Honoring Katie Meyer & the Depth of Her Impact
A reflection from former Stanford student-athletes
By: Sam Tran (Stanford Soccer ‘20), Nadia Fingall (Stanford Basketball ’20 | Timeout Player Engagement Intern), and Mikaela Brewer (Stanford Basketball ’20 | Timeout Head of Content & Research)
Honoring Katie & Reflecting on her Legacy
Sam Tran: When I first met Katie I was instantly captivated. I initially met her when we were both working at a Stanford soccer camp over summer. I was an incoming Junior, Katie an incoming freshman. She intimidated me. Her confidence and comfortability in all kinds of spaces, with all kinds of people, really took me back. But it deeply intrigued me and deeply resonated with me. She wasn’t on the active team yet, and had yet to even start her Stanford career. But here she was, literally already running the place. I felt like I was the timid incoming freshman, and her the beaming seasoned veteran. She was the loudest, most cheerful, and most playful coach at that camp. Comfortable and confident in herself, while simultaneously making others feel comfortable and confident in themselves. No one could make you feel more heard or valued like Katie could. No one could drag out a shooting drill demonstration longer than her. That day at camp I also got a glimpse into just how competitive and relentless she could be. She was in goal, helping out with a shooting demonstration. Older campers were the ones shooting, and she absolutely refused to let any of them score on her in this demo. Shot after shot she blocked, and this simple shooting demonstration somehow lasted for almost 10 minutes. Despite her ruthlessness in goal, her charm and empathy kept the kids motivated and hungry to keep shooting against her.
I remember thinking “Okay girl, take your foot off the gas a little,” but in hindsight what a foolish thought for me to have. Metaphorically, her foot was always on the gas, always the one driving. I walked away from that day in awe of this powerful force who would soon be joining us. And I sit here, a few years after that day and I just feel grateful to have been one of her many passengers along the way.
From the first time I met her to the last time I saw her, she was always Katie–loud, cheerful, playful, loving, inspiring, courageous and accepting. She felt deeply, sang loudly, danced freely, and existed unapologetically. Her energy was so full that it had no choice but to radiate and touch others.
Even after physical life, the photos, videos, and memories shared of her are still just as captivating and infectious. She will forever be easy to remember and honor. I feel so fortunate knowing that, because of Katie, I am forever connected to so many others–regardless if we know each other personally or not.
I love you Katie, thank you.
You opened my eyes to how I wanted to be living this life.
I know I will find and feel pieces of you in everything I do and everywhere I go. When I’m feeling courageous, bold, hopeful, passionate, and beautiful I will feel you there with me. When I am the truest, most authentic version of myself, I know you will be there with me.
You have always been everything, so I find comfort and peace in knowing that I will always know where to find you.
Note: Sam Tran’s contribution to this article was also shared on her Instagram here.
Nadia Fingall: That championship game: a defining moment for her and something that will stay in my mind forever. Her tenacity, her passion, her skill, her love all shone through at that moment. Everyone remembers her viral video (8:25). What struck me the most about those penalty kicks was that regardless of the outcome of the previous one, she stepped into the goal projecting the same brazen confidence as the one before. I admired her from that moment on and will continue to strive to have that same level of confidence in self and ability to move forward with unmatched passion and power.
Mikaela Brewer: What always struck me about Katie was her dedication to raw, unfiltered passion — she wasn’t afraid to allow it to firmly hold space and diffuse to each corner of her reach. The depth of her impact is inspiring and galvanizing and left thriving roots beneath the entire Stanford and athletics community. I remember seeing her brilliant, blazing smile at all of our games, cheering with her chest. We know that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but Katie’s had this distinctive, refreshing ability to reinvigorate others — to give energy to energy, instill new forms of it, and create it where it wasn’t before.
High Performing Student-Athletes Experience
No two stories or experiences can ever be the same. Even so, we aren’t alone, because we share what something feels like, even if the trails we walk are different. Even if they’re the same or similar, there are always paths between, to, or away from them that are unique to us.
Thinking of Katie, we’ve noticed how our spirits have interacted with many of the same pressures and expectations, and perhaps most vividly: to be validated by performance and perfection. We’ve navigated the athletic ecosystem, trying our best to offer the benefit of the doubt to harmful dynamics that continue to impact and influence us in complicated ways. We’ve walked the line of systemic shortages in mental health care (and funding), and grappled with the misunderstanding that athletes are able to leave their lives at the door when they step into their sport. We know that “mental toughness” — as it’s understood — needs a thorough re-pot and watering.
Many Stanford student-athletes are seeking the best of both worlds — a combination of top-tier athletics and academics. They are seeking to be surrounded by like-minded people. Throughout your career you learn a common theme: we all struggle at some point, and we all know that the struggle is underlying.
Mental health and wellbeing are the social determinants of health — economic stability, education access & quality, health care access & quality, neighborhood & built environment, and social & community context. These are not the same thing as sport or performance psychology, though the two are intensely intertwined. An unchecked box may be the root of mental health challenges and difficulty performing athletically. However, these boxes being checked does not mean that someone can’t experience profound mental and emotional pain. Privileges and pain always coexist.
Athletes are human, and our ability to bury our humanity is impressive, but we cannot confuse or equate this with strength.
Call to Action & Questions to Ask Ourselves
The truth is, we can’t take care of ourselves when we so rigidly believe we should be able to and are told we should be able to. Right now, our community needs help.
Upon hearing the news of Katie’s death, a complicated mixture of emotions struck — grief, confusion, sadness, anger, and fear. In the days and weeks that followed, we are still searching for our own ways to navigate this tremendous loss.
As a community, we are worried. In many ways, we feel isolated and separated. In many ways, we feel more connected than we ever have been. We’re struck by Jonathan Larson’s quote, “Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution, if we’re so free?” We have more questions than answers, and we can only answer them together. Perhaps these are a place to start:
- How are we supposed to feel? What are we supposed to do? How can I help? Why do we say we’re here and choose when to see the crossfire?
- Why, when it beats our own heart, do we toxify pain’s pathway when we’ve never known where it leads?
- Why can we turn on a light for a soul on the edge of life, and not our own?
- Why does it take signposts — words — that can’t capture emptiness, before we find the faith to believe?
- Speak or silence — which hurts more?
- Are we toxic or brave when quiet is loud? How do we hear it?
- How do we believe it without faith, because our ears feel as though they were never made to hear our own silence?
- Why are we so willing to be there, when alone feels safer, because alone in pain, nobody has to carry it?
- Why does hurt feel safer in our own hands, even if it kills us?
- Why do panic and horror break the levee when someone holds our torment? Why do we ache when we offer to hold theirs, and they won’t let us?
- Why should we forage for answers when there are invariably more questions, and when awareness & tolerance are easier than change because we haven’t found its frontier?
- How can we shuffle and crawl past emptiness and still extract?
- Why do we only choose life — to fight — because we’re afraid of how giving up might lacerate those we love?
- How can we carve purpose from abandonment, because we love when we are most powerless?
- How can death feel comforting, while we fight to save lives?
- Why do we rest on conversation?
- Why do we lose interest in crisis when we believe our choices in freedom reflect our character?
- Whose hands are stained when being needed and wanted aren’t enough?
Looking for more connection & community?
Join us on Zoom for a guided workshop, teaching, grief-based activities, and open conversation with Mikaela Brewer, a suicide loss table host with The Dinner Party.