Being an athlete is a strenuous, triumphant, enduring, and life changing experience. Athletes battle on the field and try to prove themselves worthy of honor; athletes look for the long awaiting championship rather than the immediate reward at practice or at one competition; athletes bring excitement and notoriety to the school community, and they work with other accompanying athletes for a collective goal.
This feature focuses on one varsity soccer player’s transition from pure talent to that of a college-bound, self-actualized person.
Chris Zappia (#00), varsity captain and goalkeeper, was recently awarded the All-Conference and All-region title for his outstanding performance during the 2013 fall soccer season.
All the varsity players contributed and put in substantial effort; however, Zappia further bonded the team together as they battled through the challenging season. He made many game deciding saves, advancing the team all the way to overtime in the conference title game.
Many who encountered Zappia can reflect upon his growth as an athlete. He came into high school with a class of skilled soccer players. His prospects to play varsity as a freshman looked strong. There was one essential quality he needed: maturity as an emerging leader on his team.
Most high school athletes start young and play competitive sports for many years before entering high school.
“Well I kinda just started when I was a kid playing on Mini Kickers, with Cody Close, with whom I still play with today. It’s funny how Cody Close (he) was on my first team and now my last (game).”
With the ups and downs of each season, Zappia persevered and persisted in the sport.
“I kinda just ran with it. I played a little bit of indoor soccer, and eventually I entered into club soccer and then from there just ran with it.
No sport ignores the importance of team building and sportsmanship. An athlete alone cannot reach full potential; especially without the aid of teammates and other athletes sharing similar goals.
“Well I played with Conner (Boneham) and Cody (Close) a half year we were on JV (junior varsity) and then Cody and we were on the middle school team from seventh and eighth grade and we continued to work up to our current captain positions we hold this year. Over the years, we have grown to become best friends.”
The 2013 season went down as Zappia’s favorite and most impactful season on the field. With much needed optimism and aggression on the field, Zappia and his teammates propelled into the semifinals against Sanderson.
“We had absolutely 0 people on the outside thinking that we would do anything. While we didn’t do a lot during the regular season, we made it into the finals for the first time since freshmen year,” said Zappia.
As Co-captain of the team, one essential quality Zappia needed throughout the season was belief, reliance, and confidence with himself, his teammates, and his coach, regardless of the rankings and the overhanging sentiment from spectators.
“It was huge due to the difference of talent; but in reality, our success was due to the talent in our core group of guys,” said Zappia.
Juan Esteller, junior and Varsity soccer player, saw Zappia grow morally and athletically into the well-rounded leader he is today.
“He was always constructive and determined despite the adversity the team faced. It was evident through his passion that he truly cared; one time in practice out of anger, he punched a goal post out of frustration,” he said.
“Before games, his speeches always motivated us to perform our best. He is an exceptional and talented goalkeeper and deserves all the recognition All-State and All-Region.”
Growing up in Two Seasons
Superb athleticism is only one of the many qualities athletes must have. A responsible student-athlete must display humility-realizing the limits of one’s own abilities, companionship-working with teammates, and respect for others, especially elders.
“Well I really say the difference between junior and senior year was that I had a lot of growing up to do,” said Zappia.
“I realized if I wanted to play club soccer or Division I team level, that I was going to have to grow up. I had to get smarter, quicker, and better in general, and the decision between Academy and Club was the difference between the best group.”
Coaches often come in a dual role as athletic and spiritual mentors for student-athletes.
Paul Dinkenor coaches the Men’s Soccer team in the fall and the Women’s team in the spring. Since 2007, Dinkenor has coaches and mentor hundreds of dedicated and talented soccer athletes. Despite the broad scope of players, to Dinkenor, Zappia stands out among his teammates and those preceding him.
With the help of mentors (parents, coaches) and teammates, high school student-athletes can undergo healthy cycles of setbacks and recovery, learning from their mistakes and responsibly taking the next step forward.
“I felt like I owed it to Dinkenor and the team to return back for senior year. I personally think high school and Dinkenor were the things I needed because it gave me everything I needed to get to where to where I am today,” said Zappia.
“He had some brilliant games as a junior but he was temperamental and let his emotions get ahead of his technical ability at times,” said Dinkenor.
“This fall he was consistently brilliant. His play in the Cap 8 finals was of the very highest level in all aspects of the game. He is easily our most experienced player and our one true vocal leader. Chris really matured this year as a senior leader,” he said.
“We all wish him the best in his. future soccer career. I’m proud to have been his coach,” said Dinkenor.
“I will miss all my seniors…a true cast of characters,” said Dinkenor. “I thoroughly enjoyed my lads this Fall…great young men, tons of fun in practice, never got disheartened, always bought into the team concept…got very hot at the end of the year and got on a truly exciting run.”
Zappia is likely to play in college, but is currently undecided. Speaking of his plans, Zappia said, “Ultimately I still don’t feel the time is right for a decision. Looking out, I would love to play professionally if I am granted the opportunity to.”