Alumni Spotlight: Jack Todora
The summer after high school graduation, Jack Todora was looking forward to college. He would be attending SUNY Geneseo — and playing for the men’s soccer team.
Then in June, the players learned of a coaching change, Todora says, “and we didn’t find out until a week before we came to campus who our new coach would be.”
As it turned out, Todora liked the new Geneseo coach, got along with his new teammates and had an impressive freshman year. But the uncertainty made for a stressful summer.
He took comfort from his soccer mentors, SDA Director of Soccer Michael Paolini, and Todora’s multi-year SDA coach, Joe Papaleo. Papaleo, he says, shared his love for the game with Todora and his whole team and helped him realize that he wanted to keep playing through college.
“Coach Papaleo gave me the confidence to play through my mistakes. Even on a bad day, he still believed in me,” Todora says. “That now translates to my mentality at the college level.”
He ended up at Geneseo almost by accident.
“I was in Rochester checking out St. John Fisher and Nazareth, and my dad was like ‘Geneseo is a 40-minute drive south; let’s go look.’ As soon as I stepped on campus, I loved it.”
For Todora, of Baldwinsville, the academics mattered most. He was impressed with the business administration major at Geneseo, so he explored the soccer options. The coach quickly recruited him to the team, and Todora was to be one of 10 freshmen for the fall 2018.
With that goal in mind, he kept training with his SDA team, and he worked out on his own. He sprinted every day, knowing he would face a 2-mile timed run as part of his college fitness test. The new incoming coach, Mark Howlett, let the men who wanted to play soccer know that not everyone would be rostered for the new season.
A tryout period began a week and a half before classes, with double training sessions, plus scrimmages, and a fitness test. Todora was one of the five fastest players, clocking under 12 minutes for his 2-mile run. His SDA training prepared him well, and Todora says, “I was confident, going in, that I was good enough and would make a spot.”
Then he strained his hip flexor. He tried to play through the pain. He even scored during a scrimmage. But the injury ended up sidelining him.
Todora still earned a spot on the roster.
He’s a forward. During his freshman season at Geneseo, Todora started in eight games and scored two goals. He says the team is strong and getting stronger. The majority of its losses last season were by one point. “Coach knew we were in there, that we had the heart to win. We just couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”
Comparing college training with SDA training, he says college is even more competitive, with training sessions that started at 6:45 a.m. “We had to be prepared, and our skills had to be sound. We had to know what we were doing with the passes.”
He says each day was a new day, and the starting lineup reflected the players who were working hardest and doing best in practice. Also, learning how to balance soccer and schoolwork was tricky. “Everyone will tell you it’s going to be different from high school, but it’s SO MUCH different.”
With classes, homework, study time and training, “our whole day is taken up,” Todora says. “There’s not really a time to relax.” That’s one benefit of playing for the soccer team. He says a nice, strenuous training session “allows me to clear my head.”