By Gabe Lee
No matter how great an athlete might’ve been at his or her sport, there comes a point when they must be humanized. Perhaps the body breaks down, thus rendering it unable to compete against those who are younger, faster and better; or as in Markus Molder’s case, his years of eligibility to play at the university level have run out. That day is one that no athlete trains for.
When asked about how he felt as his final games in a Ryerson Rams’ soccer jersey drew closer, Molder took several seconds in silence to collect his thoughts before responding with this:
“Five years is a long time. I’ve been playing soccer for Ryerson year after year after year, and it was great, but this time it felt like it was time to move on. I had to write the next chapter of my life,” Molder says. “You go from being the most important person at the school, the guy who gets athletic therapy provided to him every day and everyone bends over backwards for, but the second that whistle blew and you can’t play one more game for Ryerson… you’re done, you’re not valuable anymore and you become a normal person. So that’s how I felt approaching my last couple games.”
The centre-back’s last year with the Rams was his best one in terms of individual recognition. He was named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) first team all-star for the third time in five years and became only the second player in team history to be named to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all-Canadian team.
However, the season ended in familiar fashion for the Rams, being eliminated in extra time of the OUA quarterfinals 6-3 by the Carleton Ravens. It was the third straight year the Rams were eliminated from the postseason in extra time.
“When the whistle blew in Ottawa, I was like damn… I would’ve liked it to end at nationals. But then I felt like now I get the chance to start my life as a part of the real world. I’m not a student anymore, I’m not a boy playing soccer, I get to be a man now,” he says.
A fair amount of athletes struggle to adapt to a world that is no longer so black and white, one that isn’t dictated by wins and losses. Luckily for Molder, he was well prepared by his coach of four years and Ryerson director of athletics, Dr. Ivan Joseph.
Before coming to Ryerson, Molder considered himself a striker. When Joseph took over the role of head coach of the men’s team in Molder’s second year, he began to morph Molder’s game as well as his approach to it.
“Once Ivan came in, he put me in the midfield. [Then] he told me I run like an idiot with his head cut off, so he shifted me to centre defensive-mid, and that still didn’t work, so then he put me at centre-back,” Molder says.
“He has some really natural skill sets,” Joseph says of Molder. “I knew that he could be an all-star in that position. You look for certain tendencies and he had them all in spades. He was a dominant physical specimen, he was a hard tackler, he liked doing head balls, he liked to be in charge, he’s a natural leader, he’s got charisma people will follow.”
“I think if anything I put him in the right position to succeed, but he worked hard for it.”
But Molder gives his coach a little more credit than that.
“He taught me to love the position. As a player Ivan turned me into someone who loves the tactical side of the game. I used to love the playground aspect of the game, Ivan taught me to love the school aspect as well.”
Joseph not only bestowed his knowledge of strategy and technique upon Molder, he also passed along his passion for teaching the game. In his down time, Molder coaches a youth soccer club in the Yonge and Finch area and he plans to attend teachers’ college, hoping to one day replicate the path that Joseph and his father (who is a professor at Ryerson) blazed before him.
Although Molder’s playing time at Ryerson has come to an end, Joseph says Rams alumni are always a part of the program’s family, and Molder is no different.
“Whether that’s coming to games, whether that’s sending us recruits, whether that’s through coaching, he’ll always be connected — if we’ve done our job right asa department, and [I as] a coach,” says Joseph.
As my interview with Molder drew to a close, he took a picture of a painting of the quad, the epicenter of Ryerson campus, which hangs on the second floor of the Rogers Communications Centre with his Blackberry. My final question to him was ‘why?’
“I (expletive) love Ryerson. My mom used to be a doctor here, my dad teaches here. Everyone I know here has been connected to the soccer program and my playing days somehow,” he says. “Everyone wants to be the best in their field. It feels good, but I’d trade all my personal awards for another game for the Rams.”
But for Molder and Ryerson’s back four, it is time for both to move on.