December 11, 2012

Jake Staahl: A Great Example

Italy had Leonardo da Vinci, England had Isaac Newton, colonial America had Benjamin Franklin, and now UCSB can lay claim to its own resident Renaissance Man: Jake Staahl of the men’s volleyball team.

Staahl – a redshirt sophomore middle blocker – has displayed unparalleled excellence in a trio of fields during his time in Santa Barbara: athletics, arts, and academia.

A budding middle hitter on Rick McLaughlin’s squad – as a freshman, he hit an outstanding .444, which would have ranked best on the team had he played the required amount of sets to qualify –  Staahl has also found the time to succeed in his computer science major as well as on the piano bench.

For Staahl, the three passions are inextricably linked.

“I get the same feeling after a loss as I do when I perform poorly on a test or interview, or if I play poorly during a gig,” Staahl said.

The skill to excel in all of these areas did not exactly come naturally. Jake’s evolution into a Renaissance Man can be traced back to when he was still a toddler.

“I first started playing piano at age four,” he recalled. “In middle school, I really got into jazz piano, which carried on into high school, where I got the chance to perform at different jazz clubs.”

The fledgling virtuoso also discovered his passion for computers during his time at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

“High school was when I really got into computer programming,“ Staahl said. “It’s really fun to see that you can create anything with computer language, it’s just a matter of your imagination.”

His knack for programming and science, along with his impressive resume under Harvard-Westlake volleyball coach Adam Black, landed him a spot at UCSB, where he has continued to blossom.

Staahl currently holds a 3.96 grade point average in his major, is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and his name can frequently be found on the Dean’s List.

“I’m really motivated to be a good computer science student,” said Staahl. “I’m just as competitive as a student as I am as a volleyball player.”

With all those academic commitments, as well as a grueling volleyball schedule, Staahl’s multifaceted feats can be described on a spectrum from unexpected to unprecedented.

Yet Staahl is unflappable and understated when discussing his day-to-day life.

“Computer science and volleyball don’t really make my life harder, they just set aside what it is I need to be doing for the day.”

In what little free time he has, Staahl still finds the time to practice his piano skills.

“I actually was asked to play piano at my friend’s wedding last summer,” he said. “That was definitely a cool experience.”

With a bright future surely ahead of him, Staahl envisions a career as a software developer after college.

“I’m hoping that as I get older, I’ll have more time to relax and enjoy my passions,” Staahl reflected. “Be able to go to the beach and play volleyball, play more piano, and still code.”

Don’t be surprised if he has written a bestselling novel and painted a masterpiece by then either.