By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos courtesy of Army West Point
Athletes have different reasons for why they choose they path that do when it comes to making their colleges decisions. Some decisions are as simple as it just being the right first both academically and athletically.
Other may choose a designation because their family members may have attended the institution and it was destined from birth.
When it comes to choosing a different path, the decisions may be harder. Choosing to continue a military school is never easy. There has to be a lot of though that goes into why someone would want to give up the “normal” college life and take on the rigors of a military education and training.
For Army West Point hockey player Cody Fleckenstein choosing the academy was an easier decision than one might think. He has family that has already gone through the military life, and he wanted to make a difference.
“My uncle came here, and graduated in 1995,” stated Fleckenstein. “It’s just a chance for a great education, and he talks about all the relationships he has with some of his classmates. When I heard that it was kind of a no-brainer to play Division I hockey, and build relationships that will last a life time. My dream was to be able to come here, and I am very happy for that.”
Just thinking about what a military education entails could make it a daunting task for any new recruit. Freshman walking in might not know exactly what hit them as they get ready for “Beast”. The rigors of playing a Division I sports is hard enough, now add in a top notch education and military training on top that and it makes the thought of going even harder.
For Fleckenstein, however, he knew this was the path he wanted to go down, With a rich history of military service in his family, Fleckenstein knew all the pros and cons of what a military equation will bring.
“We have a pretty rich family military history,” stated Fleckenstein. “So, being able to follow in those footsteps is an honor and a privilege. I wake up every day and I am very thankful for that.”
Fleckenstein was no stranger to a strict regime.
Starting his high school career at St. Francis High School, an All-Boys Catholic school in Western New York, Fleckenstein was used to the strictness of what school can bring. Catholic schools have a very strict dress code and when it comes to their appearance hair length and other things are taken very seriously.
While he enjoyed his time at St. Francis, Fleckenstein transferred to Nichols School, a prep school in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Nichols is known for they rigors academically, and their hockey teams.
There Fleckenstein was able to express himself a little more, while still dealing with the strict dress codes. Going to these two schools helped him better prepare for what he was going to encounter when stepping foot on campus for the first time at West Point.
“I loved it (at Nichols),” stated Fleckenstein. “My first couple of years, I kind of struggled a little bit with it - especially coming from St. Francis. The biggest difference was you go from an environment where is was very regimented. At Nichols, it was a little bit more open. It allowed to grow a lot as a person, and a leader. The environment that Nichols provides is definitely a growing environment. You can push yourself, and you can just be yourself and that will happen.”
The commitment that Fleckenstein’s family put in is not lost on the sophomore. Coming from Fredonia there wasn’t many opportunities for Fleckenstein to continue his career. So, him and his family, decided to make the jaunt to Buffalo to see what opportunities where out there.
The travel was an hour each way, and in good weather, just so he could pursue his dream of playing Division I hockey and earning a great education along the way.
“There came a point and time where my friends wanted to stay and I wanted to go to Buffalo to pursue my career,” stated Fleckenstein. “I was fortunate enough to make a AAA team about an hour away from house. Every couple days a week my parents would have to drive me up there. I can’t say enough about their sacrifice, it’s something that I’ll look back on. I make sure to say thank you to them everyday, because without them I wouldn’t play junior and prep school hockey.”
After a successful junior career, Fleckenstein stepped foot on the hallow ground of West Point. He knew going into his freshman year that it would be hard. But, he was also able to go through the experience with some familiar faces.
Fleckenstein is one of a handful of young men and women from the Western New York area that calls the academy home. Having those fellow Western New York connections allowed Fleckenstein to get comfortable with his surroundings right away.
“I love Zach (forward on the hockey team and WNY native. We drive home together all the time,” stated Fleckenstein. “We have that Buffalo connections where you just kind of get it. He’s just one of those Buffalo guys that just gets it. It’s something that I really cherish here.”
While only a sophomore, it’s never too early to think about where his post hockey career will take him. Going to West Point, or any military academy, you need to serve five years after graduation.
It’s a big deal to make sure you want to get in the branch that you put down. It will define the next years of yourself. While Fleckenstein is focused right not on his studies and hockey, he still has one eye on the future.
“I like to be in the infantry. It’s the branch that I feel gets you the closest to your soldiers,” stated Fleckenstein. “As far as a career I’m not really sure what will happen. We will see what happens (down the road). I wouldn’t mind an Army career, really.”