Young men serious about their participation in sports often dream of playing at the collegiate level or beyond. Glenwood School two-sport athlete Shane Vahjen is pretty serious about basketball and baseball, but the senior doesn’t hesitate to state that when his playing days are over at Glenwood, he has no plans to move to the next level of play.
“I am retiring,” says Vahjen, laughing.
The 5-foot-10 shooting guard for the Gators boys’ basketball team enjoys his time on the court and has ever since he made the varsity team as a freshman. It was a big deal for the ninth-grader to be on the varsity team, because that honor is usually reserved for sophomores.
“It started out as just something to do, but it turned out to be fun,” he says. “There was a lot of running, and that was not great, but I practiced hard and made varsity along with one other guy.”
His first year on the varsity team was a big one. The Gators won the state championship. The next two seasons weren’t too shabby. In 2014, Glenwood was the state runner-up and last season, the boys’ team lost in the final four.
Glenwood has a reputation for winning sports programs. Vahjen says he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of such teams and is humble about his contributions to his team. The 17-year-old considers himself “more of a role player” than a standout and admits that first year was a bit intimidating.
“I was like a scared little child with all those 12th graders on the team,” he says with a smile.
Vahjen has attended Glenwood School since the second grade. His parents moved their family from Connecticut about a year prior due to Glen Vahjen selecting the area to practice medicine. The youngest of four siblings, Vahjen says he doesn’t remember having to make too much of an adjustment in moving to the South.
He does remember taking up the sport of baseball in those early years, first in coach-pitch and later with the more developed recreational leagues. In the seventh grade, Vahjen began playing basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring for middle school teams at Glenwood. He has continued the two sports throughout high school and is the centerfielder for the Gators baseball team.
With so much time invested in playing sports, it is a little unusual that Vahjen has no interest in continuing as an athlete at the college level. The intelligent and confident student-athlete says he likes sports and feels he has benefitted from being part of Glenwood’s sports programs. However, Vahjen is a student first and an athlete second.
“Sports are the addition to my life,” he says. “A lot of people play sports and think they will use that to make money. I think you have to have a plan. Got to have a plan. Academics provide that plan.”
If grades are part of his plan, then it must be a good one. Vahjen holds a 3.98 grade point average. He credits his parents with teaching him to be a good student and encouraging him to set a high academic standard. It is because of his success in the classroom that the senior is looking forward to attending college, confident that he will be able to handle college classes.
Although no decision has been made about his future after graduation, Vahjen has narrowed down his pursuit of a field of study to either pre-med or marketing. He has an interest in both science and social studies but admits he has to work for his successes. One skill Vahjen has developed is time management.
“When you play sports, you have to use whatever time you have,” he says. “My advice is whatever time you have, do the work now. If your friends are going to eat somewhere but you know you have work to do, you have to work before play.”
The Glenwood boys’ basketball team is looking for another successful season under the coaching direction of Dusty Perdue. Vahjen is hoping for some postseason play, and then he will trade in his basketball uniform for a Glenwood Gators baseball uniform.
Just like his years on the basketball team, Vahjen has been a part of winning baseball program at Glenwood. He was a 10th grader on the varsity team when the Gators won the state championship. Last year, the team lost in the third round of the playoffs. If his senior year experience includes trips to the state playoffs for one or both of the sports he plays, Vahjen won’t complain.
In the end, Vahjen will close the books on his sports participation in a few months with no regrets. He has enjoyed the ride and is grateful for the experiences. And, true to his outlook on life, Vahjen has a plan.
“Having played sports will make my resume look better,” he says, smiling.
Last May, Vahjen traveled to Columbia with other members of the Glenwood baseball team for a 10-day mission trip. The team helped build baseball fields, held mini-camps, and donated athletic equipment. Vahjen says it was a good experience for him to have personal and direct contact with the youngsters in the area.
Academic Athlete/Columbus Valley/December 2015
By Beth Welch
By Jerry Christenson
Academics provides a future plan for two-sport athlete