I grew up in a fairly big town in Czech Republic called Pardubice. My town is mostly known for its gingerbread and sports. I grew up in a family where soccer was on the daily schedule. Watching soccer on television or at the stadium was an important part of our household, so I started playing soccer when I was really little. The fact that my father was also a professional soccer player and a national soccer icon probably had something to do with that as well. If there was an important match or tournament for my soccer team, I went to that instead of school or anything else, because soccer was everything that I cared about when I was younger. I played soccer throughout my whole childhood in a great team in my hometown, but as I was getting older I realized that soccer is not everything.
In Czech Republic, when you are choosing your high school you have to be very careful because most of the high schools in Czech are specialized in different subjects. For example there are high schools that specialize either in economy, math, or English, which means that if you attend that school you will have extra classes on that particular subject. Also there are Gymnasiums that will generally prepare you in all subjects equally so you are well prepared and able to attend college. It is a very hard decision for students who are in 9th grade to know which career path they want to take in their life. Nothing had changed for me, I was only concentrating on soccer so I went to a Sport Gymnasium in my hometown where I was able to have additional soccer practices and learn all school courses with the same emphasis. While selecting the appropriate high school for me, I realized that my mindset was all about my soccer skills and abilities. In that specific year I saw and heard many stories about how young soccer player like myself got very seriously injured or just quit the sport. This made me realize that I need to have a plan B.
As I finished my first year of high school, I decided that I would have to make a change because I lived my whole life in my hometown with the only plan of playing soccer all my life. My parents actually supported me in that idea to leave my hometown and to learn new things, meet new people, and see new places. That summer was filled with different ideas about where I should go next in my life. After putting a lot of thought into it, I found out that all the places that I have been looking at could not beat the opportunities in the United States.The high school school system in the U.S. gives you the opportunity to learn and study subjects that you personally pick. For example, if I know for a fact that I will never need chemistry or physics in my future career, I can choose not to have that class and pick class instead that will benefit me more in my future career. Also students are able to play soccer for the school, which meant that if their soccer schedule ever conflicted with their school schedule they were automatically able to go to the soccer game without any problems or written excuses since they were representing the school in that sport. On top of those huge benefits, learning how to speak and write English would be very important since it is the most spoken language in the world and this particularly would be a great bonus for my personal development. So, it was clear that my journey would take me to the U.S.
I moved to USA in winter 2011 and I was living with an American family in Des Moines, Iowa. They were very welcoming and very helpful with everything I needed. Once I got settled in my new home I found out that I would also be playing soccer for one of the best local soccer academies on top of playing soccer for my high school. As you can imagine, I was very happy with the decision I made. I finished high school in Des Moines, Iowa and now it was time to decide where to go for college.
Searching for the right college for myself wasn’t too hard since I didn’t have too many requirements to fulfill. I was looking for a university or college where I would be able to continue to play soccer on a high level and on top of that receive a good soccer scholarship, as well as study a particular subject that I have shown the biggest interested in, Sport Management. The reason why I decided to study Sport Management was because I knew I was all about sports my whole life and if for some particular reason I would not be able to continue to play soccer, maybe I could still be around soccer. With many different options available to me, I had chosen to attend a university on the northeast side of the United States called California University of Pennsylvania.
At CAL U, I enjoyed every minute of being a student-athlete. The opportunities that student-athletes have in colleges and universities are absolutely tremendous. I had the opportunity to go to athletic trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and physical trainers as well as use many great facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, weight rooms, cold tubs, saunas and much more. I was able to utilize all of these automatic privileges that every student-athlete receives in every college, whereas only the best professional soccer or sports teams have these privileges back in Czech Republic. In addition to truly focusing on being a good soccer player with everything the school was providing for me, I was also able to study and learn about the sporting industry. Everything that goes behind the scenes of professional and amateur sport teams was much bigger than I have ever imagined and thankfully the professors at CAL U were more than patient with an international student such as myself who was constantly asking questions and debating their visions. I also had the opportunity to learn different subjects that I wanted to learn such as Spanish and history. Even though it didn’t necessary connect with my major, it gave me new experiences that broadened my mind. I joined two school clubs that gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge about certain topics and meet new people. The overall life in college was more than great, but of course everything has to come to an end. After four years I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Sport Management and left CAL U with great memories.
Only a few weeks after graduation I accepted a position in marketing working for the Philadelphia Union in the Major League Soccer. So as you can see Plan B worked out well for me. Not being able to play soccer, but still being able to work and be around soccer is still great and I enjoy being part of the team and league.
Without leaving my home country and taking a leap of faith I would have never ended up learning so many new things, meeting so many great new friends, and seeing so many great new places. From high school in Des Moines, Iowa to California University of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, I was able to put myself on a great path all because I wanted to continue to play soccer as well as study in USA. Now I have friends from every corner of the country and the world, I learned the most popular language that I can use everywhere, I am working in the industry that I want to be in, I live in one of the biggest cities in the United States — and all of that because I had a vision and a determination to change and move from my hometown to the United States many years ago.
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