Jacob Schroeter’s road to recovery

Light at the end of the tunnel for Gaels striker

Schroeter leaps over the Carleton Ravens goaltender during a men’s soccer game this season.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

A defining moment for Jacob Schroeter, for better or for worse was his first playoff game as a freshman Gael against Nipissing in October of 2014.

In the dying minutes of extra time, with Queen’s edging a 2-1 lead, Schroeter tracked back a little further than he had to and committed to a tackle he probably shouldn’t have committed to. 

“And that’s when it happened.” 

He’d suffered a Level 2 MCL tear and wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the post-season.

Laying there on Richardson field, the adrenaline kicked in. “It’s a playoff game,” he recalls thinking to himself at the time. He played until the final whistle blew and “felt nothing.”

The next day he couldn’t really walk and didn’t know what to expect. 

“But I’m a rookie at this point,” he said in retrospect. “I’m not going to approach the coach and say, ‘Oh, I feel a little off — like, I’m not gonna play the next playoff game.’”

That Friday, two days after the game, Schroeter headed to practice. His optimism wavered but, like many in his position would, he pushed through it.  

When the team was running through some finishing drills he really knew. 

“I remember hitting the ball and my knee just … ” Schroeter snapped his fingers to mimic the sound in his knee.  

“That’s when I knew. I never felt that kind of pain before.” 

The team’s athletic trainer, Colin McAuslan, took him off the field.

Rather than be deflated, Schroeter remembered looking ahead with optimisim. “I had at least three to four years left of my undergrad career,” he said. “‘I’m going to do whatever I can to make a positive impact off the field — there’s nothing else I can do.’” 

But, without knowing it at the time, Schroeter would have to take two steps back to take one leap forward. 

***

Growing up in Ottawa, Schroeter had taken great care of his body and had never fallen victim to a major injury. He played for the Ottawa Fury Academy, the city’s local professional soccer team, for the better part of a decade and stayed healthy throughout. 

Upon arriving in Kingston, Schroeter was a constant force for the Gaels from the outset, serving as their go-to striker and goal scorer in his rookie season. Before the tear, he led the team in scoring and was named an OUA East Second-Team All-Star.

Coming to Queen’s was always an attractive option for the now-third year politics major. There was a clear bridge between athletics and academics at the school. But what stood out to him was the program’s atmosphere. 

 “I think a lot of athletes can attest to the fact that you don’t really need to have a conversation with anyone to realize there’s a connection [with a school]. I just knew I was in the right place.” 

*** 

As Schroeter trotted off the field in October 2014, after being pulled from practice due to his injury, he knew he’d have a long road ahead of him to get healthy again.

Nearly five months after that practice, he finally returned to form — cutting and sprinting at will. But he was cautious, as anyone would be, coming off a major injury. 

In August 2015, when the Gaels returned to Kingston for training camp, everything was seemingly in-check. But when he scored against Carleton during the opening game of the 2015-16 season, the pain in his knee began creeping back on him.  

Without any clear evidence of re-aggravating the injury from a tackle or contact with another player, he recalls “it just felt a little funny. ‘This doesn’t feel quite right.’” 

“I was like, ‘This is too many little, little pains in my knee,’” he said of his mindset after the game.

To combat this feeling, trainers started to tape his knee for every practice and every game. 

Continuing to play through the pain, the Gaels and Schroeter were on a roll. The team had won all but one game, and Schroeter was named Queen’s, OUA and CIS Male Athlete of the week. 

While that run was integral to the men’s soccer team, it was short-lived. The next week, in a win against Trent, he tore his MCL again — this time worse than the last. He was demoralized.

“I went from the peak of my Queen’s experience, being Canadian Athlete of the Week, coming back from my injury, feeling like I’m on top of the world,” and he paused, “I just … I will absolutely never forget the pain I felt. It was terrible.”  

He was back to square one. 

*** 

The day doctors told Schroeter he could throw away his crutches, he didn’t give it a second thought.

“Crutching from one end of the campus to the other is impossible,” he said, jokingly.

The athletic trainers did everything they could to get him up to par, Schroeter said, meeting with him as early as 6 a.m. on some mornings. It wasn’t until May 2016 that Schroeter was back to full strength, not worried about his knee and it showed. 

His first week back, Schroeter was named an OUA Athlete of the Week. By seasons’ end, he led the Gaels in scoring with nine goals.

People often approach heavy injuries as dead-ends, but for Schroeter, it something he simply had to play against. 

When asked what advice he’d give to someone in his position a year ago, Schroeter said, “Just take your time.  Physically and mentally, just take your time and everything will be alright.”

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