By Heather Perry
Those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach. Well that’s not always the case.
For junior Craig Chamberlain, it was a conscious choice not to become a varsity baseball player at Pacific Lutheran University.
“Trust me,” he said. “I wanted to play here. Still do, but I have other priorities.”
Those other priorities, including Chamberlain’s double major in math and computer science, steered him away from what he deemed the expected course for many high school athletes.
Instead, Chamberlain chose to get involved on campus with Residential Life, Red Carpet Club, intramural sports and now a club sport.
“I’m a student leader in a different aspect,” Chamberlain said.
His involvement on campus “speaks to his character,” junior Taylor Carlisle said. The two met during Scholarship Weekend their senior year of high school, and found out their fathers both work for the Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon.
“A lot of people on first impression when they hear about him think he’s the typical nice guy,” Carlisle said. “He’s beyond a nice guy, and part of it’s what he learned in sports, actually.”
Chamberlain began playing sports near the end of elementary school and continued through high school with football and baseball, eventually completing fall ball with PLU’s baseball team before deciding not to play.
“The decision was entirely his,” Craig’s father Chuck Chamberlain said, “yet as parents we wanted him to know that we supported whatever decision he made.
“It was also important for us to help him see both sides of the issue. The number one thing that we wanted him to have was to enjoy the university experience, and if athletics got in the way of that – and his ability to develop his academics – then he needed to reconsider.”
Craig Chamberlain attributes part of this decision to the example set by his father, who made the same decision when faced with similar circumstances.
He said his father had a full-ride scholarship for baseball to a Division I school, but decided not to play for the same reasons – something Craig Chamberlain said he admired.
His father ended up coaching high school basketball for 26 years, winning numerous awards along the way, Craig Chamberlain said. This gave him the example of someone who didn’t need to be a varsity athlete at the university level in order to be a great coach.
Chuck Chamberlain also referenced how his son’s outlook “dramatically changed” after he made the decision not to become a varsity baseball player.
“When I stopped playing baseball here I really had nothing to do,” Craig Chamberlain said. “So I just kind of looked around and had friends who were playing intramurals. They invited me to play on a team.”
He also attributes his interest in intramurals to the encouragement from his older brother and sister, both of whom attended PLU.
“I’ve always been told by my brother and sister who went here that ‘you have to play intramurals,’” Craig Chamberlain said, “whether you’re playing a varsity sport or not, because it’s a lot more fun.”
Although Craig Chamberlain had limited experience in certain sports, Carlisle said Craig Chamberlain was adamant about not letting himself be limited by that experience.
“It’s ridiculous how athletes can pop out of nowhere,” Craig Chamberlain said, referencing an intramurals teammate with no prior sports experience. He then emphasized that intramurals are always an option for those who don’t play a varsity sport, although it’s not nearly as competitive.
Craig Chamberlain now tries to play in every co-ed league and began organizing his own teams last year, including one that won the softball intramurals – earning themselves a t-shirt. Craig Chamberlain recalled their win by humbly describing his 2-out grand slam in the finals, attempting to downplay his achievement.
“Um… down by four I hit a grand slam in the bottom of the last inning with two outs,” Craig Chamberlain said. His home run forced the game into extra innings, allowing his team to eventually overtake their opponents.
This year he plans to join the Men’s Ultimate club team, but he said his sights are ultimately set on becoming a high school math teacher and baseball coach after exploring the world.
“That’s kind of my destiny,” Craig Chamberlain said.
In this role he hopes to mentor athletes, paying it forward for future generations, similar to what his mentors – in particular his father – were able to achieve.
“The education profession needs young, motivated individuals,” Chuck Chamberlain said.
He added that if it was something Craig wanted to do then he should go for it.
“Not only have my parents joked about giving Craig a job,” Carlisle said, “but he would be well fit for it. The only thing we need is more teachers and coaches like Craig who are doing it out of pure enjoyment.”
Chuck Chamberlain echoed this: “Craig is a very positive, hard-working, fun-loving individual. He thoroughly enjoys being around people.”
Craig Chamberlain said that coaching is “the next best thing” to playing.
It turns out that those who can – don’t have to. They choose their own path.