LANGLEY — On the scariest day of Adam Schriemer’s life, doctors couldn’t guarantee his survival.
They later wondered if he would walk, then figured if he did, it would only be with a pronounced limp.
Sports? Any kind of demanding physical activity?
All of this, of course, has been told to him in story form.
“I was young enough not to remember any of it,” he says of suffering extensive burns down the left side of body during a household accident at the tender age of just six weeks.
And wise enough, it turns out later, to ignore the prognostications about his perceived limitations.
On Friday, as the starting setter on the nation’s No. 1-ranked men’s volleyball team, Schriemer will take to the court with Langley’s Trinity Western Spartans as they battle the Alberta Golden Bears in the opening round of the Canada West’s Final Four championships at the University of Manitoba.
Nothing, it seems, including the traumatic stage of his infancy, has stopped him from reaching his full potential.
Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 225 pounds, he is both keenly intuitive and ultra-athletic, quarterbacking his team in a sport of lightning-quick bursts and reactions.
And while there have been many hurdles to overcome on his journey, Schriemer’s unique package of both the physical and the mental have carried him forward to a place among the collegiate game’s elite.
“The players at this level are so good that if you have a deficiency in any area, you’re probably not going to have enough to overcome it,” says Spartans head coach Ben Josephson, who last season guided the team to it’s third national title in the past six seasons.
“Sometimes you will find a player who has the will to overcome, but doesn’t have the talent. Or they can have all the talent, but they don’t have the psychological tools.”
Schriemer clearly has both.
All the fourth-year Winnipeg native did this season was help lead the Spartans to a 21-3 record from the game’s most cerebral position, his 10.28 assists-per-set second best in the conference.
As far as height goes, Schriemer stands right in the middle of his two brothers, one 6-foot-5 and the other 6-foot-8.
Reach those kinds of heights and you are sure to experience a number of growth spurts, something Schriemer was certainly not exempt from.
Yet the periods of rapid growth proved especially painful.
“The problem was that when I was growing really fast, that my skin was so tight from the skin grafts,” he says. “They would take skin from my other leg to the burned leg, but I remember growing so fast my skin was ripping.”
There have been other issues as well, including some nasty knee pain which has been calmed through both therapy and injections.
“There is a lot of scar tissue build-up in the leg,” says Schriemer, “and it doesn’t allow the hamstrings, the hip flexors and other parts to do their job properly. That creates pressure in my tendons and results in knee pain and knee injuries.”
Yet despite all the doomsday scenarios laid out before his family following the accident, nothing has slowed him.
And Schriemer makes it clear that his elite-level athletic career has nothing to do with proving anyone wrong, or carrying a chip on his shoulder.
“I just love playing sports, I love playing volleyball and any chance I get, it’s awesome,” he says. “That day at the hospital, the doctors didn’t think I would make it through. They were shocked I stayed alive. So I’ve been lucky.”
Josephson, a deep thinker in the affairs of everything related to both individual and team development, didn’t even know about Schriemer’s accident when he recruited him to come out west.
Yet as he has learned more and more about his setter’s story, and digested its full impact, he has arrived at place of personal admiration.
“To get a kid with that kind of strength of will, but then to also have such freaky tools?” asks Josephson. “He is 6-7, he has hands of gold, and he has an incredible head for the game.
“It’s rare. It’s a combination of will, toughness and tools.”
Schriemer’s not too sure how he got it all, but it’s foolish to think that somewhere along the line, a fighter’s will was intensified by his adversity.
It’s all stuff that Adam Schriemer can’t remember, but still wears every day.
There has been plenty of pain, but he’s earned the right to stand tall and live the life no one thought he’d be able to have.
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