Gavin Schaffer has never allowed himself to be pigeonholed as solely an athlete, despite a successful volleyball career. And those who might be tempted to view him as such need look no further than his Twitter page for proof of that.
His handle is “President Schaffer.” Because quite often that has been his title.
Spent four years as his class’s top elected official at Warwick High School, and this year has served as student body president at Division-II Belmont Abbey, in Belmont, N.C.
In that guise the senior’s responsibilities veer far and wide. He has during his term worked with the school’s administration on such diverse matters as expanding the curriculum and extending dining-hall hours for athletes whose practices might run long. And his overall goal, he said, is quite simple: “Making sure that everyone else is happy, because I want them to enjoy their four years here, just as much as I do.”
And, he added, “I always liked being involved in those sorts of things, trying to be the voice of the students, trying to … give them an opportunity to speak up, when they feel like they don’t really have the chance.”
And so he has, while at the same time improving yearly on the court — the 6-7 opposite is third among the Crusaders (4-8) this year in kills (81) and blocks (17) — and helping a new coach find his footing.
Along with that is the none-too-small matter of plotting a course for his future.
So hail to the chief on all counts, because not only is Schaffer on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in sport management (and a minor in business management), but he also has a job lined up, in outside sales for Pollart Electrical Sales, in Bensalem.
“It was so stressful over winter break, trying to find things,” he said. “I didn’t want to wait around until March and be like, ‘Crap, I’ve got to do something.’ It was nice to finally get a yes from someone.”
He had been hoping for something in sports, having interned last summer for the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, and in the fall at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But he has an open mind, not to mention the promise of a paycheck.
“It may not be in sports,” he said, “but I always felt this is something I can do, get some good sales experience. Maybe I can go back to sports. Maybe I’ll love this, and I’ll stay here.”
His territory will include not only southeastern Pennsylvania but also southern New Jersey. And the new job will come after a career that has seen its share of twists and turns.
Schaffer had played basketball and baseball until the spring of his freshman year at Warwick, but as he put it, “Baseball wasn’t always really my thing.”
It was just about then that he crossed paths with Warriors volleyball coach Nate Gajecki, who suggested he give his sport a try.
“So,” Schaffer said, “I just started playing and going, ‘Hey, I’m not that bad at this. I can probably do this a little bit.’ “
He progressed quickly, latching on with the Yorktowne Volleyball Club and going to nationals in Dallas, Texas, his sophomore year, and twice earning all-Lancaster-Lebanon League honors — as a second-teamer his junior year, and a first-teamer his senior year.
He began attracting Division-III recruiting interest, notably from Juniata, Elmira and Stevenson. But Belmont Abbey contacted him late. And during a visit he liked the look and feel of the place. Liked the fact that it was small (1,700 undergrads). That it was just 15 miles west of Charlotte. That students can really get to know their professors, and that there were networking opportunities as well.
“People say when you’re looking at colleges, when you know, you’ll know,” he said. “Really, it felt like home.”
The program was in just its third year when he arrived, so he has been able to grow with it.
“Every year it’s a different kind of learning curve,” he said. “Over the years I feel like I’ve personally developed, and taken a little more onus on myself.”
On that score first-year coach Nelson Albrecht wholeheartedly agrees. Albrecht played alongside Schaffer as recently as two years ago, then became the interim boss midway through last season, when Sean Manzi departed. (Volleyballmag.com reported that Manzi left to be with his wife in Canada, though he actually didn’t marry until June 2017.)
Albrecht praised Schaffer for his “huge maturation” — for not only his skill development but his leadership of a young team. Along with that he has been fully supportive of the new coach.
“It felt comfortable,” Schaffer said of the transition, “because I’ve always respected him, so it wasn’t weird having someone I just played with step into that kind of role — because he’s always shown he’s a true leader, and I had full confidence in him that he was going to be a great coach. And so far he is.”
The season moves along, and Schaffer’s career winds down. He wonders at the way four years have melted away, but likes what he will leave behind, a president having again served well, again done his best to make his little corner of the world a better place.