Friday, June 28, 2013
When Charleston Battery practice ends for the day, Zach Prince doesn’t join his teammates for a round of golf or for a couple hours at the beach. He ditches the shorts and cleats for slacks and dress shoes and heads to a different kind of work.
Prince, 25, works full-time for a government contractor analyzing communication systems. “It’s difficult,” he said of the balance between both jobs. “I have to go into work before practice and go in after practice and stay later.”
Both of his employers work together to make sure Prince tallies 40 hours with the contractor every week. “Sometimes I have to take vacation (days) to go on (soccer) road trips,” Prince said.
He’s held the white-collar job for three years and played with the Battery for four. He may be a professional athlete, but he’s not paid like the A-list athletes glamorized on ESPN.
During Prince’s first year with the Battery, he said he valeted cars at a restaurant in downtown Charleston. “My first contract was pretty low, so I had to do something else,” he said.
But, the aspiration to do well in soccer and the necessity to hold another job to pay the bills haven’t been a distraction for Prince. Coach Mike Anhaeuser said he did the same thing, playing for the Battery from 1994-98 and working for Blackbaud in research and development at the same time. Back when Anhaeuser was playing, contracts were about $50 per game, he said.
“He (Prince) is a player who I could put anywhere (on the field). That’s very important for us without a deep roster,” Anhaeuser said. “I’m sure it’s the same way with his job.”
The veteran coach said Prince’s focus is better than it’s ever been and praised his commitment and dedication. “They’re not making millions,” he said. “It’s only going to benefit him.”
Like most athletic boys, Prince grew up wanting to play professional sports and earn a comfortable living doing so. His dream lasted longer than most, as he played on the College of Charleston men’s soccer team and now with the Battery.
But, this will most likely be the final stepping stone. Major League Soccer hasn’t denied him, but a working career that he loves is pulling him more and more away from the field. Anhaeuser said this is the first year Prince has really been full time.
“In the beginning, soccer was definitely my main priority, and as I’ve gone further with this job, it’s kind of leveled – not my effort toward the team or anything, though,” Prince explained. “Me going to the MLS was like a huge deal early on in my career. Now, I’m more concerned with winning a championship and doing things like that, team-wise.”
The 5-foot-10-inch midfielder has scored two goals this season, including one during the Battery’s rival match against the Wilmington Hammerheads, May 11. Last season, the Battery beat its North Carolina foe in the USL PRO title game. Charleston won this year’s regular season rematch 4-2.
His goals this season match the total amount of times he found the net through his first three seasons. He also has two assists, which also matches the total number he tallied in his Battery career before this season.
“I think it’s (the full-time job) actually helped me. When you put so much pressure on yourself individually to go on to the next level, sometimes you just put unneeded – just stupid – pressure on yourself,” Prince said.
“Now I’ve come to the realization that I’m okay with staying with the Battery, because it’s a great place, a great club and working this job – I love the job. I’m content doing this has helped me a lot in my career.”