EVESHAM — Ryan Fischer may not see the court as much as he desires.
The Cherokee High School senior has played approximately 15 minutes in total spanning the Chiefs’ 26 games so far this season.
Most people in Fischer’s position would’ve thrown in the towel.
Most would blame the coach. Others may blame the administration. Some may go as far as blaming their family, friends or teammates.
But not Fischer.
Instead he’s allowed his passion for the game and the opportunity to create memories with his classmates outweigh his displeasure with a shortage of playing time. Fischer has acclimated himself into a role that allows him to provide meaningful contributions without pouring in gaudy scoring totals or snagging an abundance of rebounds.
His determination and toughness outweighs any statistic.
The senior is also a four-year member of the Chiefs’ boys soccer program. Yet his love for the game of basketball is equivalent and he’s fully embraced the opportunity to be a part of Eric Cassidy’s program.
“I’ve been with this program for four years,” Fischer said. “I started as a freshman. The playing time wasn’t there, but I knew it wasn’t for me. It was for the team. The team’s success is greater than my success. I continued with it — sophomore year was the same thing for JV. Junior year I got some time on JV before I got injured. Senior year’s been the same way. I’ve been working really hard and trying to help the team get better every day.”
“He brings leadership,” Cassidy said. “He’s a really good soccer player and he brings that toughness to the team. Hasn’t played much this year, but he just is an example of a kid that understands his role, what it means to be a leader, and he wants to be a part of it. He sets the culture.”
The Chiefs concluded the regular season at .500 with a 13-13 record and secured the No. 4 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs. In a season defined by ups and downs — a nine-game winning streak, a trio of three-game losing streaks, a thrilling victory over then-No. 10 Haddonfield, etc. — Fischer is just happy to be present.
“It’s a great team,” Fischer said. “We’re all pretty good friends. Some of the seniors I’ve been playing basketball with since fourth grade. It makes it a nice environment to play in and it’s a good team atmosphere.”
The senior’s role also warrants him the time to observe and analyze. His location on the sideline allows him to see situations unfold that his teammates on the floor may not realize in the heat of a moment.
A second set of eyes has allowed Fischer to take on somewhat of an assistant coaching role and use his character as a way of alleviating Cassidy from some of the stresses that surface from trying to lead and unite a group of young men.
“He’s kind of an extension of me on the bench telling the guys what to do,” Cassidy said. “And even at practice, like helping guys with plays. I’m just proud of him for being a part of this team. He loves it. The kids love him.”
Indeed they do.
His teammates are always appreciative of his contribution.
“He’s just a great teammate,” senior Shane Winkelman said. “He knows what he’s here to do. We used to play soccer all the time. We were always with each other from fourth grade to senior year now.”
The senior also knows the value of commitment. Throughout his playing years, he’s seen teammates come and go. Fischer made it a priority to remain committed and not detach himself from the team even if he wasn’t on the floor.
“I’ve learned patience,” Fischer said. “I had to accept my role. I have some friends who had more playing time than me but quit throughout the years. I understood that I had to stick with it. Once I committed to the program, I shouldn’t back out. I wanted to be there for all four years.”
Fischer grasped the concept of soccer as early as he could walk. His father introduced him to the sport and his development was augmented by his participation in the Marlton travel soccer program throughout the duration of his childhood.
That’s why being an underdog isn’t an unfamiliar concept.
The Chiefs boys soccer team entered the postseason as the No. 11 seed and upended Millville, 2-1, and also edged Washington Township, 2-1, to reach the sectional semifinal. Fischer’s team shutout Kingsway, 2-0, before bowing out to Toms River North, 0-0, in a contest that concluded in a shootout.
The senior also received recognition as an Olympic Conference American Division all-conference selection.
“It’s been a great journey,” Fischer said. “I really thought Cherokee was the dark horse this year. I felt I was one of the underrated players on the team. My journey was a part of Cherokee’s journey. We kinda flew under the radar and got better and better as time went on. Every game was more special than the last.”
The journey has paid off as the senior has created the opportunity to play soccer at the next level. It’s not a matter of ‘if he will.’ It’s more of a matter of ‘where will he go?’
Fischer has developed interest in a few local schools such as Rutgers-Camden, Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham, Albright College, Bloomsburg University and The College of New Jersey.
“I’m planning to play in college,” Fischer said. “I haven’t committed anywhere yet. Wherever I go, I plan to continue playing soccer and having fun with it.”
The senior is also aiming to study business, sports marketing and/or sports management. His ultimate goal is to work for one of his favorite professional sports organizations. Those teams reside in both Phoenix and Philadelphia because his grandparents are natives of Arizona and he’s a fan of the local sports teams.
“I’m trying to stay pretty local,” Fischer said. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to playing somewhere bigger. I plan to study business, maybe sports marketing, sports management and hopefully one day work for an organization like the Phoenix Suns or the Philadelphia Union. That’s the road I hope to take.”
As for right now, the Chiefs have unfinished business to handle. A sectional championship would be ideal, but a playoff win is the first step. The season has already been viewed as a success with the earning of a home playoff game with a predominantly young core.
Cassidy is just crossing his fingers hoping more kids like Fischer come along the way.
“We need to see more kids like this,” Cassidy said. “You get kids nowadays (if) they’re not playing as a senior they want to quit. This is a kid that hasn’t played much this year but he loves being a part of it. He’s going to be a successful young man with whatever he does. I’m just proud of him for what he’s been doing.”
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.