Howard Herman: Pick college first, team second

Sunday November 4, 2012

If you are a high school athlete thinking about playing a college sport, you need to consider your school before your team.

Just ask Williams College football players Alex Scyocurka and Jeff Riemann. To say both have had star-crossed careers at Williams would be an understatement.

Scyocurka had a great freshman season behind All-NESCAC running back Ryan Lupo. He injured an ankle in the first game last year and did not play again. Injuries this year have kept him on the sideline for much of 2012.

"It's been a learning experience. When you don't have football, you have to find something else to occupy you," he said. "It's kind of been beneficial in a way that I've had to indulge myself in my studies and take it more seriously."

It's a good thing Mr. and Mrs. Scyocurka have good health insurance. After the ankle healed up, Scyocurka hurt his right shoulder in the opener with Colby and sprained his AC joint. He missed two games and then hurt his hamstring in the loss to Middlebury.

Scyocurka received a medical redshirt last year. That means the junior still had three seasons of football left to play at Williams. Make that two after the rash of injuries this year.

If Scyocurka was just at Williams to play football, he might be a pretty miserable young man. He didn't pick Williams just because it had a good football team or that it was close to his Longmeadow home.

"I was drawn to Williams particularly because of football. Football had a large part to do with why I came here," Scyocurka said. "It was comforting to know that if I couldn't play sports any more, this would still be a great place to be at."

This hits home for some of us. My son was cut from his college baseball team as a freshman. My nephew was just cut from his college basketball team after being on the team in his freshman season. Both young men continue to matriculate at their respective schools because they want to be at the school -- not simply because of their respective sports.

"Thank God I did that," Scyocurka said. "I came to Williams knowing that if all else failed and if I couldn't play sports again, this would be the best place for me. It has been proven true."

If you picked your school just to play and don't get that chance, then you can be unhappy. That's why Riemann was happy being at Williams, even though he didn't get on the field until his senior season.

Wide receiver is traditionally one of Williams' deepest positions, which sometimes makes it tough for underclassmen to get on the field. Riemann might have been ready last year, but suffered an injury last year. He sprained an ankle twice last year.

"It gave me a lot more perspective. I saw [the game] from the sideline. I got a better perspective on how the coaches saw the game," he said. "It made me appreciate it more.

"It's a fun game. I'm Division III. I'm not going to go pro. Enjoy it while it lasts."

Words for you young athletes to live by.

To reach Howard Herman:,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @HowardHerman.


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