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It’s ‘such a natural thing’ for fifth-year Alex Ciaramitaro to lead two Division I Bradley teams

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Soccer and golf have commonalities, according to Alex Ciaramitaro. He played as a midfielder and defender for Jim DeRose’s soccer team for three years before he tore his ACL midway through his fourth season. 

Now, he’s a fifth-year pursuing his MBA after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He was a self-taught golfer in his youth and this past academic year helped lead the young men’s golf team coached by Jeff Roche.

Both coaches said Ciaramitaro is one of the most competitive players either has worked with. He started 48 of 55 games during his soccer career and played golf full-time starting in the fall of 2019. 

When he was being recruited, soccer programs were mostly targeting him, but he wanted to continue both.

“Coach DeRose called and said he had Coach Roche, the golf coach, who wants to talk to you about potentially playing both,” Ciaramitaro said. “It was kind of out of the blue and I thought that sounded pretty sweet. I jumped on board then.”

Ciaramitaro said he also played golf as an individual during the spring semester in each of his undergraduate years but was unable to fully reach his potential as a golfer.

“He is just an athlete playing golf,” DeRose said. “For him, it’s such a natural thing for him to play two sports. His drive is one of the best I’ve ever coached. He is a competitor first and I think that he is so team-oriented and that’s a great quality. He’s a great teammate and he’s a guy who really wants everyone to do well. He is very self-motivated, hardworking and never is gonna take a shortcut.”

Despite his focus on golf, he still runs and takes part in cardio workouts for soccer players. Golf workouts are more muscle-based.

“For me, running is always like a challenge of yourself to try to go faster, longer, whatever, and it helps me on the course,” Ciaramitaro said. “I know I ran four miles and all I have to do is go hit a golf shot. It’s so much easier. I think that makes me mentally stronger than people I play against.”

His mental strength has also shined through in a classroom setting. Ciaramitaro completed his engineering bachelor’s degree in four years while balancing athletic practices and competitions nearly every week. Both coaches were open to having him on their teams if he could manage his time effectively. 

“I would practice a lot at weird hours of the day [on my own],” Ciaramitaro said. “Sleep wasn’t like a huge thing, it was a priority, but I wasn’t getting a ton of it … Rather than do it in increments, I would stay up sometimes until like three or four in the morning just to try to get it all done.”

The week of Sept. 10, 2018, he popped his knee at practice, but he was determined to play. He earned the starting nod at Purdue Fort Wayne on Sept. 14 and played for 58 minutes before limping off the pitch. He had torn his ACL and worsened the injury during gameplay. 

Ciaramitaro was keen on playing and said he told head trainer Mark Colston to give him whatever he needed to kill the pain before the game.

“There wasn’t enough time where they could get an MRI scheduled before the game and of course I was competitive but dumb,” Ciaramitaro said. “I played on it and the same situation came up that happened in practice. It twisted and basically I could feel there was nothing supporting it and my knee would go whenever I turned.”

DeRose tried to get a medical redshirt for one of his anchors, but Ciaramitaro had played 15 minutes past the NCAA allowance during the season. After he had immediate surgery, the soccer team went 3-5-2 for the rest of the campaign with only one win in conference play.

Ciaramitaro said he was half-for and half-against getting the redshirt because he was afraid of re-tearing. He did not receive the waiver and thus began putting all of his energy toward golf. 

It was the plan for that spring anyways, according to Roche, because he would have exhausted his soccer eligibility.

“Because we only had five, we were lacking that competitiveness in practice,” Roche said. “I was looking forward to him coming. I think [the injury] really solidified his interest in golf. He was able to come in and be fresh and ready to go.”

Ciaramitaro is currently figuring out his plan for next season. He is unsure if he wants to attend Bradley for a sixth year and continue his golf career. He can either continue to pursue his MBA and play golf, transfer and likely do the same or join the workforce. He is on athletic scholarship until at least the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

Although he’s determined to get things done and move on, he’s also a great leader, according to his coaches. 

Soccer is a team-oriented game and the sum of its parts according to DeRose; Ciaramitaro led by example. Now with golf, he does the same and doesn’t get hindered by a bad shot, according to Roche.

“You can’t worry about what the other people you’re playing with or around you are thinking,” Ciaramitaro said. “Because ultimately you’re trying to do what’s best for the team.”

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