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Coparropa parlays swimming prowess into professional career

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Business & Economy Briefs

Coparropa parlays athletic skills into lifelong job qualifications

by Eric Jackson, partly from other media

Swimmer Eileen Coparropa carried the Panamanian flag at three Olympiads, won more than 400 gold medals at regional competitions and hers became one of few dark faces to appear in Panamanian television ads. Politicians of all of this country's parties wanted to be photographed with her, and they renamed the national pool after her.

So why is this story in the business section, rather than with the sports stories? Because Coparropa just graduated from Auburn University's business school, with a double major in marketing and logistics. According to a report in El Panama America, she has been hired by a US telecommunications firm.

As good as she is, Eileen Coparropa has never won an Olympic medal. But she was good enough to be recruited by Auburn, which is one of the top NCAA swimming and diving powers. On that university's team she wasn't the best at her specialties, the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle sprints. She was, however, part of several of the best US university relay teams, earning All American honors in so doing.

Of more lasting consequence, she was a good student, one who graduated with a double major despite all the hours of training and all the days of traveling that distract a student athlete from her studies.

Many US university athletic programs avoid Latin Americans out of fear that because they generally don't speak English as a first language, they won't be able to become academically eligible. In basketball and American football, where it's relatively rare for someone to go professional right out of high school, and in sports like wrestling in which professionalism really doesn't exist, there are some exceptions to this trend. Hardly any of the good young Panamanian baseball players even consider an NCAA scholarship, however. Most of those who sign professional baseball contracts right out of high school never make it to the big leagues, and at the end of their minor league days end up with few skills for the rest of their lives.

But Coparropa's father told El Panama America that his daughter's goal all along was to be a professional after her athletic career ended, and she prepared for university studies by getting a solid secondary education at Colegio LaSalle. That she was an Olympian while still a teenager attracted sufficient notice from college scouts that when the time came she has several scholarship offers from among which to choose.

Although the NCAA has cracked down, it's still possible to go to school on an athletic scholarship, taking easy courses to stay academically eligible to complete and then end up without a degree, or with a piece of paper that doesn't translate into an economically useful education. Auburn, however, takes pride in athletic programs that turn out well educated young graduates at the end. In Coparropa's fall 2005 graduating class there were 33 student athletes from nine different countries and nine US states, and among that number were nine members of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll and one Academic All American.

The bottom line? Eileen Coparropa, the business major, made a smart business move with her swimming career. Other gifted young Panamanian athletes ought to take notice.

 

 

 

 

Also in this section:
Coparropa parlays swimming prowess into professional career

After years of complaints, Tempus Bank hustler under arrest
Electric rates up between seven and 32 percent

Not everyone likes new dams
Business & Economy Briefs

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