Phil Stair: The Sky’s the Limit
Spartan Soccer Senior Spotlight
By Angie Bazzano, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Growing up, Phil Stair competed with his older brother in everything – including the game of soccer. It was that competition that drove the redshirt junior goalkeeper to find his passion in soccer and with the goalkeeper position.
When his brother first received a pair of goalie gloves, Stair wanted a pair of his own as well. It was by a stroke of luck that his brother’s team needed a substitute goalie one game and as soon as he stepped in net, he felt right where he belonged.
The Flint, Michigan, native’s connection to East Lansing began with attending the soccer camps MSU hosted since he was younger and his love for Michigan State can also be attributed to family ties – with both his dad and older brother being Spartan alumnus.
“Growing up I always went to the camps. I just loved it here,” Stair said. “It felt like home away from home. I always knew in the back of my head that my end goal was to make it to Michigan State and play on the men’s soccer team here.”
Deciding to further his soccer career at Michigan State was always something that Stair had given a lot of thought to over the years. When the opportunity presented itself and head coach Damon Rensing offered him the chance to become a part of the program here, Stair couldn’t turn the offer down. It felt like all his dreams were coming true and all his hard work over the years had paid off.
“In the back of my head, it was a dream come true, and I knew I wanted to be a Michigan State Spartan.”
However, the journey that would follow once Stair arrived in East Lansing proved to be harder than he expected, with the mental and physical toughness that was required to be a collegiate goalkeeper at a Big Ten university. Through the ups and downs, his family was always there to have his back and support him through it all.
“I wanted to make it my end-goal to play soccer because I didn’t want to do all that hard work for nothing. They backed me in every aspect,” Stair said. “No matter what decision I made, where I wanted to go, they were there 100 percent behind me so that helped.”
Stair owes the successes he has seen in his soccer career to his family because they were the ones who got him started in the sport and they were there to support him every step along the way on his journey to becoming a collegiate soccer player.
Although his Spartan journey has had its fair share of adversity, Stair quickly learned to embrace his role on such a distinguished and accomplished team to make the most out of his time in the Green and White.
This season, he has strived to take on more of a leadership role on the team by being someone that his teammates can consistently count on, both in practice and off the soccer field.
“I’ve always been there for guys to talk to if they have problems because I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum,” Stair said. “When guys aren’t always having the best time, I’m there and try to bring them aside and talk to them and find out what’s going on. I’m there to give them some support. If I can do anything to help them I try to do my best.”
Being a goalkeeper may not be the easiest position, but in the net, next to the two goalposts Stair found where he was meant to be on the soccer field. And he wouldn’t change that for anything.
“My career’s been up and down, stuff hasn’t always gone my way which is fine, that’s the goalkeeper position, and it’s definitely taught me to be more mature in life and having coaches there to always talk with me.”
The guidance of his coaches during his time at Michigan State have helped Stair remain focused on his overall goal, which has been to become a better collegiate soccer player.
When he suffered a season-ending injury during his sophomore season, former goalkeeper coach Paul Gilbert was always there to support him and let him know that things would get better. Current goalkeeper coach Bret Mollon has also been a strong role model for Stair in his past few seasons as a Spartan.
“He really lit a fire under me and showed me what it takes to be a top collegiate goalkeeper,” Stair stated. “Bret was always there when I had a question. Whenever I needed some help, he was there to point me in the right direction and help me become a better college player.”
Having the opportunity to be a student-athlete at Michigan State has taught Stair to cherish both the academic and athletic sides of his collegiate experience.
“Being able to be a student-athlete has taught me how to balance my day and plan out my days to see how I’m going to get my school work done and also go to practice and give it my all. Soccer has really taught me a lot about that, just being able to balance that.”
Stair learned to find his balance with soccer and academics as he achieved Academic All-Big Ten honors for the past two seasons. This is also attributed to being a part of a men’s soccer program that values the importance of academics, as they were awarded the highest men’s team GPA for two years in a row.
“I think that says a lot about us that we’re able to excel on the field and off the field,” Stair stated. “I think that’s a lot due to our coaches, preaching that school does come first and also the guys on the team always pushing each other to do better.”
With a successful regular season in the books and the NCAA Tournament still to go, Stair believes that this team has what it takes to go far in both tournaments.
“I always keep saying the sky’s the limit for this team. This is a really close-knit group. This team is special and I think we can go a long way.”
The culture that surrounds the Michigan State men’s soccer program has had a strong influence on Stair. The values of hard work and perseverance have been instilled in him since he first stepped foot on campus four years ago and started his journey of being a Spartan.
“Being a Spartan… I think it’s definitely something that you take on with you the rest of your life,” Stair said. “Being a Spartan is being someone that’s dependable that people can count on all the time. Always showing up and giving it their all, no matter what they’re doing.”
His major of economics has taught him how to expect the unexpected with problem-solving and work through difficult problems, which also has translated to the soccer field and other aspects of his college career.
As he graduates with his Economics degree in May, Stair is currently working on a proprietary product with two other business partners. He hopes to see success in the product and for it to take off in the coming months.
For now, he will cherish the last few months he has in East Lansing with his teammates, knowing that his dream of being a Michigan State Spartan has come true as he will truly be a Spartan for life.