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On-Campus Interview Series: Unlikely Athletic Hero – Alex Michael

Alex’s sports career is a bit of a feel-good-story. As a kid, Alex admits, he was somewhat heavy-set. However, as a senior in high school he transformed himself into an athletic hero and was the captain of both the soccer and the wrestling teams. Today, in his late 20s, Alex is very involved in the HBS intramural sports scene.

Alex Michael is also a true New York sports fan. He shed tears of joy when the Giants won the XXV Super Bowl in 1990 and entered into a severe bout of depression when the Red Sox decimated the Yankees last fall.

We have seen Alex in a suit as the coach of Section H’s soccer team, we have seen him donning a Dodgeball outfit, and we have heard that his section has the shortest basketball team in the HBS league. But who is this man? The Harbus finally tracked him down to get to the core of his athletic rags-to-riches story.

FACT FILE
Name: Alex Michael
Section: NH
Height: 5ft 8.25in
Weight: 196 pounds
Eyes: Chestnut Brown
Hair: Brown with subtle hints of red
Marital Status: Single
Favorite Food: Rice Pudding
Favorite Drink: Jack and Ginger Ale
Favorite Film: Tommy Boy
Band: Counting Crows (“I love their words, their music is poetry”)
Nickname: Coach
How Acquired Nickname: After an injury during the HBS intramural soccer playoffs, I took on the role of coach, and my friends thought that the role really suited me. That’s when the world realized that I’m a talented coach!

Harbus: What’s your involvement with sports at HBS?
Alex Michael: At HBS, I am very involved with intramural sports. I play for the NH intramural football team, soccer team and basketball team. I am also the initiator of the HBS Dodgeball phenomenon.

Harbus: Have you had a successful season in these sports at HBS?
AM: I led the team in interceptions for the intramural football. More importantly, I led the NH soccer team to the playoffs, but sadly, I suffered an unfortunate injury and could not play in the final.

Harbus: Did you continue to be involved with the team after the injury?
AM: Absolutely. One thing I’m about is team work. I wanted to win even if I could not play, so I took on the responsibility as coach. I have had a lot of experience on the bench and I have seen a lot of coaches in my day, and I just tried to emulate them.

Harbus: How would you describe your coaching style during the final stretch of the soccer season?
AM: Tough love. My players are going to know that I’m there. When I coach I can get very animated, and I have been known to shout and throw things on the ground.

Harbus: Sounds like you are a pretty tough coach?
AM: You bet!

Harbus: Aside from the intramural sports, do you exercise a lot?
AM: I’m a gym rat. I like to get in there and throw up some weight-200-300 pounds at the time. I know what it takes to be a winner.

(Editor’s note: AM did not display his weight room prowess, so we cannot vouch for the truth of this claim…)

Harbus: When did you start your involvement with sports??
AM: Sports has always been part of my life. I was heavy as a child and sports was a way to try to combat that. Sports transformed my life. From being a fat little kid I graduated high school as the captain of both the wrestling and the soccer teams.

Harbus: What is your best sporting moment on the field?
AM: When I took 4th place in the New York state wrestling championship in the 189 pounds weight class. I was the underdog. I should not have been in that weight class for both wrestling and health reasons. My ability to go in there and beat some guys that were much stronger than me took everyone by surprise and shows that heart matters.

(Editor’s note: A very inspirational story indeed…)

Harbus: And your worst sporting moment?
AM: Probably when we lost in the intramural soccer championship finals to ND. I was coaching and made sure we had the best line up for what turned out to be a very close game. We fought from behind to tie with one minute to go. That is when our backline faltered and we lost the game.

Harbus: Are you still bitter about that loss?
AM: When you live and breathe the game it is hard to lose, especially to an inferior team of athletes.

Harbus: What is the biggest challenge of being so involved with sports at HBS?
AM: I feel that athletic talent is both a blessing and a burden. I feel that I need to get involved in all intramural sports in order not to let my section down.

Harbus: What are the benefits of being so involved with sports at HBS?
AM: Camraderie.

Harbus: What do you do when you are not out there doing sports ?
AM: I am the social chair of my section, so I plan a lot of parties. I also try to read every issue of FHM cover to cover. And, yes, sometimes I read The Economist.

Harbus: What is your next athletic challenge?
AM: At the moment I am focused on the intramural basketball season. We are down 0-2 and our average height is below 5ft 8in, but that is not going to stop us. Heart is more important than height.

Harbus: Finally, do you have any advice for young athletes out there?
AM: Believe in yourself. And don’t forget to exercise and diet. I was heavy as a kid, but look at me now. I made it!

Harbus: On that note I think we’ll thank you for your time.
AM: Thank you.

February 7, 2005
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