By Mary Helen Darah
If you want to restore your faith in the younger generation, spend some time with Sylvania Southview High School and varsity basketball player Matt Schaffer. The senior player is currently the third ranked rebounder and the second lead scorer in the NLL. We learned the young man has his eye on the ball and the future as he sat down long enough to discuss school life, being part of a close-knit family — that includes being one of six boys — his collegiate plans and, of course, his love of the game.
What is going through your mind when you step out on the court?
I always find where my family is first. I block everything else out of my mind but them and the other 10 guys on the court. It’s my four brothers (teammates) and me and the other five guys we have to beat. I also focus on the coach—and him yelling at us from the bench.
How do you balance school life as a student athlete?
Basketball is a huge time commitment from the fall until end of the season. Legally we are not allowed to meet one month before the season with the coach and players and for a month after the season ends. For the other 10 months we get right back at it. Basketball helps me learn to balance things in the real world. Coach Smith has us wake up so early and it takes a lot of character and commitment to wake up early every day. Some kids have jobs too.You learn to manage your time. I have learned from being a student athlete that you have to find the balance that works for you.
Are you close to your teammates?
I am really close to them. They are like brothers.If we have a problem we settle it immediately. Sometimes we have to duke it out but when the gym doors close we are all friends. We stay in the locker room and chill out and talk every day after practice.We hang out on and off the court.
What life skills have you learned from the sport?
There is a sense of camaraderie. It’s like a work place. You may not like everyone but there are four other players you have to get along with and work with. That is why we push to be together and work together. Just like in the workforce, you don’t get to pick whom you work with but you have to work together to succeed. I am fortunate because I get along with all my teammates. Coach Smith also taught us punctuality. He believes that 15 minutes early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable. He will send us home if we are late.
I would like to play Division II basketball next fall and I am talking with several universities.I would like a career in physical therapy.I’ve had four different physical therapists. This is the first year that I haven’t been injured. Freshman year,I broke my ankle; sophomore year, I sprained both ankles; and junior year, I separated my AC joint right before the tournament and had to miss it. I realized that I like the environment and the therapists I worked with. I would like to help kids like me recover from sports injuries as soon as possible.I know how much it kills me to not be on the court.
Do you have any advice for student athletes?
Sports are a big consumption of time but it is so worth it.I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t play. It gives you something you love doing and it surrounds you with people you love. It’s not a job, it is something to be proud of. If you can, play multiple sports. It keeps you with the right people. If you have an athlete into bad stuff like alcohol or drugs, they are not there for long.You do it … you’re done. There is no leeway for that. When you put on that uniform you are representing your school and your family.
What are you going to miss the most with the completion of the season and your senior year?
The biggest thing I am going to miss is being with my teammates. I love the home games. Everyone truly hopes you do well and the community comes together to support us and to cheer us on. It’s a great feeling.