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Student Athletes Balance Work and "Play"

Emily Stovicek

Emily Stovicek, BSBA '10, plays on the Eagles' field hockey team.

They may not be Olympic athletes – yet – but for the past four years, these Kogod students have lived and breathed their sport at American University.

Even with a demanding extracurricular schedule, they chose a business major because of the degree's potential – or because they unearthed an interest in business during a foundation course here at Kogod.

In the case of Eagles soccer midfielder Colin Zizzi, BSBA '10, his love for business was cultivated from an early age.

"By the time I came to college, I knew I wanted to major in business because my father went to school for accounting," Zizzi explained. "He encouraged my interest in business and in following the stock market when I was younger."

The Student-Athlete Experience

No matter what sport they play, all of the student-athletes we talked to had similar experiences balancing their practice and class schedules.

"At first it was very difficult to manage both classes and wrestling,"” said Michael Cannon, BSBA '10 and two-time all-American wrestler. "But after a while it becomes routine and you figure out how to not only manage classes and sports at the same time, but to excel in both."

Cannon won his second consecutive 184 lbs. EIWA Championship on March 7 and helped the AU wrestling team to a program-record fifth-place finish at the event. With the title, he earned entry into the NCAA Championships, becoming one of only two AU students to be a four-time NCAA qualifier.

He and his 14 siblings were also recently featured in The Washington Post as one of Maryland’s most well-known and successful wrestling families.

Nidhal Charfi, BSBA '10 and member of the Eagles soccer team, agreed with Cannon, saying that time management can be difficult, especially when traveling – but said that Kogod and the Athletics department provide resources and support that helped him out.

Four-time Patriot League Honor Roll recipient Emily Stovicek, BSBA '10, discovered an inadvertent but major perk to being a student-athlete.

"We have to go in and talk to our professors about when we’re going to miss class, so they get to know us better," Stovicek said.

Visits to her professors' office hours led to a mentor relationship with accounting professor Sue Marcum.

"I went to talk to her about internships because I was worried since I had never had time to do one over the summer," Stovicek said. Marcum referred her to Berlin Ramos & Co., a Maryland accounting firm where Marcum herself started her career. After interning last year, Stovicek will be working there full-time beginning in September.

Post-Graduation Plans

Some students plan to pursue their sport after graduation. Dor Yasur, BSBA '10, who represented the U.S. in soccer for the 2009 Maccabi Games in Israel, plans to return to Israel to try out for several professional teams.

His teammate, Nidhal Charfi, says continuing to play after graduation, "is the dream, after all." But if that doesn't pan out, Charfi would like to become a soccer agent or work in the International Trade and Development industry.

Michael Cannon has signed with SC&H group, an accounting firm, but plans to keep wrestling.

"I have been wrestling all my life, but now that I have a degree, I intend to use it," Cannon said. "However, I do want to stay in the sport. I feel that it has taught me so much about life and who I am."

Colin Zizzi hopes to combine his passions by continuing work on a Sports Management course he and his teammate developed while studying abroad this past summer in Madrid. Colin and his teammate developed a proposal for a new Sports Management course that is being considered for roll-out this summer.

"If the course is approved, I will be returning to Madrid in May to help as an assistant with the co-curricular portion of the course,” Zizzi said. "After the program ends in June, I would like to stay in Europe and continue playing soccer professionally." 

He acknowledges his plan might not pan out, but has a backup in place: to find a coaching job and apply to an MBA program.