Some times Kristian Snyder just sits and looks at the soccer field across the street from where he lives.
He thinks about his parents who guided him to the game he loves so much. How the game has provided so many wonderful memories. And how it’s gotten him through some of his darkest days.
“My dad was a big believer in you’re only a teenager once,” Snyder said. “He told me do whatever you want and I’ll make sure I get you there. If it was driving an hour to soccer pratice because I wanted to play on this club team, he’d get home from work. He wouldn’t eat any dinner. He’d go up to watch my game or take me to practice. Anything like that. He was always big into giving me any opportunity that I wanted to take.”
A seemingly typical teenager Kristian Snyder, a senior captain on the Medina/Lyndonville boys’ varsity soccer team, is outgoing and seems to wear a friendly, upbeat smile 24/7.
But behind that happy-go-lucky smile is a young man who has dealt with more personal loss in a small window of a few years than most people experience in a lifetime.
Kristian was in the fourth grade when his mom, Nancy Snyder, passed away in January of 2009. Seven years later, his dad, Karl Snyder, succumbed to a heart attack in May, 2016.
While a lot of people, especially his age, might have shut down and become angry at what fate had taken away from him, Kristian Snyder, even in the face of incredible loss found a way to keep going. Instead of asking ‘why me?’, he was able to see the beauty in life and the positive things the world was still giving him.
“If I did that (shut down), I don’t think (my dad) would be a happy camper,” Kristian said. “I always think they’re gonna have the best seat in the house (watching me play). I always try to push myself this year to make sure that they’re proud of me and I’m putting in good performances for them.”
Kristian said that taking a darker or negative path would have ultimately been just another loss in his life. His parents worked hard to give he and his older brother Kevin a good home, a life with structure, goals and the courage to shoot for those dreams. Going off that path would disappoint his parents, and there was no way Kristian Snyder would ever let his mom and dad down.
“Exactly,” he said. “Some days I would just want to shut down. I would just want to lay down on the couch. It’s almost like I could hear them in the background saying, ‘No! You’re gonna do this or you better do that or else you’ll never be as good as you want to be.’”
Now living with his grandmother, Alice Snyder, Kristian said she keeps him on his toes and makes sure he keeps pushing to be his best.
“She’s 91 and she’s sharp as a tack. I don’t know how she does it,” Kristian said with a laugh. “She must have eaten her Wheaties a lot when she was younger. She is amazing. She’s always there.”
Kristian said his older brother Kevin, who currently lives in New York City, remains a strong influence as he continues to push Kristian to keep being his best.
Both very involved in sports and their kids’ lives, Karl and Nancy Snyder were both deeply loved in the Medina community. Nancy was the poster child for the do-everything, involved soccer mom. While Karl was not only an assistant tennis coach at Medina High School, he was also a youth soccer coach in the community and served as a Scout Master for 10 years. Kristian said the outpouring of support from the community, the school and all the sports teams after losing his parents, especially his dad, got he and his brother through unimaginable loss.
“I received so many cards from sports teams. Tennis teams, even teams from other leagues were sending cards and sending flowers to my grandmother,” Kristian said.
“It was a very big help. Getting me through it and getting my family through it. That sense of family was really important.”
Medina varsity soccer coach Steve Luksch said that the love people in the community had for Karl and Nancy was so deep that after Karl’s passing countless families opened their home to Kristian. It was a testament to the love people had for Karl and how many lives he had touched for the better.
“He knew so many people that people said ‘oh Kristian can stay with me’,” said Luksch.
“Kristian could have picked anyone he wanted (to live with). It was cool to see teammates, parents of the team say ‘I’ll take him in’.”
Very well-rounded, Kristian Snyder is the definition of what a student-athlete should be. Ranked fourth in his class academically, Kristian is a four-year starter on the varsity swim team, has been on the tennis team since seventh grade, he is a four-time Niagara-Orleans League singles champion and has yet to experience a loss in league play during his career. A multiple record and award holder in all sports, Kristian was a freshman and solid contributor to the soccer team’s Sectional championship and, as a sophomore, helped the soccer team capture it’s first league title in 22 years. He was even part of the school marching band that won a state championship.
“My dad was a big competitor. I’d get a 99 on a test, come home and he’d ask why didn’t I get 100? What’d you do wrong?” Kristian said with a smile.
“He’d be the type of guy that if I missed a shot in soccer he’d yell something out to me ‘just put the ball in the net!’ He was always big into that. My brother was the same way. My grandmother, too.”
Saying how proud, and amazed, he was by the fact that Kristian didn’t let his life dissolve in a pool of pity, Luksch said Kristian has grown into the kind of teammate, and man, that can always be counted on.
“He doesn’t want to let his teammates down,” Luksch said. “He’s a team first guy. He’ll play anywhere on the field. Last year we had him playing defense, this year he’ll play all over and won’t complain one bit about it. Some kids just want to be forward. He’s ‘what do we need to do to win, coach? Where do you need me?’ He’s always there for his teammates. Everyone knows he’s the best player, but he doesn’t act like it.”
Believing that everything happens for a reason, Kristian Snyder said that having gone through such painful losses in his life, and the way people have helped him through it, has made him a kinder, more caring person. The kind of person who is even more ready to help others in times of trouble. Just like people helped him when he felt his world crashing in.
“It puts everything in perspective,” he said. “I’m definitely in touch with people who lose someone or if something bad happens to them. I’m always there to comfort them and try to make it a little bit better. Something that everyone did for me. Guess that’s just my way of giving back.”