SFU's Schaeffer learns a lot
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Many student-athletes aren’t ready for the challenges that arise when they go from high school to college. They are so used to being the best player on their high school team, the Big Man on Campus so to speak.
When they get to the college, some athletes aren’t ready to have to prove themselves all over again. They aren’t ready for the mental hurdles that comes with maybe not starting right away like they did in high school.
Some athletes will take the easy way out and transfer to another school, thanks to the transfer portal. Others will stick it out and try to earn their place on the team. After all, the coaches must have seem something in them right away, because they ended up recruiting them to come to their school.
St. Francis University women’s soccer player Rory Schaeffer learned a lot about herself the first couple of years playing on the soccer team. Someone who was a starter every time she suited up for Sacred Heart Academy, Schaeffer only saw action in two games her first year in college.
Not getting into a lot of contest had to be extremely tough for Schaeffer. That first year, she learned a lot about herself, not just as a soccer player, but as a person - as well.
“I learned how crucial it is to maintain a positive mindset, to always set different goals, and to be open to learning and change. It can be difficult to not see the field as much as you want to; however, I would continually remind myself why I even started playing this sport and the amount of love I have for it,” stated Schaeffer. “I also learned that I am more than just a soccer player. I learned I am a teammate, a student, a friend, and a leader. With lack of playing time I learned more about myself as a person and that helped me to grow overall.”
While wanting to get on the pitch, and help her teammates fight for wins, it allowed Schaeffer to get acclaimed to college life. The transition from high school to college academically might be more stressful that playing soccer.
Schaeffer has always taken her academics seriously while at Sacred Heart, and that carried over to St. Francis, where she already has her undergraduate degree in exercise physiology with a history minor and now is currently in the DPT, doctorate of physical therapy.
“I am in school right now for my doctorate of physical therapy, so I am balancing extremely demanding classes and soccer. In my free-time away from soccer I am pretty much studying everything I can related to my classes or making up any missed assignments,” stated Schaeffer. “I am thankful for my coaches here at SFU as they are extremely understanding of my academic requirements and support me as a student and athlete.”
Back on the pitch, Schaeffer cracked the starting lineup last season, and hasn’t let it go ever since. She has been a staple on the back line for SFU as they compete in the tough NEC Conference.
Schaeffer is a very physical defender and doesn’t mind throwing that physicality around during the matches. Defensive players don’t get much love on the pitch, all the attention goes to the midfielders or goal scorers.
That’s just fine with Schaeffer. She isn’t out there for the accolades. She is out there to help her team win.
“Yeah, defense is no joke. Defense is as much physicality as it is mentality. It is about being able to get through the last 10 minutes of a game when you’re cramping up and tired, but fighting through all of the pain and still giving 100%. It is easy to give up, but defense is about battling through that fatigue,” stated Schaeffer. personally love the physical side of defense- it motivates me to get stronger in the gym, so that I can hold my ground. Whether it is battling for a header in the air, or boxing out an opposing attacker, I love fighting for the 50/50 balls.”
It doesn’t matter at what level someone plays, there is always some kind of nerves before a game. Each player deals with it differently. Schaeffer tries to visualize what she wants to do on the pitch.
She tries to take some quiet time for herself, so she can get mentally prepare to play all 90 minutes, or more, if need be.
“I think a mix of nerves and excitement usually go through my mind. Before every game I always feel a little nervous- not knowing what the outcome is going to be. However, I try to channel my nerves into excitement. Excitement to compete and give my everything. These moments are fleeting and I don’t take any of them for granted,” stated Schaeffer. “Before each game I try to go through a little visualization ritual that might take like 3-4 minutes. I just take some quiet time and really focus on myself and how I want to perform. At the end of the day I can only control myself and my effort, so I focus on how I am going to support the team and play.”
Another thing Schaeffer can control is her mental health. Mental health has been at the forefront, especially when it comes to student-athletes. It is important to be able to find an outlet that doesn’t have to do with soccer, or homework.
Being able to take time for ones self is crucial as things get more intense in the world around us.
“It is crucial to find things outside of soccer and school you still love in order to give yourself a break. I find hanging out with my friends and being outside the perfect break I need away from soccer and school,” stated Schaeffer. “It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of everything, but building even 45 minutes of self-care every day has helped me manage my stress and demands as a student athlete.”