Geoff Shannon

Balancing the “student-athlete” equation is a matter of philosophy

by Geoff Shannon May 31, 2011 in Lacrosse


Socrates. Plato. Aristotle.


Philosophy majors are a rare breed in lacrosse, a sport that usually funnels players into lucrative careers on Wall Street or Madison Avenue. So, when peering over Villanova Wildcats’ Brian Karalunas’ resume, his collegiate major, so often tied to the image of tweedy professors with leather-patched corduroy jackets, definitely stands out.
“It wasn’t my intention to be a philosophy major,” Karalunas says, laughing a bit. “I stumbled into it, but it’s been great. It’s been a way to think about life differently.”

Philosophy, though, suits Karalunas, the 2011 recipient of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award. His active career as both a student and an athlete at Villanova is driven by his personal philosophy, one built on character, focus and leadership.

“As much as people like to group them together, being a ‘student’ and being an ‘athlete’ are two separate things. I didn’t want to have success in one while making up stuff in the other. I wanted to be successful at both,” says the 2011 Wildcat team captain. “When I arrived at college, that was the plan I had in the back of my mind. If I had an opportunity to extend out on something, I would take that opportunity and focus on that. When I was at practice, I was a lacrosse player.  When I part of a group, I was a group member, when I was a student, I kept my focus on my studies. I took the zoned-in approach.”

Karalunas’ philosophy bore fruit for him over his four-year career. As a student, he finished his academic career with a 3.93 GPA, earning Big East Male Scholar-Athlete honors for his work. He also received recognition for his work on the Villanovan, the university newspaper, as a member of the National Society of Scholars and as a finalist for the university’s Spanish Poetry Reading contest.

His most visible work, though, came on the lacrosse field, as a team captain for the NCAA Tournament participant Wildcats.

As a longstick midfielder, Karalunas prowled the middle of the Wildcats’ defense, always looking to force the turnover against opponents. He finished the year with 74 groundballs and an eye-popping 70 caused turnovers, while leading the team to an 11-5 record and an NCAA Tournament at-large bid (Villanova fell to the University of Denver in the first round).

He was showered with post-season awards, including Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors, Villanova’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year award and USILA first-team All-American honors. 

Even with an impeccable work ethic, balancing sports, extracurriculars and school work was a trying process for Karalunas.

“It wasn’t that clear cut,” says Karalunas, who recently played his first game as a professional with the Long Island Lizards. “There were a lot of late nights, staying up to 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., and you wonder sometimes what you’re doing. But overall it went well. I just realized academics comes first, then lacrosse.”

An extended trip to Latin America is in the works, and in the immediate future, Karalunas plans on attending law school.

This summer, however, he’ll continue his work in lacrosse, playing in Major League Lacrosse and coaching camps and clinics across the country this summer, hopefully sharing the philosophies that helped shape his career with new teammates and younger players.

“I’m going to play as long as I can,” says Karalunas. “And when my legs aren’t good enough to play, I’m going to coach. I love it so much.”