The Other Name Across Their Backs
Every day, hundreds of athletes take to fields across the school, working to bring home an SPC Championship. But there are some, just a few, that find themselves giving up the Lions name in favor of playing for another team.
1-0 game. Time ticking off the clock. One more save, and he’ll have a shutout victory.
The opposing player drives down the side of the field, dribbling towards the goal.
Senior Nick Malvezzi knows it will come down to this. The striker enters the box, plants and fires.
Malvezzi leaps to his left, extending his arms towards the tailing ball. The ball smacks into his outstretched gloves, right as time expires. His teammates run out onto the field, congratulating him and celebrating the victory.
It’s your typical high-school athletic triumph. But there’s just one difference. Malvezzi isn’t playing for his high school.
Malvezzi, who instead plays soccer for the Dallas Texans in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, is just one of many students here who have chosen to forego playing for Lions athletic teams in favor of other programs outside of school.
“When it came time to either play in the Development Academy – the top level of youth soccer in the US – or to join a less competitive team in the club -- which would allow me to also play high school soccer -- there was no question in my mind,” Malvezzi said.
Malvezzi attributes his decision to forgo a St. Mark’s soccer career to the opportunities playing club can offer him that he says the school can’t compete with.
“The youth soccer landscape is one where the best coaches, competition, facilities and opportunities lie in club soccer and not in the high school game,” Malvezzi said. “Not to mention that the private school soccer season is only three months, whereas the club season is year-round.”
Sophomore Daniel Ardila has followed a similar path in tennis, with the ultimate goal of having the opportunity to continue playing after he leaves the school.
“To reach the goal of playing college tennis, I actually have to push myself every day,” Ardila said. “And to do that, I feel like I have to seek training other places, places where my coaches are, places where I can develop.”
Senior Calvin Hosler, who competes for both the wrestling and baseball teams, has worn the Lions name across his chest since seventh grade, both on the mat and on the field. Unlike, Malvezzi and Ardila, he sees his experience playing for the school as a part of his career he could never give up.
“[Athletics] have a huge effect on my spirit and the spirit of the school,” Hosler said. “Sports are where schools can manifest themselves, whether positive or negative. When our teams win and also have class and sportsmanship, it feels good.”
School athletics, Hosler adds, have taught him invaluable lessons that are only learned outside the classroom.
“I've learned how to deal with failure, especially after my injuries and defeats,” Hosler said. “I've also learned important qualities of leadership. Sports have given me an opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself and have that chance to make an impact on other people, especially after being part of St. Mark’s sports since seventh grade.”
Athletic Director Mark Sullivan agrees with Hosler about the impact school athletics can have on Marksmen.
“I think that’s what makes this place special,” Sullivan said. “As somebody who has done the Wilderness Program a number of times as well as managed in the athletics program for a long time, those experiences on teams or in groups outside of a classroom are huge moments in the development process of helping people grow.”
Sullivan doesn’t necessarily see an inherent difference in playing for a team outside of school when it comes to growing and maturing as young men. However, he questions whether coaches and trainers outside of the school environment will have the same motivations.
“They’re still participating on a team,” Sullivan said. “They’re still having those team experiences. Now, you start then separating out, do the adults that are working with them in that setting have the same sorts of goals?”
Kareem Itani ’13 competed on an Academy team similar to Malvezzi’s during his freshman year here. However, after taking a year off from soccer to focus on other aspects of his experience at St. Mark’s, Itani began competing for St. Mark’s during his junior year.
Itani appreciated and enjoyed his time playing for the school, and, even without the exposure club teams can provide, he was still able to advance his career to next level, joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s team after graduation.
“I felt like I was having more fun while I was playing [at the school],” Itani said. “Academy is definitely fun for those who are very, very competitive at soccer, but at some point it becomes more of a burden than a hobby.”
Even though he has decided to focus on tennis outside of school, Ardila agrees with Itani that school sports can provide a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, in some ways. Because of this, he plans to return to the school tennis team for his senior year.
“I think I am missing out, honestly, just on a great social time with my peers,” Ardila said. “I played soccer, too, and soccer isn’t even my main sport, but because there wasn’t as much of a time restriction, I could play those sports in Middle School. I’m just going to look forward to playing as a senior just because, hopefully by then I’ll have the load of college off my plate.”
Unlike what Ardila plans to do, Malvezzi continued to play for the Academy through his senior season, during which he committed to play collegiate soccer for Boston University beginning this fall.
Even though Malvezzi never got the opportunity to represent his school alongside his classmates, he still has no regrets regarding his decision to play club soccer in pursuit of a college career.
“I always strive to be the best in anything I do and reach the highest level when putting my time and effort into something,” Malvezzi said. “The Development Academy allowed me to do both of those things. While I certainly would've enjoyed my time on the field with my classmates, I've enjoyed my club experience and wouldn't trade it for anything.”