Student Spotlight: Michal Pažák

It is not unusual for students to switch institutions after their first semester, or even after a full year of study. Sometimes it takes time to find the right program, especially when you strive for quality education that will allow you to unlock your full potential. For this blog post, we talked to Michal Pažák, the captain of the Slovak National Floorball Team and an attacking player in one of the Czech Republic’s most elite professional floorball teams, Sparta Praha. Michal transferred to the University of New York in Prague after an academic year at a public university, and is currently studying Sports Management here. Michal kindly agreed to share his thoughts on the differences between the Czech and American education styles, as well as his journey in professional floorball. 

UNYP offers the only academic program in the Czech Republic that prepares you to be an effective leader in the business of sports.

UNYP’s Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in Sports Management is a unique program in the Czech Republic, because it equips students to tackle the business side of any sport. The sports studies programs offered at most other universities focus mainly on training coaches, creating training schedules, and athletic diets – but at UNYP, we prepare our students to become Team Managers, Sports Events Coordinators, Sports Agents, and marketing professionals in the sports industry. 

Why did you choose UNYP’s sports management program? 

When I decided to switch universities, I already had a clear vision that I should pursue my next degree entirely in English. Even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the sports industry is becoming increasingly international, and a good command of English is a must if you envision an international career for yourself.  Of course, this first semester is very challenging for me because I am still on my way to perfect fluency, but as an athlete, I like a challenge. For me, the prospect of a successful career is the best motivator – for language skills and for higher education in general – and this is why I decided to change universities rather than drop out. The future is always uncertain, and you can find yourself in a situation where the lack of a degree can prevent you from professional growth. My choice of a Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in Sports Management was only natural. I love sports, and have been involved in them since childhood, so this program was a perfect opportunity to combine my passion for sports with business theory and other courses. 

How did you get involved in professional floorball?

I began to play floorball during my second year of elementary school, at the age of eight or nine. At school, I was also involved in football, basketball, athletics, badminton, anything active. When I got to the point where it was challenging to fit in all these activities around my school schedule, I chose to keep playing floorball. All my childhood sports heroes were hockey players – one of my favorite athletes was and still is Marian Hossa – so perhaps that’s why I chose to keep a sport with a stick. I then joined the Slovak team ATU Košice, where I had a great experience. I got into a male A team at the age of 17, and we won a title during my second season with them. A few seasons later, I decided to move to Prague. I was in touch with Sparta Praha, and after a few test training sessions with them, I proved that I have something to offer to the team, and I was accepted. I love playing for Sparta, and can’t wait for the next season. Sparta’s management suggested UNYP when I was looking for a new university, partly because Sparta and UNYP have a long and successful partnership history. 

How do you manage to combine school with your professional floorball career?

It is not easy, but not impossible either. It certainly teaches you to be great at time management! First of all, you have to make sure that none of your classes clash with training or matches. You need to stay on top of both, keep training, and keep doing your homework and preparing for classes.

Unlike some Czech Republic universities, at UNYP, you have to attend all the classes and be ready for every session. We do a lot of presentations and group assignments, and the classes are small, so there is no way that you will be able to lay low somewhere at the back of the classroom. The professors will make sure that everyone is participating, which is good; it is a very active learning process. I was also very impressed by how quickly and efficiently UNYP managed to transfer all classes into virtual learning during the coronavirus outbreak. We haven’t skipped a single class, and I am happy that I haven’t lost time and can continue working towards my degree.

I know that a lot of different universities have not been as good at adapting to this crisis. Of course, this is my first semester, but I already have a favorite class; College Algebra, with Professor Aaron Johnson, which I have been taking online since the beginning of the semester. With my tight schedule, I appreciate the opportunity to take some of the classes online, because it saves a lot of time on the commute. However, I also enjoy coming to campus, because it is fascinating to participate in real group discussions with my classmates. My course has people from  many different countries, and it is very cool to see and learn about their world perspectives. I think that this experience will be valuable for me in the future when I work in the international sports industry. 


Photo credit: Vladimir Hodac for ACEMA Sparta Praha

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