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De Palma is the man behind the mask

by Archives November 4, 2008

Odds are if you’ve been to a Concordia Stingers game – especially in the last year, you’ve seen Daniel De Palma.
You see De Palma, or DDP as he’s affectionately known around the Sports Complex, is a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team. He’s also one of the student therapists for the men’s basketball team. If soccer or basketball games aren’t your thing, then you’ve probably still seen him. Especially if Buzz, the Stingers mascot, happens to be a little over 6’0” antennae included. That’s because De Palma has become Concordia athletics’ choice to be in the suit.
“I started last year when they needed somebody for an event, and they asked me because of my personality and because I’m always around,” he said. “I was skeptical at first and a little nervous, but I really enjoyed it. It gives you a chance to let loose without being judged. They asked me to do it more and more and it progressed to the point where I’m almost full-time Buzz,” he said with a laugh.
“It doesn’t ruin it for the people who know it’s me and they see me in the costume,” he said. “They still enjoy it and have a good time.”
As the mascot, he usually has kids glued to him and says that’s a part of the job he enjoys. He does admit the job does come with some problems.
“When I leave as Buzz, and the first time I go back into the arena as Dan, you want to wave to people,” he said. “It’s very weird when you first go back in. You want to wave and you feel like you know these people, but it’s like ‘hold on a second.'”
De Palma, 21, is an athletic therapy student at Concordia, and when required to do a stage for his program, he found it easy to become a therapist at one of the teams at his own school.
“Because I play varsity soccer, when it came time to do my internship it made it a lot easier to do it at Concordia and not have to travel back and forth,” he said. “Originally I was given men’s basketball for my internship because it fit well with the soccer schedule. This year, because I enjoyed it so much last year I decided that was the team I wanted to go back to.”
Because he is a varsity athlete at Concordia with the men’s soccer team, he says experience helps him a lot when it comes to the therapist-athlete relationship with the men’s basketball team.
“To be a good therapist, you don’t necessarily have to be an athlete but you have to know the athlete’s point of view,” he said. “You can’t be a good therapist through a book. Being an athlete helps because I know what it’s like through the process. I’m not just throwing out empty empathy. Last year when I helped a player with a knee injury, it was identical to an injury I suffered in high school before graduating. Therapists can say, ‘I know what you’re going through,’ but when you really went through it makes it a lot easier. The athletes trust you more.”
De Palma says being a therapist doesn’t really help when he gets hurt himself on the field. In fact, he just wants to forget everything he knows.
“When I go into the therapy room as a player I throw my therapist mind out the window,” he said. “I go in and I just act like a big baby sometimes. You don’t want to do your job 24/7. Sometimes you want someone else to take care of you,” he said.
Many a Concordia student, athlete or staff member have complained about the close quarters the athletic department is forced to deal with. However, De Palma tends to look towards the positives of the quaint environment he sees as his home away from home.
“People complain about it being small, but that’s one of the good things about this place,” he said. “It’s a small community, it’s tight-knit. Everybody knows each other. Another factor is that I don’t have the benefit of some of the athletes who live close who could go home after practice or between classes. It’s nice to have somewhere I can study and do things and not have to travel back and forth.”
De Palma just finished his fourth year of eligibility with the Stingers this year, and will return for a fifth year next year. This year was different for him, because after three years of starting most – if not all – of the games for the team he shared time with second-year goalkeeper Kyle Prillo-Guaiani.
“It opens your eyes to see the game from the sidelines and hear what the coaches say,” he said. “It also gives you a little fire in your belly the next time you go out there. That’s what the competition between me and Kyle is. We both want to succeed and we both want to play, but it’s not to the point where there’s bad blood between us. If anything, there’s good blood because when things are rough we know we have to support each other. Nobody knows what it’s like to be a goalie unless you are or were one.”
“We’re a team within a team, and when that team doesn’t work, the whole unit doesn’t work. You can see the team feeds off the fact that we get support each other.”
De Palma, a Brampton, Ont. native says he chose Concordia after they showed interest in having him play soccer.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was a little kid,” he said. “Like every kid I wanted to score goals. Then when I was seven-years-old I got asthma and my dad, who was the team’s coach, decided to put me in nets. The asthma is now gone, but the goaltender is still in me.”
“I don’t think I could go to school and just do school,” he said.
“Coming [to the complex] breaks up the cycle of class and study. I decided to come to Concordia four years ago and I have never regretted that decision.”

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