While most soccer players his age are too consumed with their careers to worry about an education, Amobi Okugo is balancing his professional life with earning a college degree. The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team midfielder left UCLA after his freshman year to join Major League Soccer and he was selected by the Philadelphia Union sixth overall in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft. Okugo is now in his third year with the Union and is taking two classes a semester – partly a promise to his parents to finish his degree, but also because, as he says, careers in soccer do not last forever. ussoccer.com sat down with the Sacramento, Calif., native to see how he is handling studying for class while preparing for 2012 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying.
ussoccer.com: What are you studying?
Amobi Okugo: “Right now, for this semester, I’m studying Sociology 101 and Modern World History. My major is Business Economics. Hopefully it works out well. It’s a lot of math and a lot of accounting. I really like math so it’s not too bad right now.”
ussoccer.com: How do you balance your schoolwork with soccer?
AO: “It’s not too hard of a balance because I don’t overwork myself with school. I only take two classes a semester, and besides soccer in the morning and working out after you usually have the whole day to chill. I don’t want to just be home and sitting on my couch playing video games. It gives me something to do and keeps my mind off distractions. With all the pressure and stuff, the homework actually helps me get my mind off the stress that Olympic Qualifying brings. When we play soccer, that’s my main focus. Schoolwork and hanging out with my friends gives me something to balance that focus with.”
ussoccer.com: And you’re not the only player in this camp pursuing a degree …
AO: “My roommate, one of my best friends, Kofi Sarkodie, he takes classes. Perry Kitchen, who also left after his first year out of Akron, he takes classes, as well. It just shows that education is still an important piece in some of our lives.”
ussoccer.com: Why is it important for you to finish this degree?
AO: “You always have to prepare for the worst and soccer careers only last for so long. I’m hoping that with my degree that I eventually get that it can help me in the future with whatever I want to do. I probably still want to be a part of soccer, so who knows. If that avenue doesn’t work then I have my degree to fall back on. The one reason I was able to leave college early was that I had to promise my parents that I would finish my degree, so they let me leave after my freshman year because the opportunity arose. I promised them I would take classes to complete my degree.”
ussoccer.com: How are you taking classes with your busy schedule?
AO: “Mostly everything is online because of my traveling with the club team or the National Team. I’m able to use the online courses, go on forums and email the teachers and it works out pretty well.”
ussoccer.com: Have you had any interesting experiences with everything being online?
AO: “Currently my teacher is trying to do a group project online so it’s tough because people are trying to meet with me. I’m trying to explain my situation where I’m not even in town because of the qualifying, but I don’t want them to know what I do. It’s pretty funny that this teacher’s trying to give us a group project for an online class.”