A record-breaking performance
By Becca Binder
At my very core, I have a deep love for this place," said Steve Vladeck. "[Head Football Coach] E.J. Mills once said I bleed purple." Coming to Amherst out of high school, Vladeck was unsure of his niche. "I had no idea what I expected out of college. A lot of what I did in high school was defined by the fact that I was an athlete," Vladeck said. A two-sport athlete at Montgomery-Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Vladeck came to Amherst with letters in both basketball and baseball. However, his career on the playing field was about to end.

Climbing the ladder

"I tried out for basketball freshman year and got cut," Vladeck said. "But I did what

I could. I'd been preparing for it all along when I got cut. I was already writing for The Student.

I thought it might be fun to be a sportswriter." Not ready to give up his ties to sports, Vladeck continued writing for The Student. Although his first assignments covering the women's soccer team were seemingly innocuous, he soon found himself completely immersed in Amherst athletics. This tie to athletics led to what is perhaps Vladeck's most well-known identity. Currently the Assistant Sports Information Director, Vladeck thinks back on his path through the Amherst athletic program fondly.

"The 1997 women's soccer team was the first established group of people on campus that welcomed me. I found solace in doing something that others appreciated, and it helped me meet people," he said. Vladeck pursued his new interest in sportswriting, and was promoted to the position of sports editor for The Student during his freshman year. He found himself, "not so much covering teams as covering Amherst athletics in general." In addition, Vladeck began writing for the in-depth magazine, SportsAmherst. Between the two publications, said Vladeck, he invested himself thoroughly into Amherst teams.

Soon, Vladeck found himself involved in a third area of athletics at Amherst. When asked why he began his stint working for the Sports Information Office at the women's lacrosse games in the spring of his freshman year, Vladeck joked, "I realized that I could get paid to do my job for The Student." On a more serious note, Vladeck continued, "With a new Sports Information Director [Sarah Lukaska '99], I volunteered to help her out."

Soon, Vladeck became a fixture on the sidelines of countless Amherst athletic events. His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the athletics department. Head Field Hockey and Women's Lacrosse Coach Chris Paradis praised Vladeck, calling him "incredible."

"Steve has been such a strong supporter of our athletic program over the past four years," said Paradis. "As far as his contributions to the field hockey and lacrosse programs, [Steve] has attended nearly every game, both home and away, and he is always willing to do whatever is necessary to help both the team and the coaching staff." Similarly, Head Women's Basketball Coach Bill McBride termed Vladeck "a pillar of strength," and said, "his overall commitment and dedication to the women's basketball program has been stellar."

Athletes also appreciate Vladeck's dedication to Amherst athletic programs. "He is incredible. He is at every single game," said Lauren Peloquin '02, a pitcher for the softball team. "But he does more than just keep track of our stats. [Steve] is first and foremost a friend, and he always knows to give an encouraging wave and smile when things aren't going well, and he is always one of the first to congratulate the team when we win."

"Every so often, when we have a big game or a tough opponent, [Steve] will email a few of us the night before just to wish us good luck. The little things like that show me that he really cares about us; this is not just a paycheck or a resume-builder for him," Peloquin added.

NESCAC notes

Perhaps the most longstanding contribution Vladeck has made to Amherst athletics has been through his opinions on the NESCAC, which have been highly respected and held in high regard throughout the conference. Vladeck's take on the NESCAC as a playing conference is that postseason play should not be limited. "The NESCAC is unique as a conference. It's made up of schools that have strong athletic programs, but are dedicated to a higher academic ideal," he said. "The only comparable conference in that capacity is the Ivy League."

The specificity of the problems in the NESCAC is that some athletic programs are at risk. "But, the Ivies are Division I, so their athletic programs are not in any jeopardy," said Vladeck. "It's not the same state in Division III athletics. The perfect solution for Amherst is to leave things the way they are. There is a strength in compromise and balance. The problem is, the NESCAC won't let that happen. In trying to conform, we're going away from the original mission, and the sacrifices are proving way too costly."

Vladeck has received a multitude of awards for his journalistic work and his dedication to Amherst athletics. The recipient of the 1999 Samuel Bowles Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Vladeck has also been the recipient of the Amherst College Sphinx Award for Dedication to Athletics for three years straight. Finally, Vladeck was one of 16 recipients nationally of the 2001 Sears Director's Cup Postgraduate Scholarship, awarded by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to students that support athletics.

Vladeck appreciates his praise with the unassuming matter-of-factness with which he always approaches Amherst athletics. "When people ask if I want to be a professional sportswriter and I say no, they always seem surprised," he said. "The reason I do it is because I love it and these are my friends, hallmates, etc. Writing about people I didn't care about wouldn't be as rewarding."

Off the field

This dedication to helping people has been the catalyst behind many of Vladeck's actions. This year, he moved into Stearns to serve a term as a resident counselor (RC). Vladeck cites his own freshman RC, Adam Wolf '99, as the reason for his decision. "[Wolf] was a great RC," said Vladeck. "I saw through his eyes how being a freshman RC was so energizing. Seniors go through emotional blips, and to be around a group of people whose biggest worries are the little things is really amazing. I feed off their energy," he continued. Vladeck is an RC for a deeper reason also, though. "I want to teach [my residents] how to balance things. I want to help them understand what is and what is not important, and how to prioritize. That's the greatest lesson I think you can learn in college," he said.

However, the education has not been all one-sided. Vladeck appreciates the lessons his residents have taught him as well. "I've learned how to help other people keep things in perspective for themselves," he said. "I've learned how to help people appreciate the things they love and take them to the extreme." As fate would have it, many of Vladeck's first-floor Stearns residents are athletes. Caitlin Farrell '04, a resident of Vladeck's, saw him as an immediate friend. Farrell, who has made her own rookie mark on the women's basketball program, described Vladeck as "the big brother I've never had." Farrell continued, "My roommate [women's lacrosse player Alison Aldrich '04] and I were the first residents on the floor. [Vladeck] came bounding down the hall to meet us with a huge smile on his face, and it was obvious that he was rejoicing in the fact that we were here," said Farrell.

"My parents couldn't really come and see me play basketball, so I had [Steve] as a substitute. He knows the game, but more importantly, he knows me," said Farrell. "There were games where I would get down on myself and [Steve] could always tell me what I did wrong and how to fix it, but he did it in a way where it made me feel better about myself, because he's always remembered the games where I played well."

In addition, Vladeck has served as a tour guide and a peer tutor in math. "This is a very special place," said Vladeck, "and to the extent that I can show people that is a very special opportunity." A double major in mathematics and history, Vladeck envisions himself with a future in international law. "I've always been fascinated by international law," he said. "Academically, that's what I want to do with my life."

Moving on

Next year, Vladeck will begin law school at Yale University, after graduating from Amherst summa cum laude with high distinction in history. For his thesis, Vladeck studied the war crimes trials following World War I. He notes that the trials were not as successful as the Nuremberg trials following World War II. He said, "Understanding why the World War I trials failed highlights how Nuremberg succeeded, because they were different," he explained. Vladeck cites the major difference as being the non-existence of the German government following World War II. "We are blind to the fact that Nuremberg was an unrepeatable success," he said.

Vladeck reflects back on his Amherst career with fondness: "I think I'll be remembered as the sports guy, for better or for worse. That's my identity. Does that bother me? No. For the most part, the people that I care about know who I am."

Vladeck anticipates his future with excitement and an open mind. "I'm excited for Yale, and I'm really proud. To realize that people will realize that I'm the kind of kid who can get into Yale Law is very vindicating for me," he said. "I got to Amherst and I thought there were only two kinds of people. Now, four years later, I realize that there are at least 1,650 different kinds of people, and I'm honored to consider myself one of them."

Issue 25, Submitted 2001-05-23 17:01:08