Justin Pastoor – Sports Editor
When an athlete gets to college they have expectations of what their career is going to look like; healthy, expectations of winning, and some conference recognition if they’re good enough. Ryan Couperus was no different. Since he was five, he had been dribbling a ball with his feet and making plays on the pitch with hopes of continuing that trend at a higher level.
“I got to a point where I was having eight practices a week and two games on the weekend. Growing up in Canada I was able to play year round where I lived,” said Couperus. “It also opened me up to a lot of travelling and coaching experiences. I’ve played in 23 states and five countries and have had some of the best coaches I could
have asked for, including the Head Coach of the Men’s Canadian National team.”
“To be honest, he didn’t have a great training session when he came on his visit,” said head soccer coach Dave Schenk. “From what I had seen, I figured he was a JV player. But his coaches from British Columbia continued to talk him up so we took a shot on him.”
The shot turned out to be a great move for Coach Schenk. As a freshman, Couperus was able to come in and start 13 games late in the season for the Defenders.
“He’s a cerebral player,” said Schenk. “He knows the game and tracks players very well. He’s good at picking his moments to move up in the attack. His decision making is very, very strong.”
After a positive freshman year, Couperus entered the off-season with expectations as well; stay in shape, get in the weight room, learn the team better, and improve his skill. All of these expectations became a secondary
desire for Ryan after one night in the early winter of 2012.
“I got in a car accident on my way to trying to help someone that was contemplating suicide.”
“It was on a dark road somewhere in northern Iowa and it was snowing when I slid down the road, flipped several times, went through a telephone poll and landed upside down.”
“I was diagnosed the next morning with a concussion. That was the sixth concussion I’d received up to that point.”
The concussion forced Ryan to head back to Canada for the remainder of the semester. The next month and half consisted of him staying in a dark room trying to recover from the worst of the symptoms; symptoms that stayed with him for the next year and a half through all of his sophomore year. During that period he saw a neurologist from home three times.
After 18 months of questions and uncertainty of the future of his career, Ryan finally got the green light from his doctor that he could resume full participation again, leading the team as a captain. “Ryan’s return to soccer his junior year was something incredible,” said Schenk. “The only noticeable change in his game was his choice of when to put a head on the ball. “His junior year went well enough that we went through the whole off season with the plants of running a three man backfield instead of a four man with the confidence that Ryan and the other two would be strong enough and smart enough to run a man down.”
These plans, once again, were derailed by injury. The day before pre-season practices started in August, the team went out and scrimmaged with who was there. Ryan went down with a knee injury. After going in for a slide tackle, he tore his ACL, LCL, and meniscus, had tears in my Poplietus muscle, and received a bone bruise on my medial condyle. He hasn’t seen the field yet because of it and any future chance of it happening is slim.
“Through all of it I’ve realized I am not in control of my life. I need to stop trying to do things that I want and follow God’s plan,” said Ryan. “I am very thankful with my teammates, friends and family, as they have supported me through these events. Without them life would have been much more difficult.”
“He’s passionate about the game, he’s a great teammate and there’s a part of him that feels like he’s missing out on the field,” concluded Schenk. “He continues to be a great leader, even if he can’t lead on the field. He’s not lost his fierceness as a competitor through all of this.” “He loves his teammates, he loves the Lord and he knows all these things in God’s providence.”