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Faces of the NCAA

Publish date: Oct 3, 2013

Sofia sees both sides to being a student-athlete

By Alexandra Assimon

Major League Soccer holds its draft every January, which poses quite the predicament for college seniors dreaming of playing professional ball. Do you forgo finishing your degree? Or do you grind it out and graduate?

Joe Sofia, a senior defender on UCLA’s men’s soccer team, was faced with that dilemma and figured out the best solution: graduate. That plan has been sketched in this Senior Class Award nominee’s mind since his sophomore season.

Sofia knew that his dream had always been to become a professional athlete. But knowing that it would not last forever had also been on his mind. Simple solution: graduate in just over three years, with the highest grade-point-average (3.965) of all the Bruins’ student-athletes since the spring of 2012.

And if soccer does not work out for him, he would like to go into management consulting. He eventually wants to continue his education to obtain an MBA.

It’s one of the many reasons he is a candidate for the Senior Class Award. Sofia understands that being a student-athlete is much more than the competition.

“There are two-sides to being a student-athlete,” Sofia said. “You have your academic side and your athletics side, and both are very important. You very much have to live in the moment. When you are competing, it is all about the athletics. But when you are in class and studying, it is all about academics. It boils down to time management and focus.”

Not only does Sofia excel on the field and in the classroom, he is also a figurehead in the community, mainly working with kids. Sofia and other student-athletes developed an anti-bullying curriculum. They worked closely with Ben Cohen’s Stand Up Foundation to distribute it to local middle schools this fall. Sofia felt that this issue is prevalent in today’s society and needs to acknowledged.

 The anti-bullying curriculum is one small element on Sofia’s volunteer resume. He is his team’s representative on UCLA’s Athletic Council, participates in the school’s I’m Going to College program, advises kids on the importance of good study habits, goals and hard work, along with many other organizations. But why would he immerse himself this deep in volunteering when his plate is full with training and studying?

“As a student-athlete, there is a lot that is given to us,” Sofia said. “The community supports us. I feel responsible to give back to the community. There is always a need to give back.”

Sofia was the first UCLA men’s soccer player to be named a Capital One Academic All-American. He has earned All-Pac-12 honors and helped to guide the Bruins to back-to-back conference championships and three straight NCAA appearances.

The next time you see Sofia, he could be playing professionally, furthering his education or giving back to the community that has helped shape who he is today. But until then, you can catch him on the soccer field and preparing for whatever the future might bring.