Petar Gusa is an LCC International University alumnus from Serbia. He graduated from LCC in 2018 with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. During his LCC years, he was a valuable member of the LCC Moose Basketball. Petar managed to balance both the academic and sports aspect of his student life. Currently, Petar is back in Serbia, working in Human Resources, and spends his free time volunteering.
How do you keep yourself busy these days?
For almost two years now, I have been working in the HR department for the Joint-Stock Electrical Networks of Serbia. My main responsibility is to organize training for the incoming employees as well as my colleagues. This job has been a great experience and it definitely keeps me busy. In my free time, I had been volunteering as a coaching assistant for a basketball team in one of the local schools. Unfortunately, with quarantine restrictions, I am no longer able to do this.
What were your interests at LCC?
I think that my main interest at LCC was playing basketball. It was difficult to find time for anything else since my days were so packed with training, games, and studies. I didn't really have a lot of free time for any other hobbies or to do whatever I wanted and when I did have time, I was simply too tired with barely any energy left. I would say that my interests narrowed down to spending time with my friends on the basketball team... on the court, in the dorm, and in many other places because we spent most of our time together. I loved discovering Lithuania by being a part of my friend’s lives that were from Lithuania. I got to meet their friends and families, visit their hometowns, and even learn how to speak Lithuanian. One more thing that I really enjoyed at LCC and in Lithuania was nature. The forest, the beach, the river, all just outside the LCC campus. These were my escape places, where I would spend some time alone or with my close friends, to clear my head and get some fresh air.
How did you start playing basketball?
My father was a great basketball player and a coach, so it’s something that I loved doing since I was a kid. During my teenage years, I was able to study in an American high school in North Carolina. There I took basketball a bit more seriously. Before I came to LCC, I had been studying at Mars Hill University in North Carolina, where I also played basketball for some time. Later on, I decided to transfer to another university and was very intrigued with LCC because of its basketball team, and the scholarships offered. Eventually, I applied and I got a basketball scholarship that allowed me not only to get my bachelor’s degree but also to do what I liked most, play basketball. Another interesting fact is that I was the only basketball player who studied Psychology. Most of the team members majored in Business Administration. In a way, my classes were my only escape to spend time with people off of the court and be more sociable.
Why did you choose to study psychology?
Honestly, I decided on a psychology degree in the fourth year of high school in the United States. I had a class, Introduction to Psychology, that I actually took by accident but am very glad that I did. The professor that taught the class, is one of the main reasons why I had such an interest. He managed to always make it interesting and engaging and created a special type of energy in the classroom that made students eager to learn more and listen. I felt even more confident when my teacher told me that I was the only basketball player who has ever studied psychology. Today, I can see the advantages of having studied in the field of psychology. There are many opportunities for me to grow professionally, while psychology also helps give me an understanding of the people in my environment and helps me find better ways to communicate with them. This was the main reason why I decided to stick to psychology and why I chose it as my major when I came to LCC.
Did your knowledge of psychology influence your basketball performance?
I think that psychology in sports is something that is being practiced quite often. In individual sports, it is important to have a person with whom you can share and discuss all your struggles, especially the feeling of constant pressure where everything depends on you. Psychology is no stranger to team sports as well. Teamwork is built on trust and support both on the court and outside of it. Realizing that, gave me confidence and motivation to do my best not only for myself, but for the benefit of the whole team.
During my senior year, I actually did practicum work, doing research with the help of my teammates. I did various tests and recorded their reactions and/or a change in behavior. Mostly I did team building activities and other small things to discover how pressure affects them, and what kinds of other internal issues they faced, while playing basketball. I spent a lot of time talking to each member of the team individually, asking them questions, and listening. I wanted to actually help them deal with any emotional distress and to be there for them.
Did you know what career path you wanted to pursue for your future?
No, I did not know, not even close. Just like any other student, I struggled to figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to either play basketball professionally or look for a job within my degree because that was my initial plan. I always thought that sports are good. Basketball is good. However, I knew that I needed a back-up plan in case I wasn’t able to continue with basketball. My degree could still give me security to move on with my life and do something. Many students think the degree is just a piece of paper and I disagree with that. It's a ticket to the best seat, to see how your life plays out.
I always admired people who knew from the very beginning what they wanted to do with their lives and just worked towards their goal. I think with every year at LCC, I would learn something new about myself. I discovered skills that I did not even consider possible for me to possess. This definitely shifted my perception and changed me so much, to the extent that I felt like a different person every single year. At the end of my senior year, I was a completely different person than the one who stepped foot in LCC four years before. Because of that, it was difficult to stick to one idea or goal for the future. Every year I had a different idea about my life, different expectations, and even changed motivation to move forward.
How did you make a decision to concentrate on your career over basketball?
During my time at LCC, my life revolved around basketball and only basketball. Constant training and games were exhausting to the point where I just got so fed up with basketball that I did not take any pleasure in doing what I had previously loved most. This made me realize that I need to take a break from basketball, and pursuing it professionally would put much pressure on me, eventually making me miserable and unwilling to play basketball at all. As a result, I decided to concentrate on my career and make basketball my hobby, something I could do, to escape reality.
Later when I came back to Serbia, I thought it would be a great idea to follow my father’s steps and become a basketball coach myself. He was always such an inspiration and motivation to me and I wanted to be that for somebody else. Playing basketball and training others to play are very different experiences. For instance, when playing it, I felt an adrenaline rush that would last me the whole game. It was just fun and exciting. On the other hand, being a coach makes me so pumped up and lasts the whole day. No matter how busy or tired I am, I always look forward to going to practices and seeing the team having fun playing, just like I used to. Working as an assistant coach has definitely fulfilled my life the most. I am very happy with the choices I’ve made for my life after graduating.
What has basketball meant to you in the past and what does it mean to you now?
One thing I have begun to understand over time is that basketball is a completely different sport when you are on the court and off of it. When I was a part of the team I felt like I had another family. We weren’t just a team on the court, we were always there for each other and helped one another when needed. You knew these people had your back both during the game and outside of court. Being a part of the team is all about having a good time, making life-lasting friends, and creating memories together. On the other hand, now I realize that our coach was the person who made us a team, who made us a family and gave us that opportunity not only to compete but have the time of our lives on the court. Now, when I am on the court, I am not there just to have fun. I am there to help the players achieve their goals and fulfill their expectations. I am there to guide them to be the best at what they do and raise to their full potential. Basketball is what gives me purpose to be a better person and what fulfills my life. Being a coach is a completely different experience from being a player but I know that it has been the right one for me.
Can you give a word of advice to current students of LCC?
Living in a dynamic environment such as LCC can be filled with pressure and be confusing. Don't rush it, take it at your own pace. You don't have to compete with anybody. You don't have to compare yourself to anybody and their successes. Your progress and your willingness to be the best version of yourself is what matters. Make sure that you stay true to yourself and do things you enjoy. Everything comes at its own time, so don’t rush it and just live in the moment. Create unforgettable memories with people who matter, and the thing you are looking for will come to you itself.