While the life of a professional athlete is one that many people aspire to, it is not necessarily as glamorous as it may seem. It is particularly tough because of the grueling schedule demands that accompany the life of a professional athlete. Between daily practices, games, film study and rehab sessions, it can be difficult to find time to do much of anything other than focus on your sport.
The exception to this rule appears to be Houston Dash forward Michelle Alozie, who has somehow figured out a way to chase her dream of playing soccer professionally while making time to work part time in the children’s oncology unit at a Houston-area hospital. Her plan is to pursue a career as a doctor, but only after her playing days are fully behind her.
Alozie has always been a high achiever. After graduating from high school in her native California, Alozie relocated across the country for college, winding up at Yale University, where she could both play soccer and get an elite education. While there, Alozie found success both on the field and in the classroom, as she won Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of the Year in her junior season and graduated with a degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.
Alozie was not satisfied after her senior year was cut short due to injury, so she took a graduate year at the University of Tennessee where she played against some of the best collegiate soccer players in the country. During her time at Tennessee, Alozie scored three goals in 17 appearances for the Lady Vols.
After spending a year playing for BIIK Kazygurt in Kazakhstan, Alozie signed with the Dash as a National Replacement Team Player this summer. Alozie, who had been studying for the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT, was forced to pivot. She knew she couldn’t play the sport she loved and study for this all-important test at the same time, but she was determined to continue her pursuit of medinicine.
“When I first came to Houston I was actually studying for my MCAT so I wasn't really prepared or wanting to have a research tech job,” Alozie said. “But once I actually got the opportunity here in Houston and realized I would be playing professional soccer, I realized that the MCAT was definitely going to have to be put on pause and I would need to fill that medical void that I had.”
Early on in her time in Houston, that void was more evident than ever, as Alozie felt she had too much free time on her hands when she only had to manage the schedule of a professional soccer player.
“In pre-season, I didn't have this job. So once we were done with morning session, done with weights and everything, I kind of felt like I was just doing nothing. I was just sitting at home, watching Netflix shows, or doing solo sessions with a trainer every other day but for the most part I felt like I was just wasting away because we had so much free time I felt,” Alozie said.
In order to fill that void, she went to a trusted advisor from Yale who was a Principal Investigator in a lab she worked in then. He connected her with a close friend in Houston and from there she wound up applying for the position as a lab technician.
When she first applied, Dr. Alexandra Stevens, the doctor who has oversees Alozie at the hospital, had no idea about her soccer career. That however, did not stop Michelle from standing out above the competition.
“I was really taken by her application and her resume, and did not know she was playing for the Dash when I reviewed her application,” Dr. Stevens said. “On the initial phone interview, I was really amazed by Michelle’s academic history and having balanced such an all-consuming athletic life in addition to being incredibly intelligent and having all of the qualities we are looking for in lab.”
Unfortunately for Michelle, the lab she applied to was only looking to hire full-time staff at the time. Michelle wanted to work in medicine so badly that she actually considered it, but quickly realized “that would’ve been insane.”
Instead, the hospital carved out a part-time position specifically for her.
Now, Alozie goes to Dash practice from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. before going to the Medical Center to work in the lab until 6 p.m., or on days when practice is in the afternoons, she will go into the lab at 9 a.m. until she has to leave for practice.
Her teammates are often left scratching their heads and wondering how Alozie is able to manage such a demanding schedule. Fellow Houston Dash forward Michaela Abam is one such teammate, who says she is more amazed by Alozie’s work ethic than anything else.
“I think Meech is a true hero; going above and beyond to help aid in finding a cure for something that has taken so many lives,” Abam said. “She's such a hard worker and so dedicated to what she does, on and off the pitch. We are so proud of her, she’s a true African Queen.”
While many people would shudder at the prospect of having to navigate a work schedule as daunting as Alozie’s, it has actually been the opposite experience for the forward, who relishes having a jam-packed calendar.
“Once I got the research tech job, it was actually a weight off my shoulders. I felt like I had a little bit more purpose and that I was doing a little more than just sitting and doing nothing,” Alozie said. “I feel like I always have to be doing something, so having something to do after the training sessions just for a few hours just felt really good for me."
At the lab, Alozie has a number of different hats that she wears. Her primary responsibilities are to write briefs for research papers and to work with the mice that her team tests different treatments on. While her work here is in Pediatric Oncology, Alozie actually plans on going into Cardiology after she is done with medical school. That, of course, will only come after she puts away her boots for good.
"Right now I'm really focused on soccer, even though I am doing the medicine on the side. Right now, I'm putting all of my efforts on soccer. Med school will be there once I'm done lifting all my trophies."