Some people run late for everything.
Curt Serafini admits he is one of these people and as a 27-year-old senior at Keene State College, he’s not lying. The Massachusetts native said he had some troubles at his first college of choice, Western New England University (WNE). “It’s more of an engineering and business school and I wanted to major in English,” Serafini said. “Honestly, I went there because their lacrosse team was in the top 10 division three rankings.”
This was 2008. Serafini had just graduated from high-school and was starting a new adventure at WNE, but it soon wasn’t working out for him, especially since the broad-shouldered, six foot two athlete started experiencing some back pains, that put his academics on hold. “I injured my back and blew out the last three or four vertebrae in my lower back region,” he said.
He had back surgery in 2009. Serafini then stayed at WNE for another year because his parents felt the school was too expensive for him to withdraw from. The following year, Serafini was able to be on the school’s lacrosse team again and things were looking up. That is, until the team lost their conference game.
“I didn’t feel like it was worth it then,” Serafini said. So the athlete hung up his backpack and took a year and a half off from college. “I traveled, visited friends at their schools. I did some construction work for my dad,” he said of the time off. However, something was missing.
“I did play recreational lacrosse and hockey, but it wasn’t the same. When you leave college, there’s nowhere to play,” he said. “That’s why I came back.”
Why Keene State College?
Serafini said there were multiple factors for why he choose Keene State. He admitted he was relieved to leave WNE. “I felt like it wasn’t a good fit,” he said. He explained that the coach there was tougher than normal too. “He would make us do sprints or flip monster trucks at 8 a.m. if we had gotten caught partying or doing something that looked bad on the team.”
Serafini said he also had a bunch of friends who played lacrosse at KSC and after he was reached out to by an old friend and former goalie Alec Corliss to look into playing at the college, he decided fill out an application. This was in 2012.
“I was just sick of doing nothing,” he said. Serafini said coming back to school, especially one his parents liked better, was the best choice he had made in a while. “When I first picked colleges, I was so young and naive. I just thought about lacrosse and my naivety just lead me to a bad school,” he said. “I didn’t think about anything besides lacrosse and now I know there is much more. There are some people who [say] sports revolves around them, but for me, I finally felt ready for more.” He said he knew he was wasting his parents money when he first went to college. “You have to go at your own pace and go to class because you want to. I finally had that yearning to go back,” he said.
However, it was not all easy cradling. Many of Serafini’s credits from WNE didn’t transfer to Keene State because they were three-credit classes verses KSC’s four-credit requirement. Serafini said this was a considerable factor in making it difficult to graduate on time.
But that didn’t stop him from opening a new chapter in his life. Serafini continued as an English major at Keene State, focusing in literature. “I write very straight forward with a critical focus,” he said. “I’m not very good at creative writing, I think my professors can agree with that.”
An English professor of Serafini’s was asked about him, but didn’t want to violate student confidentiality, so she passed on the interview.
In the classroom versus on the field
Serafini said he found that playing lacrosse does both help and hurt his academics. “I think lacrosse gives you a good schedule and holds you accountable for meeting deadlines. However, I think it does take up time, so it would be good if we had study halls for our athletes,” he said.
Another way that lacrosse affected his studies was that it beat down on his body, making it difficult to sit in a classroom for hours. “My back problems stopped me from going to class because I was busting my back at practice, so I had to withdraw from a lot of classes,” he admitted.
This past fall semester was different. Serafini took a break from playing lacrosse and focused on his academics. He had a second surgery in April of 2016, and after the surgery, he said it was easier for him in his classes. He took five upper level classes and, for the first time, got a GPA he felt amazed by. “All of my professors could see my demeanor had changed a lot and I felt lot a better,” he said.
This semester, Serafini is back on the field. He said it’s a little weird for him being an older student, but overall, he feels connected to the other players on the team. “There is a bit of a divide between me and the younger players who don’t know me so well, and especially because it seems like I just joined the team,” he said. “But I don’t want to step on any toes. I just want to play lacrosse.”
Head Coach for men’s lacrosse Mark Theriault spoke on Serafini’s behalf. He said that at first, he and Serafini didn’t know if it was going to work out for him to be on the team. “This year was a complete surprise,” Theriault said. “Serafini was in and out of school, some of it part time then full time, and we didn’t know if he was eligible to be part of the team because of what his transcript was saying.” A student is only allowed to play 10 semesters of a sport, but because Serafini’s history was a bit different, it made it hard to follow his journey.
Theriault said he had known Serafini from before. “He played a few years ago on the team,” he said. Theriault said he’s seen Serafini change throughout the years. “He’s grown as a person. Sometimes for traditional students, it’s all about them, but he’s a little more aware of the big picture, knowing that this is his last opportunity to play on a college team. He understands that,” he said.
Theriault said Serafini is better at communicating with others and because of his age at 27, may have more developmental skills that have come into helping him as a player. “His focus has been there. He’s been there, done that with the party scene, so he’s really into school right now,” he said.
As a once non-traditional student himself, Theriault understands better than most the struggles Serafini might face. “I graduated at 25 or 26,” Theriault said. “As a non-traditional student, you realize you’re here for a specific reason. Really, it’s one last hurrah.”
Theriault said he noticed other players being hesitant at first to fully welcome Serafini into their group. “Being a non-traditional student, he wasn’t yet part of the inner group yet, but then they accepted him and saw him as a role model of sorts,” Theriault said, laughing about how they called Serafini an old man. “What does that make me?” Theriault said.
A teammate’s opinion
KSC junior and fellow lacrosse player Paul Beling said he enjoys having Serafini on the team. “Curt is a supportive teammate and is willing to give helpful advice about what he sees on the field, and I think part of that is because he has been around the game for a while,” Beling said. Beling had first met Serafini on the field his first year. “I think some of us were surprised when he came back, but it has been good for the team to have Curt around because of his experience with the game,” he said. Beling said Serafini always has a positive experience, which makes it easy for the team to work with him.
Theriault reiterated Beling’s comments. “He sees the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s very admirable,” Theriault said of Serafini.
Theriault said Serafini’s attitude towards the game has helped him connect with the team. He said, “He didn’t come in expecting playing time. He knew he had to prove himself again when he came back and he’s done a great job of earning the respect of the team.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org