Cal State LA MBA graduate driven to help fellow athletes
How the soccer player’s season-ending injury deepened a passion to prevent financial hardship.
By Myles Bridgewater-Jackman | Cal State LA News Service
During his years as an athlete, Sam Croucher encountered a repeating narrative that puzzled him.
Notable professional athletes elevated to the highest level of success and pay, would lose it all after a traumatic event like a career-ending injury. That story of struggle spoke to Croucher, the Cal State LA men’s soccer captain. During his time at the university, he envisioned a better reality for athletes when calamity strikes or their career ends.
Croucher, a 24-year-old Alhambra resident, graduated on May 22 with a Master of Business Administration from Cal State LA’s College of Business and Economics with a 4.0 GPA. It was the second degree he has earned from the university.
Croucher is on a mission to prevent athletes from ending up penniless when the game ends. His education, his experience on the field, and his passion for sports, have equipped him to train athletes to handle their finances differently.
Croucher developed a love for the game during his youth in Derbyshire, England. Since the age of 8, he played on academy teams and his skill allowed him to continue his playing career into the collegiate level. When faced with an opportunity to play in the United States, the midfielder committed full force.
Croucher has always striven for success. After two years spent at San Jose State, he craved an opportunity to play for a championship caliber team and soon eyed Cal State LA as his next destination.
After arriving in Los Angeles, Croucher proved an insatiable drive to excel in all aspects of his life.
While his efforts on the field earned acclaim within the athletic conference, Croucher’s academic dedication was recognized on a national scale. A recipient of the prestigious Billie Jean King Scholarship, Croucher was named a 2018 Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America in his final season for the Golden Eagles, and was one of only nine student-athletes in the country to do so with a 4.0 GPA.
Through his classes at the university, Croucher developed a passion for finance and looked for a pathway through which he could achieve his goal of helping athletes. For all the physical training and mental toughness that athletes endure, few seem trained to handle their finances.
Croucher wanted to change that.
Prior to his senior season, Croucher’s experience with calamity became personal.
“I was playing in a summer league, and just doing it for fitness really. I was just trying to get some minutes under my belt,” he recalls. “I went to close somebody down and my leg just hyperextended.”
The diagnosis revealed a torn ACL, a season-ending injury requiring surgery and several months of rehabilitation.
After the injury, Croucher began to wonder if he would ever be able to play at the same level again.
He found solace in the stories of New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and notable athletes in England’s Premier League, who had recovered from the same injury and returned to the game. And while the initial injury sparked uncertainty for Croucher’s athletic future, he questioned what this misfortune meant for his academic life.
Professional athletes’ stories of financial hardship now paralleled his own, as Croucher had to assess how the injury might affect his scholarship standing at the university.
The experience deepened Croucher’s passion for helping other athletes and he soon discovered a pathway through which he could achieve this goal.
Croucher renewed his drive and decided to pursue a master’s degree while working his way back to play a final season in a Cal State LA uniform. He landed multiple internships, and one, found through a Cal State LA connection, became a full-time position. Now a financial advisor assistant at Glendale-based California Financial Partners, Inc., Croucher is working toward becoming a fully-licensed financial advisor and eventually developing a clientele of professional athletes.
“I can really make a difference and I can see how this path is going to unfold in front of me,” Croucher attests. “The desire keeps growing and growing as I’ve been moving up.”
While some athletes never come back from an ACL injury, Croucher found his way back onto the pitch for one final season with Cal State LA. He took a self-described “beast mode” mentality toward his strenuous rehabilitation, which added an additional two to three hours of training to his daily regimen. After seven months the graduate student laced up his boots for the 2018 season and led the nationally ranked Golden Eagles on a championship campaign.
“The best day for me in a Cal State LA jersey was winning the CCAA tournament,” he recalls with a satisfactory smile. “Having the captain’s armband on, lifting the trophy. Beautiful day.”
While the trophy, that now graces the foyer of Cal State LA’s Physical Education building, embodies the accomplishment of one of his biggest goals to date, Croucher continues to look forward with his trademark determination to the next: helping other athletes financially.
“I know how much grit you have to have, what it takes to get to that level and be a professional athlete,” he says. “I want to relieve as much stress and worries for other athletes, [as] a way to give back.”