The Sidwell Friends School has long had a solid reputation for providing top-grade education, a primary reason it sometimes draws the children of the famous.

At least two of those children are beginning gain some notice - not because of their well-known parents - but because of their own athletic performances at the Quaker institution.

Robert Mitchell, son of former Washington Redskin football great Bobby Mitchell, led the Friends' football team in rushing this past season, and Dan Rather, son of the CBS correspondent of the same name, is presently the leading scorer on the basketball squad.

Both students admit to feeling the growing pains that accompany living in the shadow of a widely recognized father. But both said they believe Sidwell has provided the atmosphere that has helped them develop their own personalities.

"That's because it's small, so people get to know you better," said Rather, a 17-year-old senior. "Also there's a lot of kids of famous people here in the same situation, so they understand what you're going through!"

From an athletic standpoint, the pressure has been greater on Mitchell than Rather. Mitchell, a 16-year-old junior, stands 6-foot-1 and weighs a solid 185-190. Some outsiders can see an image of his parent, who directs profession scouting for the Redskins and is still revered by Washington fans.

But Robert Mitchells says his father gave him some good advice on that problem.

"My father said to me a long time ago, 'People are always going to associate you with me and you're going to associate you with me and you're going to adjust to it,'" said Robert, who also is on the basketball team and plans to become a vetenarian. "People don't believe me when I tell them my father sent me to Sidwell for school. If he wanted me to play football, he would have sent me to public school."

Bobby Mitchell said he made a conscious effort to steer his sons away from athletics and toward academics. "We have other plans for him. That's why I sent him to Sidwell Friends," he said. "One thing I've never wanted to happen to him is for him to be pressured into being great in athletics because his father played football.

"My son is such a good natural athlete, I couldn't stop him from being a great athlete if he wanted to be. I've been around it all my life. I know. The only reason he isn't rated as one of the best athletes in the city is because we kept him from it. If he turns out to be a tremendous athlete in football or basketball, it will be an added bonus. We'll take it."

Bobby Mitchell and Sidwell football coach Phil Sandifer both think Robert is early in his development as a football player. And Robert says he has a lot of improving to do before he reaches his potential.

Robert, who has been enrolled at Sidwell since the fourth grade, has done well on the field and in the classroom where he has a B average. Last year, he gained a team-high of 668 yards, scored seven touchdowns on 91 carries and also played defense for the Quakers. After becoming a running back late in his sophomore year, he picked up 450 yards and four touchdowns in 64 carries. He was forced to miss his freshman campaign when he developed calcium deposits in his thigh.

Despite wanting to escape the shadow of his father, Robert plans to attend the University of Illinois where his father starred from 1955 to 1958. The school also is his mother's alma mater and his sister, Terri, 18, is a freshman there. The veterinary school is the primary he chose Illinois, although Robert says he also would like to give football a try. "I guess I'm trying to do my own thing," he said. "I like football not just because my father did it. If I choose not to play football, it's all the better to him (his father). But I think I'll try it. It's too tempting not to."

Rather's father takes an active interest in his son's athletic success. And the youngster has a coach who seems dedicated to pushing his field general toward college scholarship.

"He has major college potential, especially if his temperment remains consistent to play the point guard position (which directs the team's offense), said Sidwell basketball mentor Steve Karr. "The main thing is he loves the game enough that he goes out and does the work."

Karr said Dartmouth University has already displayed interest in Rather, and Rather himself has expressed an early preference for Columbia, Tufts and Rice universities.

Dan Martin Rather ( his father is named Daniel Irvin) would like to write poetry and novels. But the influence of his dad is apparent when Dan explains that he hopes to become a newspaper journalist in preparation for his writing career.

Rather, who said he easily beats his father in one-on-one basketball, is averaging a team-leading 18 points a game.

His father, who is a sports enthusiast and did sports broadcasts at a Houston radio station in the 1950s, says his son is an interesting combination of a playground player, from having played in recreational leagues near their Georgetown home since he was six-years-old, and a prep school athlete, where academics come first.

"One of the things I admired most about Dan is very early on he grasped the importance of being well-rounded, to both intellectual and athletic," said the elder Rather from his New York office. "I'm proudest of Dan that he's - I don't want to sound too much like a proud father - Dan has a lot of guts. He's made (what he has) of himself because he's not only school smart, but street smart."

The young Rather has apparently done a good job of handling having a famous parent. "Dan has done a real good job adjusting," said his father. I'm not sure I really could have done as good a job."

Robert Cornelius Mitchell, perhaps sensitive about being called "Little Bobby" by his father's football friends, has developed a sort of identity crisis at Sidwell. "You see, Bobby's not my name," he explained. "People around here call me Neal. I don't know why they started that. My name is Robert."

But when a pretty girl called "Neal," the young Mitchell quickly turned around to respond.

"He'll answer to anything if a girl says it," noted his friend Dan. "He'll answer to 'Hey, Dummy!'"