Nov. 28, 2005
UMass diver Reuben (R.J.) Rappe became the first Minuteman in program history to become an Atlantic 10 Champion after winning the one-meter dive in 2005. Ty Scheiner met up with R.J. to find out more about the Minutemen's top diver.
Q: Living in Minnesota, what made you decide to attend UMass?
A: I fell in love with UMass. I came out here for a recruit trip, and after meeting the coach and the team they were just all around great people. I stayed with Brandon Doane, who graduated last year. He and I bonded immediately, and that is something that I look for because my high school team was like my family and I wanted to come here and have a family. That set it off right away. And the major, exercise science, because I am really into my science and I liked how they set it up here.
Q: What are some of the positives and negatives of being a student-athlete here at UMass?
A: Positives: coming in as a freshman student-athlete you already have people you know, people you can hang out with and people who are your friends. Being an athlete you have more of a schedule, you have to keep that responsibility of being on top of your work and being at practice. It really helps you out, because a lot of kids can really lose track of everything; choosing to go to practice and class or not. It really helps you to carry over to the academics part. Negatives: it is a lot more work because college stacks up on you and you have to add in more time, which takes away from your studies because you have to practice. Sometimes its tough to keep up with the work. Basically student and athlete reflect one another, in both positive and negative ways.
Q: How do you think you have balanced the academics part with being an athlete?
A: Pretty good, maybe not always on top of the ball. I will admit my grades can be better, and I do work hard academically, but I also put a lot of time into practice. One of the big questions people ask is if you are putting in the same amount of work as far as with your practice, as you are with academics? I think I like to practice more; I'm not going to lie to you there. But I get what I need to get done, and I think I have balanced it decently well. I think I can do a little more academically, but everyone can.
Q: What are your goals for after you graduate UMass?
A: After I graduate I plan to try and go on to chiropractor school. And just getting my chiropractor license for becoming a chiropractor doctor.
Q: Any specific schools you are thinking about going to for that?
A: No, not at the moment, I am just hoping to get into one of them.
Q: Being an athlete do you have any superstitions before a meet?
A: I actually have a lot of superstitions - in and out of the pool. One of the things is I collect all of my pennies heads up. If I find one heads up I keep them, I have a bag of all of them. I started a row last year and I have kept all of those. I don't walk under ladders; I don't do that sort of stuff. One of the weird ones for me is before or after every dive, I have a certain process of how I put my shorts on or how I wear my shammy, which is like a towel. I have to do that in the same order every time if I do a good dive. So before the dive, if I took my shorts off, put my shammy on my shoulder, walked over their and threw my shammy off of my shoulder to get on the board; I would want to do it the same exact way every time, same process. Same thing after the dive, if I put my shorts on first; wherever I put my shammy on my shoulder, it's nuts, I get a little OCD with that one.
Q: When you are not swimming or studying, what do you like to do in your free time?
A: Relax, hang out. I love taking pictures, so I have fun with that. Your friends and everyone all around you is your break from going nuts with all the work. It is great to have these two guys (referring to two roommates) here. They just bring you away and take you somewhere else. I like to play on my computer, but what college student doesn't? Basically just hang out, have fun and smile. I also like to play basketball.
Q: Do you play intramurals?
A: No, I don't. I would like to try, but out season goes from October until March. And even after that we have the off-season and have practice.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: Diving-wise, it would be Alexander Despatie. He is my age and incredible. He is a diver, and he got silver at the Olympics last year. He is just so good, just an awesome diver. I really try to model myself after him on the boards. I look at tape over and over again of him, and other divers as well, but him I most like to see. If it wasn't him, it would probably be Lance Armstrong. Just because it takes an athlete to do any type of athletic event. But it takes a real animal, a real guy with prestige to do what he does. Not everyone can bike like him. It is truly out of this world. I think he is pretty cool guy.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Blazing Saddles. It is a Mel Brooks movie that is a really old movie. It is in the old west, and is about this town that has a railroad coming through, and there is this guy who wants to steal the town because it will be worth a lot of money. They get rid of the sheriff and the guy gets together a group of rebellious people to basically just go through and cause riots in the town. So it is about this new sheriff that comes into town and dupes and tricks these guys.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: I eat pizza a lot. I eat at least one piece of pizza from the Dining Center everyday. And fajitas, I can eat fajitas anytime. Pretty much anything in a wrap. The Caesar salad wrap, I loved today. It is my favorite thing here. Then fajitas, tacos, and burritos from Buenos for sure.
Q: What kind of music interests you?
A: Anything. Anything that can just motivate me, or change how I am feeling. If I am in a sad mood, if I just feel like listening to some lonely, depressing song, I'll enjoy listening to that. Anything that will make me dance, get me pumped up, just anything that will get my emotions going.
Q: I notice that you enjoy your science, but what specifically do you like about science?
A: Anatomy and Physiology. I really like it because you get into the body and everything starts to piece together. When you have things that happen to you during the day, like why you twitch. You are like " Oh yeah, I have that happen to me all of the time." Like how the body is really setup, everything just makes sense. It is really cool just to puzzle your body together and know why it does the things it does.
Q: Talking about this season, do you think there is a lot of pressure on the team this year coming off a fifth consecutive title and being picked in the preseason to win the Atlantic 10?
A: You know, there is a slight amount of pressure there, but at the same time it is tradition. We see that pressure and we mold it really, into saying we are UMass and this is what we do, we win. We really strive to work hard to do that. And overtime that work ethic just sticks with us and it is not looked at as the pressure anymore, it is looked at as I just want to win. We just want to work hard, and these guys are getting their butts kicked in the pool. Same with the divers, we are really working hard, and that is all it ends up being. Just change that pressure and expectation into work. It can be seen as that pressure and be nervous, but we don't do that, we work hard for it.
Q: What is your biggest fear?
A: Failing at anything. Everyone wants to be the most successful person they can. I just don't want to fail, I don't want to lose whatever goal I am trying to achieve. Granted there is always the good part where you work towards that goal, you may not achieve it, but the work within is that much greater.
Q: Do you think you have accomplished your goals thus far, and if not what goals have not accomplished?
A: Thus far I have accomplished all of my goals. I am doing my best in school, and in high school, winning the state championship. Goals that I have now are obviously to win the A-10, make it to the NCAA nationals, and hopefully try and qualify for the Olympic trials for '08. That is a big time goal that would have to be a failure that I would have to accept, because the work would be tough, but I am ready for it.
Q: What was it like growing up in a family with six other brothers and sisters?
A: Christmas you are broke a lot. February we have three birthdays, so you are broke a lot then too. It is pretty cool; I have good relationships with all of them. It is fun to watch the younger ones grow up too, and makes you feel old too. It goes to show, having that big of a family show, there is that much more love. Just hearing my sisters voices, makes me feel good. It gets busy sometimes, and sometimes you hear too much crying or too much screaming, but after a while you start to miss that quietness and they will be gone. But it is great, I love it.
Q: What is the biggest difference so far from living in Minnesota and living in Massachusetts?
A: I think the speed of things. I think out here it is a little faster paced. Driving is scary out here. If you have ten feet to make a turn, you will go for it, but back home you will wait 10 minutes to get 100 feet to turn in front of somebody. And back home it is more lay back with getting things going. Where here if my roommates want to go out, we just get ready and leave. So it is faster paced, but I like it out here.
Q: Where is one place you would like to visit?
A: Australia, I would like to roam around out their, with all that open land. I would like to see the coral reef. They are water people out their, and they really like the water, and that is something I love.
Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only take three items what would they be?
A: A picture of my family in its entirety, a lucky penny (heads up), and water bottle, because you have to have plenty of water. You can't have any of that salt water.