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Failed Flight Dreams Led Spencer to Windsor

By: Nick Welsh

Sean Spencer’s hopes were crushed. He was rejected mere days before starting his dream program. 

Spencer was supposed to be a pilot. He was one of twenty students that had been accepted into a program with the Royal Military College out of thousands of applicants. 

Just days before he was supposed to leave for basic training, he was called in for additional testing. He was diagnosed with a mild form of Keratoconus, an eye disease that causes the corneas to thin. This disease would eventually leave him with blurred vision and nearsightedness, among other conditions. 

Spencer was removed from his program with the Royal Military College. The Keratoconus prohibited Spencer from continuing with the program, and the college did not seek treatment options on his behalf. 

Spencer then turned to his long-time friend, Anthony Degirolamo, for help. The pair had been playing volleyball together since they were fifteen. Degirolamo passed on the information that Spencer was looking for a university to play to Windsor’s head coach James Gravelle. 

“Gravelle must have pulled lots of strings to get me in. It was a short period; he took me based on faith. We only had one phone call. I was fortunate,” said Spencer.

Spencer quickly received surgical treatment for his eyes but was unsure of how well he’d recover. He started his first year at Windsor majoring in Criminology and Psychology – a degree that doesn’t require perfect vision. However, he immediately realized that this major was not his passion. Spencer still wanted to fly. 

Spencer, with assistance from Gravelle, attempted to switch into the Aeronautics program, but it was too late in the year to make the change. Spencer tried the following year again to switch into Aeronautics. He was initially rejected because of his grade in one course, a grade that wasn’t even his. Spencer’s mark had been incorrectly displayed in the University’s system, and the error was not corrected in time to meet his application date. Spencer was rejected yet again. 

However, this time, he got lucky. Once the error in the system was corrected, the Aeronautics program made an extra spot for him. Spencer was finally back on track academically. 

“[The Lancers] are amazing; it was the only bright spot when I was here before switching programs,” Spencer admitted. “Now it’s even better; we get to learn a lot from Gravelle, he is a genius of the game. He knows so much and absorbing his information is a privilege.” 

Gravelle has emphasized the work Spencer has put in over the last two summers to get better. When Spencer came into his first year, he had not been able to weight train. He was rusty and not as physically fit as his new teammates. 

“He dedicated himself to the weight room and worked on his skills, and by the end of the second year, he emerged as a player who stood out for us in our OUA bronze medal-winning match vs. Toronto last March,” commented Gravelle.

Gravelle also noted that over the last summer, Spencer had redoubled his efforts, pushing himself even further. After receiving high praise from his coach, his teammates started to take notice, as well.  

“Since we started playing together, Sean has always been extremely driven to get better, but he seems to have found another gear in the last year,” said Degirolamo.

Both Degirolamo and Gravelle recognize the capabilities Spencer has as a leader. They both noted that he leads by example on the court; he makes sure everyone is on the same page and keeps a calm presence in tense moments.

Spencer is excited to show his capabilities on the court again this season. 

“We need a little more killer instinct; if we can do that, then the sky’s the limit for us,” said Spencer, looking to the rest of the season.

The team aims to avenge their loss against McMaster from last season’s provincial semi-finals. With some hard work and determination, Spencer and the Lancers Men’s Volleyball team will be “flying high” this season.

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