Student Athletes

EY interviews Condoleezza Rice on student athletes

“Sports transcend gender, culture, language, race, economic status, etc. – as a student athlete, you have the most unique opportunity in the world to influence our future and accomplish anything you set your sights on.” – Lina Taylor

But don’t take it just from me, here is Condoleezza Rice saying the same thing.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice was the first African-American woman to serve as the US National Security Adviser and the first African-American woman to serve as US Secretary of State. Growing up, she also was a competitive figure skater and talented pianist.

She talked to Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist in swimming and a lead advisor to EY’s Women Athletes Business Network, about what sport participation taught her and the advice she gives to athletes at Stanford University, where she now works.


How did the discipline you learned on the ice rink help you deal with the stamina you needed to perform at such a high level in government?

From the physical side of it, I have remained committed to being fit my entire life. When I was Secretary of State and had to be at my desk at 6:30 a.m., I got up at 4:30 in the morning to exercise. I would remind myself, “You used to do this as a kid.”

I also think it gave me a sense that there are days when you perform gloriously, and there are days when you just don’t have it. You learn how to deal with both. You learn how to deal with the highs of doing really, really well, and you learn how to deal with the lows of being terribly disappointed. Life is like that.


What do you tell your student athletes about trying to balance being a competitive athlete and managing their studies?

What I tell student athletes is first of all, you’ve made good choices this far in order to be able to be in college and to be an athlete. Keep making good choices. Second, it’s important to pace yourself. I sometimes have kids who come in, and during the season they’re going take 21 units. I tell them, you have an off-season for your sport, so load up your courses then. That’s just good planning.

Finally, I tell them that whatever they do afterwards, this opportunity to be an intercollegiate athlete is going to serve them well for the rest of their lives.



They will know how to balance. They will have that discipline.


We have created the Women Athletes Business Network to connect women athletes with people who can help them make the transition from sport into a productive future. How important do you think a network like this is?

A network is really important. We have this conceit that, “I want to do it on my own.” Nobody does it on their own. For all of us, there’s somebody that says, “You know, there’s a good opportunity there, and you ought to pursue it.” Or somebody says to someone, “I know just the right person for the job that you’re trying to fill.” Those networks are absolutely critical.


I was thinking about your love of football. Do you think that understanding sport provides us with a special language, a way to connect that benefits us in the boardroom or anywhere else?

Absolutely it benefits you. I’ll tell you a funny story. I worked for a year for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a fellow. I was female, I was black, I was a civilian – three strikes. They did the deployment of nuclear weapons, [so it was] a very male environment.

So I arrive, and they say, “The rookie makes the coffee.” I said, “Fine, I’ll make the coffee!” I’m not going to get on my high horse about that. But that week, I won the football pool, and from there on out, I was in. Sports is a language that transcends gender.


Are you out of politics for good?

I am. I never much cared for politics. I love policy, and I love international policy in particular. I got to be Secretary of State; it really doesn’t get much better than that. I love what I do. I love being a professor. I love working with all of my students, athletes and non-athletes.

I tell them all the time – and I would say this to the young women who will eventually make the transition that you’re talking about – “Don’t ever think of yourself as a ‘former.’ Move on to the next chapter. Be glad and delighted and grateful and thankful that you were blessed to have that moment when you were at the height of your athletic prowess, but don’t spend the rest of your life relating only to that. You take what that taught you, your ability to perform under pressure, your ability to focus, your ability to work hard, to take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.”


Lina Taylor, a two-time Olympian in beach volleyball and former collegiate volleyball standout, guides high school student athletes to excellence by mastering the intangible skills necessary for success at the highest level in sports, school, business, and life.

Through her signature 5.0 GPA system, high school student athletes learn how to set effective goals, communicate with their coaches, teachers, parents and peers to gain cooperation, while eliminating the influence of negative messages coming from one’s surroundings. With increased confidence, student athletes master peak performance techniques, learn to manage their time, and make decisions that are in their best interest.

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