Athletics and Academics: An Interview with Brennan Kastens

Brennan Kastens, a Templeton Scholar, is originally from Nashua, New Hampshire. He is a senior in the math department with a concentration in secondary education and also plays on Eastern’s men’s basketball team as a small forward. In our conversation together, Brennan shared with me what his life at Eastern is like as he balances his academic work– particularly Templeton classes– with his athletic commitments to the basketball team.

We began by discussing whether Templeton and basketball were mutually beneficial in the life skills that they teach. Brennan was quick to acknowledge the work ethic required for each and especially the difficulty of achieving a balance between athletics and academics. This skill hadn’t been as necessary in high school, says Brennan. High school was relatively easy for him, and he was able to get good grades without worrying about his classes. The game changed when he started at Templeton. His athletic work-ethic from high school basketball proved essential in college, as he began a different regimen of exercise on the court and started digging deeper into more challenging texts, appreciating various complex implications of poignant issues, and wrapping his head around multifaceted systemic concepts in the classroom.

Furthermore, Brennan described a mirrored relationship between athletics and academics: both

Brennan Kastens, a senior in the Honors College.

improve one’s ability to work with others, and they also foster solidarity among peers through consistent, committed, collaboration. For Brennan,  there is a certain kind of friendship that emerges on the court with his teammates that is hard to find in other spheres of life. This camaraderie is forged by practicing day-in and day-out with the same group of individuals whose success is defined by their ability to collaborate. Teamwork therefore involves knowledge of one’s own strengths and

 weaknesses as well as the strengths and weaknesses of one’s teammates. This unique friendship is one way that Brennan finds himself fed by his community at Eastern.

Similarly, Brennan has formed an equally distinct and beneficial relationship with his Templeton cohort, as well as with others in the Honors College as a whole. In his honors classes, Brennan expressed finding a similar spirit of collaboration in the shared goal of thoughtfully discussing the text or topic at hand in a way that is mutually beneficial for everyone present. Discussion in cooperation with one’s classmates requires the same self-awareness of one’s skills and shortcomings that one needs on the basketball court.  Productive conversation necessitates awareness of limitations and areas of ignorance; this works in tandem with knowing when one’s contribution pertaining to areas of expertise or experience will be useful in the exploration at hand.

Brennan expressed that a certain freedom results from such a shared intellectual and discussion-based labor: the ability to admit and learn about topics of which one might be ignorant, without facing disapproval. There is a sense of safety that results from being known well by his peers and professors that enables Brennan to explore, without fear of shame or personal attack, an array of perspectives when approaching potentially controversial topics concerning politics, ethics, religion, etc.

Brennan’s academic and athletic commitments both meet his needs in distinct yet complementary spheres of his life. While basketball provides the camaraderie of shared hobbies and similar occupations while not in class, Templeton provides an intellectually safe and stimulating academic community. Both, says Brennan, are necessary to the continued growth, leisure, and friendship that he finds at Eastern and in Templeton.

 

Ben Reichner, Cohort of 2016, is a Templeton Scholar majoring in Social Work. Passionate about social justice, Ben also volunteered to help with our Summer Scholars program and is a Recruitment Assistant for the Honors College.

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