About 480,000 collegiate athletes nationwide are used to juggling their duties as college students and as Division I athletes. For a small portion of those athletes, one of their goals includes furthering their athletic careers post-college and moving on to play for a professional sports league.
Although the probability of a collegiate athlete moving on to play professionally is relatively low across all sports, that has not stopped some Cal Poly athletes from chasing their desires of becoming professional athletes.
COVID-19 posed a unique obstacle for these student athletes, as the pandemic may jeopardize those aspirations. The pandemic previously forced all Cal Poly sporting events to be shut down in March, and play will not resume for some sports until 2021.
“Not having games right now in a college atmosphere is difficult, and it doesn’t lend itself to not having that exposure to be able to move to the next level,” Klemm said.
Last season, Klemm started in 16 out of 17 matches as a junior. He was also a member of a defense that posted five shutouts and allowed only 61 shots on goal, the lowest amount of shots the program ever conceded.
Even though the Big West Conference announced a plan for fall sports, like soccer, to return in the spring, Klemm said it is still hard to plan ahead with the state of the pandemic up in the air.
“I want to play professional soccer, and obviously a lot of that has to do with me being able to have games played to show scouts that I am good enough,” Klemm said. “More than anything there’s this sort of mental hurdle to all of that where you’re never sure when your next game is going to be.”
Klemm’s teammate and senior midfielder Emmanuel Perez shares the same aspirations of playing professional soccer.
Perez started pursuing his professional career after attending YSC Academy in Pennsylvania, a “soccer-specific high school,” according to the academy website. He also trained with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union Academy during his time at YSC. Perez then went on to train under FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls academies before transferring to Cal Poly.
Last fall, Perez was named to the All-Big West second team after a successful campaign, finishing second in the conference in goals scored and fourth in points. He said his plans have not changed significantly since the pandemic began, as he continues to strive to play professionally while also being there for his teammates and coaches.
“The advice [Coach Sampson] always gave me was, ‘You can focus on the future and plan for it, but don’t think too far ahead because you need to do the right things first,’” Perez said.
Despite an uncertain future for athletes like Perez, he said it has not stopped him from accomplishing other goals both inside and outside of sports.
Perez, a business administration senior, said that he is interested in learning about the stock trade, being an entrepreneur and coaching at a Major League Soccer academy one day if playing professionally becomes out of reach.
“I don’t want to worry about [the future] right now because I can’t control it,” Perez said. “What I focus on are things I can control, and that’s allowed me to be successful and slowly grow continuously.”
Senior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek is in a similar position. The All-American and member of the United States National College volleyball team originally looked to take her talents in volleyball leagues overseas once she graduated this past June.
The pandemic temporarily shut down those plans, and the university granted her an extension of her scholarship. This made Dvoracek eligible to play one more season when Cal Poly athletics are scheduled to compete again starting in January 2021. Dvoracek extended her education to play another season, and she will graduate Fall 2021.
“It actually almost worked out better for me because then I’ll get to graduate, hopefully sign a contract and then move to Europe at the start of the year, which is exciting,” Dvoracek said.
Dvoracek said that while managing her expectations for the future is difficult due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, but she said being able to see and train with her teammates again helped her to maintain a positive attitude.
“Being able to see and interact with each other was probably one of the biggest things,” Dvoracek said. “Being with your teammates and being with the girls you grind with and bond with and the hope that we maybe get to play this upcoming winter or spring keeps up going, keeps us motivated.”
Senior forward for Women’s Basketball Sierra Campisano said she also has aspirations of playing the sport she loves overseas once her Cal Poly career comes to an end.
After transferring from the University of Oregon, Campisano emerged as a standout performer for the Mustangs. She earned All-Conference First Team honors as a redshirt junior after finishing second highest in the conference for points per game (17.2 ppg) and fourth in rebounds per game (8.1 rpg).
Campisano, an English senior with a concentration in fictional writing, said that she hopes to become a teacher or to get involved with publishing and editing books.
“Long term, I see myself as a teacher. I think I want to teach high school English, I think that would be really fun, but with that concentration, I really want to get into the publishing and editing side of books,” Campisano said. “It kind of just depends on how the next eight months of my life goes, which is a little stressful.”
Although the futures of these athletes remains relatively uncertain, they said they are all determined to finish their Cal Poly athletic careers on a high note as they prepare for their seasons to restart in 2021.