Nate Kratch ’15 had an outstanding year for the Broncos, but he's got nothing on his grandma.
For three generations already, Nate Kratch ’15 and his family have helped pay the bills with a ball. His dad, Robert, notched eight seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl in 1991 with the New York Giants. His mom, Kristi, was a high jumper at University of Iowa. Brother Colby played tight end at Toledo and is a graduate assistant at Michigan State.
Even one grandmother, Dorsey Anderson Dinkla, played for the All-American Red Heads, a barnstorming basketball team enshrined in the pro basketball hall of fame in 2012.
“It’s like any normal family,” Nate says. “Sports are just a huge thing for us—the way other families who are big into art or music.”
Nate has never seen his grandmother shoot a basketball. They have however, had conversations about the peculiar rules of women’s basketball back then: each team had nine players, the court was split into thirds, only three dribbles per person.
Growing up in an athletic family does change some things though. Heightens the stakes, so to speak. Example: Kratch played football early in high school—tight end and defensive end—before ultimately deciding to focus solely on basketball. Normally, not a big deal. But when your dad played in the NFL, quitting football means you’re potentially turning your back on millions.
“I was worried how people would react. Just because I went to a small school, so it would be a big hit to the football team,” Nate says. “A lot of people were like ‘Aw, Nate you should play both. You shouldn’t do that. Your dad played professional football.’”
Fortunately, no pressure came from dad. Bob, who tipped the scales at 288 pounds during his playing days, found he loved antiquing and interior design after football. So, he bought an old barn in Minnesota and opened up his own furniture store. Quitting football was a non-issue.
“He didn’t really care. He wasn’t trying to live through me,” Nate says. “He didn’t want to force anything on me. He was happy I was able to make a decision because he saw how much I loved playing basketball. He saw I was just making a decision for myself and chase after something I really desired.”
Step outside yourself
Self compassion isn’t a skill many athletes learn. Hard work. Competitiveness. Accountability. Sure. Cutting yourself a break? Not usually. And for Nate Kratch, it started to get in the way of his performance.
“If I was playing well or had a good practice, it wouldn’t affect me as much,” Nate says. “But if I had a practice or wasn’t playing that well, it would affect me a lot. Then not being available to guys and helping guys out, I’d be more self-absorbed and in my own thoughts.”
That’s one reason Nate chose psychology as a major. He wanted to help himself improve as a person and a basketball player. And the coursework has helped. He led the Broncos in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and was third in scoring (10.8 ppg).
It also helped him become a better leader. He learned to become more vulnerable and identify the struggles that everyone has.
“I can be more available to guys, instead of being so self-absorbed and thinking, ‘Oh I messed up that play’ and kind of being in my head,” Nate says. “It lets me let that go, be open and help guys who need help and kind of coach guys on the court.”
Off the court, Nate shined brightly, too. He earned his psychology degree in three years and will complete a master’s in 2019. He plans to go into sports psychology or marriage and family therapy. His basketball career ended in the West Coast Conference tournament against Gonzaga, but his academic career will continue next year. He might even serve as a graduate assistant.
“In the past I didn’t think I wanted to be a coach,” Kratch says. “But being in my senior year, I just noticed how much I’m going to miss it and miss the team environment.”
After that, he thinks he’ll stick around. “I kind of fell in love with the Bay Area—Santa Clara, San Jose,” Nate says. I love the people I’ve met.”