With academic scandals occurring left and right at all levels of school sports, the term “student-athlete” has taken a beating in recent years.
Unless you play in the Ivy League, student-athletes have become — for the most part — glorified “athlete-students.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth for Davis High field hockey and girls soccer star Natalie Silver, who is set to graduate Thursday and move on to her parents’ alma mater, UC Berkeley. There, she will make the unusual move of not continuing to play sports so that she can focus on academics.
“I never thought that playing a college sport was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” the senior said. “I was always looking for something else. I feel good about my decision. I think I could have played something in college if I wanted to, but I’m definitely happy that I chose this direction.”
Sandie Marotti-Huckins, Natalie’s club and high school field hockey coach, thinks Natalie is selling herself short in the athletic-talent department.
“Natalie had the potential to be a Division-I field hockey player, if that’s what she truly wanted to do,” said Marotti-Huckins, who coached the 2012 varsity Devils team to an undefeated season. “As intense as Natalie is and her quest for perfection is, it would be very hard for her to give everything she had academically at a school like Cal and give everything she had athletically. There wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for her to do what she needed to do on both sides.”
Though she brought it for both sports on the field, Silver’s most notable accomplishments always took place off of it.
Consider that just in her senior year Silver was one of three co-captains on the field hockey team for her leadership and a Scholar of Distinction on the NFHCA High School National Academic Squad — which required a GPA of at least 3.9. She also was the online sports editor for the DHS HUB. And don’t forget the letter of acceptance she received to attend Cal.
“Some of my teammates, their attitude with the college thing was, ‘I’ll go anywhere where I’ll play, as long as I’m playing I don’t care,’ ” Silver said. “I’m the complete opposite. Even if I could play somewhere like Cal or Washington, I don’t think I’d want to.
“College, in my opinion, is for bigger and better things.”
And when it was time to pick a college, Silver naturally drifted back to the Bay Area, where she lived the first nine years of her life.
“Cal has always been my dream school. People think it’s because my parents went there, it probably is. They brainwashed me at an early age, but I honestly did fall in love with the culture and the counterculture there,” she said. “There’s an unbelievable vibe there. The people are cool. It’s buzzing with creativity and inspiration, and I fell in love with that, despite the football team, which sucks.”
Marotti-Huckins said: “Whatever Natalie decides to do in her life, she’s going to be great at it. If I could give her some advice, it’s to keep that lighthearted side of yourself and don’t take everything so seriously. You’ve gotta give yourself a break and keep that fun side.”
Notes: Though she will focus on school, Silver doesn’t know exactly what she wants to study yet. Right now she is undeclared in the College of Letters and Science.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam