Basketball Court Queen Ready for the Future
Issue   |   Fri, 05/18/2012 - 14:05
Photo courtesy of Caroline Stedman '12
Stedman is the only female basketball player in Amherst history to be named NESCAC Player of the Year two times

Overachiever doesn’t even begin to describe Caroline Stedman. It would seem that the All American, NESCAC Player of the Year, 2012 WBCA National Player of the Year winner for basketball wouldn’t have time for anything but making baskets. Instead, during her four years at Amherst, she found time for other activities. An Economics and Spanish double major, Stedman worked as a research assistant and was heavily involved in the Center for Community Engagement. Stedman’s excellence in scholarship, leadership, athletics and character make her a standout student who isn’t afraid to take on new challenges.

Irish Dance and More

Growing up in Walpole, Mass., Stedman started out as a quiet, shy child who enjoyed caring for the stuffed animals that she acquired from various zoos and museums. Even then, Stedman was always active, spending time with her friends, running over the little bridge across her backyard brook and catching frogs in the pond. She also had an intellectual side, starting a book club with her friends where they reenacted scenes from the Ramona series and the Boxcar Kids. Balancing those two sides — her love of being active and for learning — is what has always defi ned Stedman.

Stedman was very active during her childhood. She started out swimming and did some individual races, but soon gravitated towards team sports. She joined the town’s soccer and basketball youth programs, which became her favorite extracurricular activities and led to her being selected to a regional club soccer team and an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team in the seventh and eighth grades.

At the age of six, Stedman began Irish step dancing with the Harney Academy of Irish Dance. She placed in the New England championships in individual and team competition and qualified for two North American Championships, traveling to San Francisco and Toronto. As she grew older, however, she was forced to make a choice between Irish step and other activities.

Stedman decided not to continue with AAU basketball or Irish step dancing, leading her to divide her time between high school soccer, basketball and lacrosse, while still pursuing her academics and extracurricular activities.

She enjoyed playing a different sport each season and was captain of her Walpole High soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams. She was named Walpole High’s top scholar-athlete at graduation.

Through all these activities, Stedman remained a serious student, exemplifying hard work, dedication and cooperation in all her activities. She was a member of the high school Academic Decathlon Team, the Spanish Club and Math Team, and she served on the student council, becoming vice president her senior year.

When looking at colleges, Stedman looked at NESCAC and Ivy League schools because of their mix of academic and athletic excellence.

“I chose to go to Amherst because I believe it offers a great environment for its students. As someone who has always had sports in her life, yet whose life does not revolve around sports, I found Amherst to offer a great balance of competitive athletics and academics. I knew that I would be challenged on the court and in the classroom, and I always like to be challenged,” Stedman said.

Calm Under Pressure

Recruited by head women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki, Stedman, who goes by “Steds” on the court, played limited minutes as a first year.

Still, she never stopped working, and by her sophomore year she was named to the State Farm All-American Second Team and was crowned NESCAC Player of the Year.

“[Caroline] is a special player because she competed at a high level, made plays that no one else could and, most importantly, she is a caring person who treats people with class; she listened and wanted to improve,” Gromacki said.

By her junior year, Stedman was named NESCAC All-Academic, Capital One District All-Academic, NESCAC All-Conference, MVP of the National Championship Team and All-American Honorable Mention.During her senior year, she was named one of the team captains.

“She is the fastest player I have ever coached. She was chosen as a captain because of her skill and commitment to her team and teammates... She is very modest and unselfi sh! She leads by example,” Gromacki said. “Caroline is one of the best athletes I have ever coached. She is one of a kind. [I will] probably never coach another Caroline Stedman.”

Known to step up and create her best plays for the biggest moments, Stedman was named NESCAC Player of the year again during her senior year, making her the only player in Amherst history to be named NESCAC Player of the Year two times. She was also named NESCAC All-Academic, Capital One District All-Academic, finalist for the Jostens Award, fi nalist for the Honda Award and 2012 WBCA National Player of the Year.

“It [i]s such a treat to see her athletic grace and skill, as well as her calmness under pressure,” said Spanish Professor Nina Scott. “Caroline has the grace of a dancer on the court.”

While she was part of the team, women’s basketball has won three NESCAC titles (’10, ’11, ’12) and been to four ‘Final Fours,’ winning the national championships in 2011.

“Being able to play basketball at Amherst has truly enriched my collegiate experience. I have made my best and closest friends through my team, and have memories that will last a lifetime.

As a player, I believe that I have evolved tremendously over the past four years,” Stedman said.

“Being at Amherst and only playing basketball (instead of multiple sports like I did in high school), I have had a lot more time to hone my skills and develop as a basketball player. I cannot take all of the credit, however, because being able to play under a very successful coach in Coach Gromacki, alongside my extremely talented teammates, I was pushed and challenged in ways that made me a better player.”

Excelling in Classes

Stedman’s interest in becoming a Spanish major started under the tutelage of her high school teacher George Watson, who was later named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 2008.

“He truly instilled a love for the Spanish language and culture in me during my senior year AP Spanish class. He is such a passionate and knowledgeable teacher, and I believe [that] were it not for him, I would not have pursued Spanish as a second major,” Stedman said.

Stedman enjoyed many classes in her major, but her favorite was “Food: Power, Identity, Memory” which was taught by Professor Scott.

“Caroline is as nice a person as one could imagine. Her mental and physical discipline is extraordinary. She is very intelligent, her Spanish is very good and she is highly disciplined,” Scott said. “Her command of both written and spoken Spanish is really amazing, especially since she was not able to take a semester abroad because of her involvement in basketball.”

Scott was extremely impressed by Stedman’s choice of research paper topic for the end of the semester.

“She had the courage to choose Mexican picture codices, which is a very complicated subject. She was the first one of my students ever who had the guts to tackle this topic. ”

Spanish, though, was not Stedman’s only academic interest; her love of economics led her to fi nd time to double major in Economics, as well. For the past summer and the past two semesters, Stedman has served as a Research Assistant for Professor Katherine Sims in the Economics Department. Sims is part of a three-college study that looks at the environmental and socio-economic impacts of Mexico’s national Payment for Ecosystem Services, or Pago por Servicios Ambientales-Hidrológicos (PSA-H) Scheme. PSA-H is an incentive based conservation scheme that pays local landowners to refrain from deforesting their land. The study collected data via an extensive survey from both recipients of the program, along with their matched pairs who were nonbeneficiaries of the program. The goal is then to analyze the data to determine the socio-economic and environmental impacts. Such results may be used to see if such incentive-based conservations schemes prove successful.

“I became interested in this position during the spring of my junior year when I took Environmental Economics with Professor Sims. I really enjoyed her class and the material, and when I found out that this position would incorporate both my Spanish and Economic skills, I was eager to apply for the job,” Stedman said.

As a research assistant, she reviewed literature on previous incentive- based conservation schemes, did data entry and data analysis.

“As a combined Spanish and Economics major, Caroline had the perfect skills for this project,” Sims said. “If I had to pick one word to describe Caroline, it would be Professional with a capital ‘P.’ She is 100 percent reliable, positive, calm and well organized. She is also flexible and always takes the initiative to go the extra mile.”

Volunteering Ace

Stedman has also worked as a receptionist for the Center of Community Engagement (CCE) for two years.

“It has truly been an amazing job to be around such incredible people and to be able to see the impact they have not only in the school, but in the community as well,” Stedman said.

Stedman became connected to the CCE the beginning of her sophomore year through the director Molly Mead, who also serves as the faculty liaison for the Women’s Basketball Team. Through her involvement in the CCE, she went to Costa Rica for six weeks the summer before her junior year to work for the project Beyond el Campo (BEC). BEC was started by recent Amherst grad Cait Scudder in order to promote literacy.

“As a volunteer, I went down to Santa Cruz de León Cortés and helped to run literacy camps and establish the first public library in their town. For me, it was the fi rst time I had been outside of North America,” Stedman said. “Being able to travel by myself, be immersed into a different culture and have positive impacts was an extremely powerful experience.”

Her parents have noticed a change in her since the trip.

“Her confidence and leadership ability really blossomed as she learned how to get around in another country speaking a different language,” said Stedman’s parents in a joint interview. “Amherst has also given her a more global and diverse view of the world, and she has forged close bonds with professors as well as students.”

Life After

After winning the Psi Upsilon Award at the Senior Assembly, which is given to a member of the graduating class considered preeminent in scholarship, leadership, athletics and character, Stedman is moving on to bigger and better things. Next year, she will be working as a Stats Analyst for ESPN’s Stats and Info Group based out of Bristol, Conn.

“I am looking forward to having the opportunity to combine my affinity for numbers with my passion for sports,” Stedman said.

Eventually, Stedman would like to go back to school within the next few years to obtain an MBA.

“I am hoping to be able to stay in the business world but am also hoping to move to the international side so that I can incorporate my Spanish skills into my profession,” Stedman