There were times when he would spend several hours a day on ice with a hockey stick in his hand. Run to school before or after training. Robert Sofik did not want to choose between hockey and education. The desire to do both drove him to an American university, where he could combine sports and study without any problems. Originally, he wanted to play professional hockey after graduating from school, but he eventually set out on a different path. Now he helps others to enroll in American universities.
Studying and building a sports career at the same time should be challenging. Why didn’t you give up too?
At first, that was definitely thanks to my dad. When I got older, I saw that a lot of my classmates had no activity outside of school and some of my teammates did not have a school. I didn’t want it that way. Life is fun from more than one angle. So I asked myself the question why do I only keep one? Why don’t you have both of them?
Only in America did she really manage to combine hockey with study. Why didn’t you leave immediately after high school and instead start studying in the Czech Republic?
When I was choosing college, I didn’t know about this possibility. I found this out by chance at the end of the first year. At the beginning of our studies, we can choose between German and French. I wanted the German language, but it was only for advanced students so I had no other choice. I don’t know what happened next, but our French professor had to leave at one o’clock. But before that you gave us a mission. We were supposed to look for a well-known French man on the internet, and we were talking to her about it. That’s when I started training at a school in Sparta, where French hockey player Euric Trail was also playing. It was clear who I was looking for. I found out he played college hockey, which I found interesting.
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Have you had a chance to ask him about his experience?
Until that day. We got back to Sparta from outdoor training, and because I spoke good English, we started having fun. Yurek asked me what I was planning for next year. At the time, I was contemplating whether to sign a professional contract or dedicate myself entirely to studying. I replied that I didn’t know, but I knew he played college hockey in America and that I was interested. Yurek told me everything and then tied me up with his coach.
But it took some time before she left for America. What is the problem?
It wasn’t that I studied here for two years, and only then did I decide to leave. I started solving the leaving issue the first year, but it wasn’t easy. In America, the best college sport is sponsored by the NCAA, which does not allow any professionalism. You should not be paid, you should not have a professional contract nor should you be part of a professional team. I met the first two conditions, but I played eight matches for the professional team.
How did you solve the situation?
From the coach that Yurek joined, I made it to the second and went to play in the third division. In NCAA hockey only divisions one and three, and in other sports it is still ranked second. The third section is defined in that you do not go through the Eligibility Center, which is a place where sports and academic information is evaluated but also personal information about you and your family that I did not take due to professional matches. Instead, it will guarantee you a tertiary university, in my case, the Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, where you also left.
I studied economics in Hobart. How do you rate studying at this university?
It is a high quality school, which is little known in the Czech Republic. When I look back, I realize how lucky I was. I had one contact, so I went there, then got another contact, so I went there again. Often people turn to their friend, who will recommend them to someone, which is terribly limiting. One must realize his skills, and then ask himself where one can apply them everywhere. He will get an overview of which schools are accessible, which schools if he wants to reach, he will have to stress a lot, which schools are attainable, which are good schools, which schools are safe, which he must reach without any problems.
Photo: Tereza Kopelentová
What is the difference between the Czech Republic and America in terms of combining sport and study?
I also studied and played hockey in the Czech Republic, but in the shadow of Sparta, not at university. I also participated in university hockey, but the level of sports is not very high, because there are no professional coaches in Czech universities. I must say my departure was timed well. At the beginning of my studies, I was still able to combine sport with study, but if I stayed in the Czech Republic for another year, I would have to cough up.
I wouldn’t be able to catch them in time. In our country, sports and school do not know each other, do not communicate with each other. Some college students are really successful in sports, but the school does not take their achievements into account, even though they actually represent them. Most importantly, the number of hours they missed puts students in a position where they simply have to choose between studying and playing the sport. In the Czech Republic, these institutions are not respected, while in America they study and practice sports within the university. The schedule is set so that training and matches overlap teaching as little as possible. But it wasn’t funny. We woke up at six to go to the pre-school gym. After breakfast we had lessons. This was followed by lunch, followed by classes, training, and homework.
Do you feel that, as an athlete who also studied at a university, you will gain some extra points during your future career?
It is definitely not the case that when a person studies and exercises at the same time, everyone automatically wants it. In America, for example, the study average is evaluated, especially in the most competitive situations. If you do not have a GPA (Average Grade Grade, note by the editorial board) Above 3.5 (4-point scale), which is an average below 1.5 on the European scale, they don’t look any further and it doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete. But then when you have a satisfactory rate and see that you are part of a college team, that plays a role. I know from my own experience that exercise is beneficial not only during the selection process, but also when you get the job.
In what exactly?
I had an internship in America, seeing that the people around me were not used to coming to work in the morning and leaving in the evening. Thanks to sports, I also gained self-confidence, learned to manage time and loss. When an athlete loses, he falls on his ass, but for him it’s not the end of the world. He gets up, even if it takes him some time, continues, and then breaks into the door. In the past few months, I have met two former athletes who were seriously injured and not supposed to walk again. They knew that standing on their feet and taking the first steps wouldn’t be easy, but they would do it with steady work.
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How has your journey developed after graduating from an American university?
I went to America to play professional hockey. I was drawn to Asia because I wanted some socialization. However, in school, I didn’t just develop into hockey, so it opened up many opportunities for me. I have thought about the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that I can play hockey anytime, and am not good enough to make really big money. So, I accepted a full-time job offer, which they offered me after an internship.
But we meet in Prague.
I’ve lived between New York and Prague for the past two years, and now I’m trying to be here. I run a personal development organization that helps young people get into American universities. We have developed a detailed process that helps them prepare to the best of their ability, in terms of sport and academia. They can have as many universities as they can. After that, we help them negotiate with the schools, but we are also available for them after they arrive in America.
How far in advance should students contact you?
At least a year and a half before they want to leave, but even that is the limit. If I were to advise on the best possible choice, he should prepare for third-graders of high school who can leave for America in 2020 now. If you want to go to graduate school, you’d better take some steps in your first year or second year.
When you take the time to prepare, can you do it?
Yes, sure, but he really has to want and work the English, and then also specifically in preparing for standardized tests to get the best results. Of course, if a person wants to go to America with sports, he should devote himself to it at the highest possible level, and if he crosses a specific academic direction, he should devote himself to some related extracurricular activities for as long as possible. .
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It could be a microbiology department, or you could program, write work on poems in Old England, start a project or have an encyclopedic knowledge of history. But it really doesn’t matter if you spend something three weeks just to include in your requests.
Lots of people are hesitant to go study in America or stay home.
In such a situation, you need to think carefully about everything. America isn’t the only place in the world you can go if you are an athlete. On the other hand, for a lot of people, it can be the best place. But I think the study abroad experience always makes sense. People travel because travel brings them something. But if you haven’t spent at least six months somewhere, that’s just a tasting. It is really important to pursue your goals and take the best steps towards leading a happy, enjoyable and full life. I don’t think you should get past corpses, but you should evolve and move forward.
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