Trading the field for a diploma: FDU Knights look back and ahead
Above: Seniors Corbin Gapski, left, and David Gaylord, right, on the field and green during their final season as Knights. (Photos by Larry Levanti)
By Sara Chamberlain
What does it take to be a Division I student athlete and senior with graduation on the horizon? Five graduating Metropolitan Campus seniors share the lessons they learned on the field and how the struggles and triumphs of a being Knight prepared them for life after graduation.
Arriving at FDU
Women’s bowler Liat Vizenfeld decided to attend FDU after seeing the women’s bowling team win the NCAA Championship in 2010 on TV. “I always knew I wanted to attain my bachelor degree in the U.S. The women’s bowling team winning a national championship was the deciding factor for me to come to FDU,” says Vizenfeld.
The Holon, Israel native traveled to the U.S. to meet with Head Coach Mike LoPresti even before being accepted onto the team. “My coach from Israel contacted Coach LoPresti by email, which was followed by me coming to New Jersey to meet him. Later on I was happy to hear I was accepted to the team,” says Vizenfeld.
The psychology major with a minor in business did not enter FDU via a traditional route. “I was lucky enough to have the advantage of age and experience. Unlike many student athletes, after graduating high school I went to the military for two years and then came to FDU. As a result, at the age of 21, I was mature and disciplined enough to adjust smoothly to the demanding lifestyle of a student athlete,” says Vizenfeld. (Editor’s note: military service is compulsory in Israel.)
Right: Senior and bowler Liat Vizenfeld.
Baseball player, Knightro mascot and FDU Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) President Corbin Gapski came to FDU because of its proximity to New York City and to play baseball. “I was recruited to play baseball here at FDU, and chose to major in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in sports administration because of the sports mecca of New York City being so close by,” says Gapski.
The Syracuse, N.Y. native did not lead a customary student-athlete life while at FDU. “When I was let go from the baseball team my sophomore year, there were people who felt sorry for me for getting a ‘raw deal.’ But when I was let go, I decided I could either sit and sulk in my room, I could transfer or I could do something about it and adjust to it.”
Gapski chose to adapt by becoming involved in the athletics department. “I went into athletic communications and said, ‘I want to volunteer for you.’ I did have more free time when I started volunteering and adapting myself to being a non-student athlete. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity in the athletic department and to try all of these new things if I was student-athlete all four years, so it was a blessing, in a sense, to be let go.”
Men’s golfer David Gaylord, a marketing major with a concentration in digital marketing, was being recruited by several Northeast Conference (NEC) teams, but ultimately decided on FDU. “The golf coach was extremely nice as was the location of the University,” says Gaylord, a native of Tweed, Ontario, Canada.
Women’s softball player Megan Reiner, a science major and a native of Los Angeles, Calif., came to FDU because it was an opportunity to receive her college education in return for playing the sport that she loved. “I was recruited in the beginning of my senior year of high school,” says Reiner. “My coach had watched me play in tournaments on the West Coast, invited me on a campus visit and then offered me a scholarship.”
Baseball player Eric Snyder, a psychology major with a minor in philosophy, pursued his lifelong dream attending FDU. “Growing up in a small town, I had a strong desire to get away,” said Snyder, of Slatington, Pa. “FDU was perfectly placed, just far enough away from my hometown. I was recruited by Coach Gary Puccio to play Division I baseball,” he continued. “Playing for a DI program was a dream come true.”
Work hard, play hard, study harder
“Academics are a main priority,” says Reiner, “however, I also have to perform in softball if I ever want to see the playing field. In between, or even before class starts, there’s some time for practice.” Reiner found that being a student athlete helped her learn time management. “My schedule tends to change constantly, but I was usually either playing games or practicing six days of the week. Somewhere between that I went to class and finished homework. Balancing athletics, academics and a social life can be very difficult and stressful.”
Above: Seniors Megan Reiner, left, and Eric Snyder, right, pitch their way to a successful final season as Knights.
Snyder, on the other hand, “found a balance in my school work and social life through my friends. We were all in this together, everyone had something to do academically and with that we pushed each other to do well in school so we could continue to compete. My team became my family; we did everything together. We helped each other grow as successful athletes and members of society.”
Even as an older student, Vizenfeld says, “finding a balance was very hard. I remember specifically struggling with it my freshman year. After that I got a better idea of the bowling schedule. As a result I was better able to schedule my classes. Planning ahead and prioritizing helped me balance bowling, schooling and friends. Unfortunately, for me to achieve high results both in sport and school, my social life had to come in last.”
Being a student athlete and participating in other activities helped to prepare both Gaylord and Gapski for their futures, too.
Gaylord, as a member of the Student Government Association for four years and business entrepreneur in his native Canada, really balanced his time. “Each day I have my scheduled prepared, which I follow quite strictly,” says Gaylord. “Since I had to keep up with my duties on the SGA, the golf team, the classroom and the job I have back in Canada, I had to stay extremely organized. Throughout my four years at FDU, I moved up the ranks of the SGA, starting as the sophomore class representative, then treasurer, and finally president. This experience taught me the power of delegation.”
For Gapski working as an athlete and in the athletics department was very helpful. “I did get to experience everything here at FDU being a student athlete, working in athletic communications, being a mascot and trying all of these new things, like being president of SAAC, which I never thought I would be,” says Gapski. “In my senior year, balancing student and work obligations prepared me to be a better student athlete when I returned to the baseball team, to be a president of SAAC, while representing athletic communications and while representing student athlete support services. I learned time management.”
What the future holds
“My future plans include attending graduate school for sports and performance psychology,” says Snyder. “The biggest lessons I learned from playing a sport are the power of hard work, dedication and teamwork. I found that quite literally: TEAM — Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Vizenfeld is waiting to see where the future will take her. “I am currently waiting on an answer from the University of Pennsylvania. I applied for their pre-medical program. If everything goes right, the plan is to attend UPenn’s medical school and become a psychiatrist. My goal is to help people become the best version of themselves as well as conduct research.” Through her experience as a DI athlete, she learned two big lessons: “First, fight for what you want. If you put enough effort and will into it you can achieve anything you want. Second, anyone can win, but there is only one winner. If it is not you this time it will be you next time.”
Reiner plans on attending graduate school to pursue a career in physical therapy. “I will be working in a physical therapy office and gaining experience in my field for the next year.” As for a life lesson, she says, “Playing sports while going to college is extremely difficult. I learned not only to manage my time but also that not everything is easy and if I want something I have to work harder than the people around me to get it.”
Gaylord has already secured a full-time position for after graduation. “On June 15, I start with e-commerce giant, Shopify. I accepted this job offer in January and am very excited for the opportunity to develop my e-commerce skills. In addition to work for Shopify, I plan to work on my own business, Gaylord Designs, where I will develop e-commerce stores for small and medium sized businesses.” Through his years on the green he learned a valuable lesson, “Never give up on a round of golf.”
Gapski heads out to the University of Cincinnati in Ohio to pursue a master’s in communications, where he will be a graduate assistant in student athlete support services. “Failure prepared me for the professional world; that failure set me up for some better opportunities. This helped me be ready to find the things I wanted in life,” he says.
As these athletes head onto a bigger playing field, they carry with them the experiences of playing DI sports, which required dedication and focus, and taught them to strive for excellence.
Share this feature story: