Milan Vodička (Czech Republic)
Every story has its end, but the beginning is usually truly the most interesting. I wanted to leave for America the way most athletes do — primarily for a higher level of sport and competition, but also for fame and money. Before even attending high school I had the desire to leave and play hockey overseas, but fortunately thanks to my parents, who prioritized my education, I stayed in Europe until I finished high school. The first thought of leaving for an American college struck me during a serious ankle accident that has happened to me during the summer training at Sparta Prague. Thanks to this event, I turned 180 and reprioritized my life. As it happens, I became unwanted in the Czech hockey community because of my year-long accident-induced pause, and the only way to stay with the sport at a high level was to study abroad. Halfway through my last year at high school I finished a long process of choosing a school and taking ACTs and SATs and thanks to the positive performance on both academic and sport side, I had received several offers from American universities. Finally, I received an offer from New England College and the journey to the dream began.
During my first year of study overseas my life went through big changes. Adaptation to the local lifestyle, differing academic styles and sport were a hard task. Unfortunately, in the very beginning I did not pass health checks and got red shirt for the entire season. After the first semester, I was told that if I’m not ready for another season and will not pass medical tests, my scholarship would be removed, without the scholarship it is almost impossible to stay and study in America. I had successfully finished the first year and I had a hard time deciding what to do. Thanks to an excellent level of study and the lifestyle, it was my priority to stay in America and finish my studies. That’s why I finished my hockey career and thanks to the fact that the whole family and especially my dad, were top volleyball players and I played volleyball since childhood as well a hockey, I filed applications and requested a transfer to Florida, to Webber International University, which is the only one in the entire state program for beach volleyball and their sport business management program is one of the best in Florida.
I spent a whole summer in Florida and fought for sports scholarships (I had additionally received scholastic scholarships) which I received after 3 months of training and playing tournaments during the summer. Because men’s beach volleyball is without a university contest in America, we have the opportunity to play against professionals who play or have played at world tournaments and Olympics. I stayed in Florida, and during the next three wonderful years, during which I have completely adapted to the local environment, I successfully completed a bachelor degree. During my last year, I decided that I wanted to continue the studies and so I applied for a Master’s degree. Thanks to the study and sport results I was after the last semester immediately accepted.
Becoming a student-athlete is not going to be easy, but the effort and years of giving your all will be worth it. Investing in the future is a thing you will not regret. Over the four years of living in America, I learned how important it is not to give up and work hard, because the investment will definitely return in the future and you can only gain and be successful both in professional life as well as in private.
By Milan Vodička