Striking a Statement That Education Matterscsudhbulletin October 25, 2018 0 COMMENTS
By Victor Munoz
Though we never got around to giving it a snappy headline, faithful readers of the CSUDH Bulletin’s sports section this semester may have noticed that each of our previous three issues included a feature story about a former athlete at CSUDH who has turned professional. Well, this week, our Toro in the Pros feature turns that formula around: we’re featuring an athlete who turned pro and then attended CSUDH.
That would be Major League Soccer star Gyasi Zardes, a Hawthorne native who has enjoyed plenty of success professionally and in playing with the men’s national soccer team. But he’s just as proud of something he achieved off the field after he was already a pro: getting his degree in criminal justice from CSUDH.
Zardes started his education in 2009 at Cal State Bakersfield, but in his junior year, he got an offer from the LA Galaxy. He had been dreaming of that day since elementary school, Zardes said, so he couldn’t reject it and put his education aside to live his dream of playing professional soccer.
“I was full of joy since Galaxy was a team I grew up watching with my dad,” said Zardes, currently a forward for the Major Soccer League’s Columbus Crew.
Zardes spent 2013-2017 with the Galaxy, making the MLS all-star team in 2015, and he has played on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer team since 2014. He has scored 57 goals as a professional, including one at the StubHub Center that helped ensure the Galaxy’s fifth MLS Cup. All notable achievements, but you can’t help but notice the trace of pride in Zardes’ voice when he talks of another off-field achievement.
“Scoring in the MLS Cup final was a huge accomplishment,” Zardes said. “But at the same time graduating was as big of an accomplishment.”
Zardes finished his last year of college at CSUDH, graduating in June 2017. And to call it a stressful time is an understatement. As college students, many of us can relate to a long commute, but rather than getting to Carson from, say, Orange County or Long Beach, Zardes’ senior year was spent traveling the U.S. and the world.
“It was really stressful,” Zardes said. “But I was just thinking about the end goal”
Zardes said on many occasions he had a big game in the weekend and on top of that a midterm or final exam.
“There was plenty of times, friends and teammates would invite me to go out, but I had to stay home studying or doing homework,” said Zardes. “I had to sacrifice my time because getting the degree was more important. My friends and teammates will always be there but the opportunity of getting a degree was an opportunity that I couldn’t let go.”
Zardes said that it’s important while excelling in extracurriculars like a sport, you also give the same dedication to your education because it sets you up for your future.
“[I chose to return to school because] I needed a backup plan,” said Zardes, who has two children. “Because in soccer you could get injured in any given moment. So, I thought if I had a college degree and anything happens to me I could easily find another way to support my family,” Zardes said. “So that was the biggest thing, my family.”