Nov 26, 2022

From a young age Petr Soustal always had a hard hitting devotion for the game he loved. Traveling almost an hour to and from hockey practice in his home country Czechia, Petr learned early on that hard work was the most certain way to achieve his future aspirations.

Petr had a long and fruitful college career beginning his journey at Quinnipiac University in 2009. His freshman year was made up of a ton of great memories and lessons, however, Petr ultimately made the decision to transfer to St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT to live his dream of being a student-athlete. After three years at St. Michael’s, graduating on the honor roll, Petr continued his graduate education at Fitchburg State University receiving an MBA in 2016.

Like most hockey players pursuing the college route Petr did not go to college immediately following highschool. Instead, he began playing Junior hockey in the top tier U-20 Czechia League while also taking some remote classes at a local college in 2008. This year was devoted to preparing for the SAT and to start the process of applying to American Colleges. Looking back at the start of his Junior career Petr described the experience as a positive environment to compare himself to his peers on a smaller scale while continuing to play the game he loved.

Soon enough Petr made the move to the US in the fall of 2009. A lot went into this decision, but the deciding factor was an awarded scholarship based on his high school grades and test scores. “I also talked to my cousin Tomas Benovic a lot in this process, he told me a lot about his athletic and academic experience at American International College (AIC) and kind of told me where to aim and where not to aim.”

Nonetheless, the only way to know for sure if a school is a good fit is to live through the experience. One of the things Petr didn’t know about going to Quinnipiac was the level of play waiting for him at the Division 1 level. Not talking to the coaches beforehand, Petr tried to walk onto the hockey team, but wasn’t successful. “If I was able to know some of the things that USA Sport & Study provides it would have been a completely different story,” Petr stated. With every trial and error there is a valuable lesson to be learned, this one was about handling adversity.

Now Petr was faced with a difficult decision of whether he would hang up his skates or find another place to play. Ultimately, Petr decided to go back to Junior hockey and play for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack in the AJHL using his last year of eligibility. At this point in his college career a typical week for Petr would be to go to classes during the week and practice at night then to play games on the weekend.

By the end of the year Petr was recruited by St. Michael’s College in Vermont to play on the Men’s Varsity Ice Hockey team. After talking to the coaches and investigating what St. Michael’s had to offer academically and socially, Petr was excited to begin a new journey at a school that fitted his needs as a student-athlete. “Self reflection played a big part in the transfer process for me. And you can draw a parallel into your career search also, because not everything is going to go your way. If you apply for a job that you don’t get you have to look in the mirror and ask was I not a good enough candidate? Then you have a couple options. Accept it, or study more, gain more experience, get more certifications - or better yourself in some way to find a way to achieve your goal.”

“I was really happy with my decision to transfer because I got to play and was also able to walk on to the tennis team. The academics were what I was looking for also.” For those learning how to pick the right school Petr suggested to picture what environment you want to be a part of. Your future school should fit your needs/ personality. Socially, do you want to go to a bigger school with a top football program so you can tailgate on the weekends? Or would you thrive in a smaller environment, where you know more familiar faces? These are some of the questions students should ask themselves when deciding where to go. Another large piece of the process should be where your school will take you next. Student-athletes should consider their field of study, what opportunities a program at a certain school has, and whether career services can help them in their career search journey after school.

Moving to a smaller school, Petr was excelling in his new found environment. Enjoying his time academically and socially, while also learning valuable lessons from his time on both the tennis and hockey team, it was clear Petr made the right decision to transfer into a smaller, more connected environment. When picking a college a lot has to do with your personality, Petr explained. “Quinnipiac was great, and I’m sure it would have been even better if I made the team, but the teammates I had at St. Michael’s are still my best friends today.”

Petr was in a unique position to draw sports parallels to the work environment because he played a team sport as well as an individual sport. From the team sport setting Petr learned how to pick up teammates when they were struggling and be picked up when he was. Other skills he developed were time management, dedication, work ethic, attention to detail, and concentration to name a few. It all ties together in the workplace, it is important to know how to be a part of a team and sports can do that for you. Developing skills of effectively communicating with your teammates is especially valuable.

Then there are skills Petr developed by competing in Tennis. Through an individual sport Petr developed mental toughness, and how to deal with pressure single handedly. These are important characteristics that relate to the workplace. There will be times when you have to take initiative in a position you may not be comfortable in yet. Of course, you have to know when to ask questions, but finding a way to complete tasks on your own is a good way to show others you can problem solve and be dependable. There is no doubt sports play a pivotal role in learning life skills that kids will depend on later in life. “Part of the success/ reason why I am where I am is because of the experiences and the benefits that I gained growing up playing sports,” Petr said.

Overall, the time Petr spent as a student-athlete developed his ability to concentrate on one task at a time even when juggling many different responsibilities. It is also important for student-athletes to enjoy their time at school as well. In the right environment college should be some of the best years of a person’s life. There is always a time and place for this, but students can’t forget to enjoy themselves socially.

A Typical day for Petr during his senior year was to get up at 6:00am to go practice and workout. After addressing his athletic responsibilities. He would attend class from 9:00am-1:00pm, then he would go to work at his internship. Keeping extremely busy, Petr knew this was the time to soak up every experience available to him to prepare himself for his future career.  From his early internship experience Petr learned key skills that you can’t draw from sports. These tend to be more practical skills such as, how to behave and dress in a professional manner as well as how to communicate and present effectively. Having these experiences early on really prepared Petr for the next step in his life.

If there was one piece of advice Petr could give to the next student-athlete it would be to be patient and learn from all of their experiences. “Believe in the process and don’t expect results right away. Reach out to your family and your friends as well as people who are knowledgeable or who went through the same or similar process. Whether it is a close friend or Sport & Career. Have conversations, listen to people, and learn from their advice and the experience of talking to them.”