting long jumps, and dunks worthy of bedroom posters, they portrayed students-athletes studying in the library, preparing Petri dishes in biology labs, and tinkering with robots. The final scene always featured a student-athlete stating: “There are more than four hundred thousand NCAA student-athletes, and most of us go pro in something other than sports.” Now, after four years of preparation in school, sport, and spirit, I have the opportunity to go pro.

This August I begin professional volleyball in Ravenna, Italy, making me one of the few student-athletes who can go pro after college. I am grateful that Stanford has provided me with an unrivaled education in mechanical engineering, which will serve as the foundation for when I go pro in my ultimate professional career. But even greater is my gratitude for the Catholic community here, which has guided my relationship with Christ to the point where I want to go pro in my faith.

In volleyball, we have daily weight training and practice to prepare for competitions. It takes time (years) to develop, but success is achieved only through constant commitment, regardless of the adversity we face along the way. Furthermore, the little commitments (like eating healthy, going to bed instead of going out, etc.) make a significant impact on overall performance. While difficult for many, they are easy choices to make when a sport is central to one’s life, and they have culminated in my taking the next big step in my volleyball career.

However, I recently realized that I ought to spend at least as much time nurturing my faith as I do my athletic performance. Daily Mass has become my spiritual weight training. Reading more scripture has become a supplement. My ‘little commitments’ include goals like eliminating cuss words from my vocabulary (which is admittedly difficult: I swear that a prerequisite to being a volleyball ref is being blind).

Of course, I cannot do this all on my own, for growing as a faithful Catholic is a team sport. I have the support of Fr. Emmanuel and Fr. Xavier as coaches, and people of the Catholic Community as my teammates. They hold me accountable for my actions and push me to improve each day. The many programs offered are like our practices that have helped me grow in my faith. And this growth is not limited to a select few who meet physical criteria, but as the Catholic Community shows we all can become professionals in Christ.

Conrad Kaminski graduated this past June with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He played on the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team and begins his professional volleyball career in Italy this month.