HR10: Embodying HR ideals, Shoji closes class

During June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one. We have announced nine winners thus far: gymnast Carly Janinga, soccer's Kelley O'Hara, football's Toby Gerhart, tennis' Hilary Barte and Bradley Klahn, volleyball's Evan Romero, swimmers Elaine Breeden and Julia Smit, and softball's Alissa Haber. Our final Honor Roll winner is volleyball's Kawika Shoji.

In a June 15 article, we released the 31 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll for the 2009-2010 school year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

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They say sport is a microcosm of life itself. If so, God must not be one for complicated metaphors, because the life lessons taught by Stanford volleyball's recent years are strikingly obvious.

  • A value we teach through sports is perseverance. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Stanford volleyball went 3-25 Kawika Shoji's freshman year. Not a lot of initial success. But through natural talent, sheer grit, and a lot of hard work, Shoji and the five-man Class of 2010 improved steadily with the years, culimating with the squad winning its first national title since 1997 this past spring.
  • A value we teach through sports is resilience in the face of adversity. (I always think of – and still get goosebumps from watching -- Jim Valvano, at 8:30 in here, six weeks from dying of cancer, telling us "Don't give up, don't ever give up.") In addition to the maddening lack of on-court success, Al Roderigues, the longtime volunteer Stanford assistant, died of stomach cancer in late March 2010, mere weeks from Stanford's national title run. Shoji and his teammates wore "AL" on their uniforms as they won the NCAA Tournament later that spring.
  • A value we teach through sports is fairness. Some call it karma, some admonish that what goes around, comes around, and some simply say good things happen to good people. And here, Kawika Shoji, by all accounts, deserves the success that has come his way. Years of tireless, thankless work – Shoji is the Stanford career record holder for sets played (407), service aces (108), and digs (844), and season record holder for assists (1,455) and assists per game (13.86) -- paved the foundation for a senior season which saw the setter Shoji, the team's quarterback, lead the Cardinal to a nation-best .356 hitting percentage. In turn, that .356 hitting percentage (including a .495 performance in the NCAA championship match) led Stanford to glory, and Shoji to consensus National Player of the Year honors, with both Volleyball Magazine and the American Volleyball Coaches Association making him Stanford's first Player of the Year since 1993.

A 2010 graduate in political science with a minor in communication, and a three-time MPSF All-Academic Selection, Shoji won Stanford's Donald Kennedy Award for his combination of excellent academics, strong athletic ability, and a commitment to community service. He will now train with the US National Team, suggesting that an Olympic dream could become reality come 2012. "Extremely active in community service," per Stanford Athletics' official website, Shoji appears to deserve all the success that his come his way, and we at The Bootleg can think of no finer student-athlete with whom to cap our 2010 Honor Roll.

With that then, congratulations to Kawika Shoji and all of our 2010 Honor Roll nominees and winners. May the 2010-2011 academic year see Stanford student-athletes come through with performances every bit as magnificent and inspirational as this year's winners each have.

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