If collegiate coaches had the opportunity to clone the perfect student-athlete, Harvard’s Melanie Baskind would probably be their model.
Baskind is not only a two-sport athlete in soccer and lacrosse, who has earned All-Ivy League first team honors in each sport, but the senior also serves as the co-captain for both teams as well.
And, when she’s not on the field kicking around the soccer ball or honing her stick technique, Baskind is studying neurobiology as she prepares to go to medical school after graduation.
“It’s definitely not for everyone, that’s for sure,” Baskind said. “I’ve always been a really busy person and get restless pretty quickly.”
The candidate for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award cites good time management skills, and help from sticky notes and calendars, as her secret weapon for juggling all of her responsibilities.
But Baskind’s collegiate career didn’t start out so busy. Although she played both sports in high school, Baskind chose to concentrate on soccer during the recruiting process, ultimately deciding to attend Harvard and play for women’s soccer coach Ray Leone.
After her freshman season on the pitch, it looked like Baskind had made the right choice. She led the Crimson with 19 points and garnered Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. But then, soccer season was over and Baskind had a little more time on her hands than usual. Lacrosse was on her mind.
Still adjusting to the Harvard’s arduous academic pace, Baskind resisted the urge to run to the women’s lacrosse office to see head coach Lisa Miller. But in her sophomore year, she could resist no longer.
“I had things a little bit more under control, and I missed lacrosse,” Baskind said. “I missed being competitive year-round and playing in so many competitions. In high school, I had been playing three, four, five games a week between the two sports.”
Baskind went to Leone, and discussed the possibility of splitting her time. While he wanted her to reach her full potential as a student-athlete, Leone was not thrilled at first.
“It was something that was burning at her and she wanted to do it,” Leone said. “For me, I wasn’t overjoyed about it because I wanted her to reach her full potential as a soccer player. We talked about that and what she needed to do to make up the ground she loses, and she does that.”
Miller was already aware of Baskind’s lacrosse talents while she was the head coach at Syracuse, so despite a delayed start, she was happy to have her on the squad while trying to rebuild a struggling program.
“I think (not playing lacrosse as a freshman) was probably a good thing,” Miller said. “It let the leadership develop in her class on the lacrosse field and when she came in she added a different personality, and competitive spirit and vocal leadership.”
It did not take long for the midfielder to make an impact for the lacrosse team, earning All-Ivy second team honors in her first season. Last year, as a junior, the team elected Baskind as co-captain, and she netted multiple goals in all but two games and claimed All-Ivy first team honors.
“I think as our team improves, they’re recognizing what competitive leadership is,” Miller said. “She practices hard all the time, but she has fun with it. You knock her down and she giggles and get back up and keep going. She always comes to compete … she’s always trying to win.”
Sharing Baskind’s athletic prowess is working out pretty well for Leone as well.
“She brings another experience from another team, and has developed her competitive spirit to another level,” Leone said. “That’s what we gain from her playing another sport. What we lose is just Mel, the person. It’s a give and take between both coaches and we work together to make it work for her.”
Baskind credits the cooperation between her coaches, and lots of understanding teammates as she balances her roles for both teams.
“It is difficult to make everyone happy, but a big part of my success has been working with people who give me the benefit of the doubt and understand that I am juggling a lot of things,” Baskind said. “It is something that is bigger than me that gives me the ability to do all these things.”
Most importantly, Baskind ensures she is accountable to both programs, regardless of the season.
“I try to help each sport off as much as I can in the offseason, whether it is sitting on the sidelines for the offseason tournaments or just keeping up with the girls,” Baskind said. “I just try to make sure I’m good about returning emails and text messages and phone calls, and never get too behind on anything, so even if I’m not there, I know what’s going on.”
“There is no extra, free, fooling around time for her,” Leone said. “Her extra free time is making sure the other team is doing okay and making sure she was still connected with them. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The pre-med student, who was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team selection in women’s soccer last year, has no plans of relaxing after graduation either. Two summers ago, while volunteering in the maternity ward at Boston Medical Center, Baskind decided to pursue a career in medicine. She plans to take the MCAT in January, and after taking a one-year hiatus from her studies, heading to medical school to become a pediatrician or family practitioner.
“I took a look at my life and figured I was juggling so many things here, that I didn’t think medical school would be too crazy of a change,” Baskind said.
“She’s a special kid – there’s no question about it,” Miller said. “We do have a lot of bright kids here, but she’s one who combines academic intelligence, social intelligence and she’s really athletic, competitive and driven. She’s everything you could possibly want. She’s exceptional in all areas. We’re lucky to have her.”