If you asked the very busy Susie Mischenko, a California State University Northridge kinesiology major, to give three hours of her time tomorrow to help feed the homeless, she would do it. Somehow, despite an overburdened load of 19 units in course work; despite the hours of physical and mental energy dedicated to her new, semi-professional soccer team, the Los Angeles Rampage; despite the hours necessary for family, friends and just living…Mischenko would find the time.
“If you’re going to have the mentality I have, you have to be able to organize,” Mischenko said. “The whole reason to do it is to help other people and to be able to project your joy to people. And I’m not going to be a joyful person if my life’s in shambles. That’s not the point.”
What exactly is the point, then for this CSUN soccer captain of the 2006 and 2007 seasons? The head coach of the Matador’s men’s soccer program, Terry Davila, may have the answer. He recruited Mischenko for the women’s team his first year of coaching at Cal State Northridge.
“When you play as hard as she does,” Davila reasons, “there’s no way that you don’t love your teammates and love the game. And I think she has the ability to inspire players by her hard work and passion. That’s what first attracted her to me as a coach.”
Mischenko might agree: “I love doing things and being busy. I have a lot of passion, and being around and working with other people is a passion and having a strong faith is a passion…so I think that’s probably what combines to make me who I am.”
It is precisely this passion and strong faith that drive Mischenko’s personality, if not her calendar.
With her church, Mischenko visited the northern hills of Thailand, to help install potable water systems for villagers not recognized by their own national government. This was no luxury junket. Mischenko and her group flew nearly 20 hours to Bangkok, drove two hours on dilapidated roads and finally mounted elephants for four more daunting hours of travel to finally reach their destination. Once there, they were treated with awe by a culture who never encountered Caucasians before.
But aside from awe, the villagers also showed their gratitude – by putting their newfound friends in the best bamboo huts they had to offer. Life progresses slowly and simply in these lost hills, though the 21 year old Mischenko has no illusions about paring down her busy lifestyle for a simpler one.
“You really can survive on so very little and be happy.” Mischenko said. “But can someone like me go live there and be happy for the rest of their lives knowing what we know here, living the way we live here? I don’t know. It would take an extraordinary person.”
Many classify this 73-game starter (the second most starts in Matador history) as an extraordinary person already. Mischenko made the rigorous journey to Thailand twice and plans a third trip in December; she also helped out on a couple of building projects in Mexico as well. These trips south pose a few less discomforts, and hanging drywall and roofing churches come with different challenges from those in Thailand. But the head coach of the women’s soccer team, Keith West, says Mischenko meets them every time.
“Anything Susie wants to accomplish she’s going to accomplish,” said West. “I know she has a big heart, and she has a lot of big ideas. It’s just a matter of her deciding which one she’s going to go after. And once she does, she’s going to succeed.”
Mischenko finds time to help those at home too. She participated in summer camps for elementary school children where the Matador taught the finer points of bending, dribbling and trapping. The midfielder’s goals for dealing with these youngsters include teaching them to focus on possibility rather than negativity. Mischenko believes kids should get out and be active, no matter what their peers may say.
“I’m nothing spectacular,” says Mischenko. “If I can go out and do it, the whole population can go out to do it. If you want to play, then play soccer, play basketball, do what you want to do. It’s important for kids to find what they want.”
Apparently the four-year letter winner found exactly what she wanted. Mischenko ranked in the top ten at CSUN in career points (30) and career shots (97 attempts). She also made the Dean’s List and the Kinesiology Honor Roll in each semester since 2004, and won All-Big West academic honors in 2006-07.
As for the future, along with playing for the Rampage, Mischenko also plans a possible career in nursing, which entails just a few more years of academic achievement, not to mention a lifetime of dedication.
“You know there wasn’t one game we had or one practice where it was ok for her to lose, or it was time for her to take a break,” West explains. “Whatever she sets her mind on doing, she’s going to give 100%. She’s a coach’s dream.”
An athletic and academic record like Mischenko’s, and the will to do and give even more boils down to a central philosophy for this graduating Matador: “What’s the point of being here if you’re not helping people realize there’s a bigger point to life?”