Soccer pro honed skills in class and on the pitch at UA


Kofi Sarkodie arrived at The University of Akron already knowing the most important lesson a student can learn: College, like life, is all about balance.

Today he is No. 8 on the Houston Dynamo — achieving what would be for many the goal of a lifetime — playing professional soccer. For the past four seasons, Sarkodie, just 23, has been an outside defender on the team. 

But in fall 2008, he was just starting his first semester here — an honors biology major newly recruited for the men’s soccer team by former head coach, Caleb Porter.

VIDEO: What Kofi says about his Akron Experience

“The balance of keeping up with a sport and school, it’s a tricky one,” admits the Dayton native, who has played soccer since kindergarten. “But for me, because I’ve been doing it for so long, they kind of became one another. Doing well in school reflected my soccer; playing well in soccer reflected my schoolwork. Maybe I had a tough day on a quiz or exam, but I turned around and scored a goal. The emotions just kind of balance each other and helped to uplift me in general to do better and better in both areas.”

So much so, that Sarkodie maintained a 3.9 GPA, even as he and his teammates triumphed through a 2010 season that saw them win UA’s first NCAA National Championship for a team sport. Sarkodie also was named “The Academic All American of the Year.”  

Kofi as a Zip

Kofo Sarkodie playing for UA.

The exhilaration of winning the College Cup with teammates who had become some of his best friends was soon tempered with a new dilemma. Stay at UA or go pro before graduating?

Ultimately, he felt it was the right time, says Sarkodie. “It’s important to trust your intuition.”

While his experience may not be typical of UA students or student-athletes, Sarkodie believes the lessons he’s learned can apply to everyone.

“You can be anything,” he emphasizes, “but there’s a resilience, a belief, a work ethic, that’s required. There’s a wanting. You have to expand. You have to be able to take risks, go study abroad, find ways to differentiate yourself — to put yourself in the most successful situations.”

For Sarkodie that also means continuing to hit the books — maintaining a balance between soccer and school.

“I’m on the downhill slide,” he says with a wide smile. “I only have a few classes left and I will be officially graduated from The University of Akron.”

Snapshot: Kofi Sarkodie

  • Earning a B.A. in Biology at The University of Akron
  • Currently: Outside defender on the Houston Dynamo professional soccer team.
  • Kofi returned to campus to speak to new students as part of UA's Honors Leadership Summit.

About this series

Incoming Honors College students got their first year here off to an inspiring start when five young alumni returned to speak to them as part of the Honors Leadership Summit. The annual program is hosted by the Institute for Leadership Advancement within the College of Business Administration. The institute, established in 2012 by a $1 million gift from The J.M. Smucker Company, promotes the development of leaders with the unique combination of knowledge, skills and principles needed to make an impact on their organizations early in their careers.

Other speakers in the series: 

Capping off the series as keynote speaker was Anthony J. Alexander, president and CEO of FirstEnergy Corporation. He spoke about wise and ethical leadership. He earned accounting and law degrees at UA.

In wide-ranging interviews before their presentations, each graduate talked about the value of his or her UA education. From mentors to motivations, from goal setting to overcoming fear and campus involvement, each shaped an Akron Experience that made them ready for everything that has followed.