Shamit Shome’s winning mindset

How Shamit Shome completed an engineering degree while playing pro soccer

A few nights ago, like most of everyone around the world, I watched the last two episodes of The Last Dance on Netflix.

Despite learning a lot about Michael Jordan’s mindset and the Chicago Bulls’ successes, there’s something else that struck me through the series: being a professional athlete is extremely demanding, from a physical and psychological standpoint.

As someone who’s seen firsthand the endless hours these players put in and the numerous sacrifices they make to succeed, I can tell you that being a professional athlete takes up a lot of your time; it’s not just about showing up and giving your best: you need to make sure every decision you make contributes to the well-being of your mental and physical self.

Needless to say, a full-time position, and then some.

Now imagine adding an engineering degree to the mix, which is what Shamit Shome did for the past five years.

Last week, the Impact midfielder graduated from Concordia University with a bachelor’s in engineering, which he’s been completing full-time since joining the Montreal Impact back in 2017.

“Since I was a kid, it’s just something that’s interested me,” explained Shome. “My dad was an engineer and growing up, I looked up to him. I thought it could be a cool thing to do. A lot of people in my family were engineers. It’s what interested me the most out of all the other options I had.”

With school in the mix, Shome’s schedule had a certain routine to it. He would train with the first team in the morning, and then head to class downtown for afternoon or night classes. Despite occasionally missing classes in the morning or due to travel, Shome was able to attend the majority of his lessons over the years despite the demands of his full-time job.

When he did miss class though, he wasn’t cut any slack; most engineering classes require your physical presence in class, so if you miss a lesson, you catch up on your own.

“It was pretty tricky, man,” admitted Shome. “You have to find the right amount of time to do both things and do them well. At the end of the day, it’s about time management and discipline. I set myself up to be able to do both things properly and I made sure to stay ahead of my work.”

Shome’s first year in the program was back in Alberta, during his first professional year with FC Edmonton. That’s also when he was approached by his now agent, Nick Mavromaras, to represent him. Nick was able to get Shome in the MLS draft in 2017 and make him one of the first Generation adidas Canada players.

But before all of this was set in motion, Shamit, his parents, and Nick discussed how Shamit would be able to continue his schooling, an issue they discussed with MLS as well when he was drafted by the Montreal Impact.

“We showed him what was available to complete his four years of schooling, but to be honest with you, other than that it was all him,” said Mavromaras. “People who know Shamit personally know how much of a humble person he is. But to be able to cope with pro soccer at this level while at the same time studying engineering, you have to be driven, focused, and mentally strong.”

On the pitch, Shome had a break-out year in 2019, earning 18 starts and another nine games off the bench, cementing his place slowly as an important part of the Impact’s young core. He did this while completing the final year of his engineering degree, where class projects and exams take on a new level of importance.

“We were there to offer psychological support regarding the soccer part of the game, but he had to get through school himself,” explained Nick. “He balanced both. There was never a moment of hesitation. When he broke out last season, he was so close to earning his degree that there was no discussion of him ever dropping out.”

To top it all off, Shamit also learned French in the short amount of time he’s been in Montreal. And I’m not talking about learning French enough so ask a teammate for a pass or order a coffee. I’m talking about “have a conversation with the media” French.

“That’s who I am as a person,” explained Shome. “I always try to push myself, push expectations and push boundaries. It’s something I do want to pursue after soccer, when I’m 35-40 years old. I know soccer comes to an end someday, and I want to continue doing something I love after that as well.”

An exception to the rule

Many athletes nowadays complete a degree of some sort, either prior, during, or after their professional careers. But it is still more of an exception than a rule, and it is even rarer to see an athlete studying full-time in the middle of his career, especially in a degree as challenging as engineering.

Last year, local athlete Laurent Duvernay-Tardif made headlines around the world when his Kansas City Chiefs lifted the Super Bowl, after the Quebec-born superstar graduated from the McGill University Faculty of Medicine in May of 2018. He became the first doctor to ever get his hands on the NFL’s ultimate prize.

“Education is important to my family,” explained the Canadian midfielder. “It’s part of the way I was raised. The South Asian culture is very education dominant, and my parents raised me to value it. They’re the ones who told me to continue my education even after joining MLS.

At first, Shamit didn’t think of it much. His decision to continue his degree despite being a starter with FC Edmonton may have been in part to appease his parents’ expectations at first, but as time wore on, the Concordia graduate became passionate about what he was studying.

“The beauty in this is that the more seriously I started taking it, the more I realized I was good at it, and I found it more and more interesting,” added Shome. “Now that I’ve finished my degree, I realize how much I enjoyed doing it all. I’m really thankful for the experience.”

Irregular graduation

With the current situation being what it is, it’s definitely a peculiar time for this year’s university graduates. Under normal circumstances, they’d have their convocations to look forward to, after which they would most likely celebrate with family and friends visiting from all over the world.

But Shome, like the rest of us, is confined to his apartment, with most of his family back in Alberta. The only close contact he does have is with his teammates, who were obviously some of the first ones to hear the good news.

“The guy called us the second his exam was over,” said goalkeeper James Pantemis, one of Shamit’s best friends at the club.

The two have formed a close relationship over the past few years, rooming together and often driving to Concordia in one car after training, Shamit attending his engineering classes while James studied at the John Molson School of Business.

Shamit has also formed close bonds with the other players living in the apartment complex nestled in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, in between Centre Nutrilait and Stade Saputo.

“He’s my neighbour,” said goalkeeper Clément Diop. “We’re always together, either running, working out, or just playing cards. I’m very happy that he finally finished his bachelors.”

Diop, who’s been with the club since the beginning of the 2018 season, has become good friends with the group’s young players, especially Shome, as the two fought for minutes in their respective positions.

“Shamit puts in the work,” explained Diop. “He works hard. He has goals, and he wants to accomplish them. This isn’t an easy diploma. But he’s shown that he can balance both. It’s pretty exceptional actually. It says a lot about his work ethic.”

When I mentioned potentially going back to school any time soon, Shome quickly hit the brakes, preferring to take a last a year or two off to focus solely on soccer before even considering furthering his education. But he is looking to potentially pursue an MBA at some point later on.

The point of all this being, if you ever need an engineer, the Impact knows a guy.