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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Jerry Zouantcha

Threads of expression

How AU men’s soccer player Jerry Zouantcha found art in sports

There is a lot that goes into a craft. It requires a great deal of interest, love and a deep desire to keep learning. All these factors can lead you to be just a bit better than you were the day before. It soon becomes your passion and you dedicate your world to it. The crazy part is that in most cases, you don’t really know what the outcome will be, but that is exactly why a craft is so special. The process of working diligently at something you love is oftentimes thankless, which is why I think it can become so addictive. That is what athletes, creators, thinkers, artists all have in common — a love for the process. Imagine being all of those things, some people are. Take for instance American University’s men’s soccer captain Jerry Zouantcha.

The process we are talking about here, comes with a unique aspect of truth. Claiming a passion requires a lot of creative energy, self-honesty and motivation to stick to it. Zouantcha spoke about what drives him — soccer and music. 

“You have to be honest in order to enjoy it,” said Zouantcha. Graduating this past fall with a degree in health promotion and a minor in business entertainment, he reflects on how much of his college experience was dedicated to his sport, which all started at the Bethesda Soccer Club. He was just six years old when he started out. Looking back, he said that’s what kept him busy growing up — playing with other kids everyday, not having any clue where his love for soccer would someday take him. 

“Early middle school is when I really started playing. I liked the part of just honing in on something and becoming better at it. It gave me structure, competition and a sense of determination that helped me set and achieve goals,” he said. “I fell in love with that process and got serious about it in high school. That’s when I realized I wanted to play in college. That’s when it became a mission.”

Sports are a true form of art. It is a space to physically express yourself, applying both skills and imagination. Your identity as an athlete doesn’t stop when you unlace the shoes. It becomes a part of you and influences who you are around, what you are around and what you are about. For Zouantcha, the people he surrounded himself with at AU played a large role in him embracing his creative side. 

“I got to AU and met dope people. Talented and creative people who took me under their wing. That’s when I got plugged into the creative life,” he said. “By sophomore year, I was completely wrapped up in music. My perspective on art and music just changed. I started thinking a lot more abstractly and even saw it through a business perspective.”

For Zouantcha, music and sports co-exist. Both have the power to influence and grow an entire community. Every athlete has a playlist and every artist has a competitive nature. Both music and sports offer an escape and give the opportunity to dream and pursue something greater than ourselves. Personally, I believe these passions were always part of us, but it’s up to us to embrace them and make them our own.

“I always loved music and dancing. It’s been a part of my life since I can remember. When I was a kid, I played the drums and trumpet. I would even catch myself singing while I played sometimes. I actually always found myself doing that, throughout my whole soccer career. It relaxed me and enabled me to find my flow in games,” Zouantcha said. 

“Sophomore year was also when I started DJing on my own. That’s when I fell in love with it and wanted to master it. It allowed me to separate myself from soccer,” he said. This led to MintSounds, where Zouantcha would publish playlists on SoundCloud, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify. These playlists were called “The Fresh 11,” where he would curate 11 songs, half mainstream, half underground. After that, people started following him online for music and asking him to make them individual playlists, which he then used to make connections in the music scene. 

Zouantcha founded VOICI, The Kids from the D.M.V., his own creative brand, in 2020. He and his friend started the brand to create a platform to share compelling stories through multimedia. The brand covers an array of topics including racial justice, activism, fashion, photography, music and sports. 

“We talked about all sorts of issues and got involved in different communities. We spoke about Chocolate City and conducted interviews to produce videos and other digital content on Black influence across the DMV.” We promoted Black-owned businesses and designed and created streetwear clothing that embodied Black culture,” said Zouantcha. “We even got to collaborate with the U.S. National Soccer Team and other pro athletes.”

In total, VOICI captured the coexistence of sports, art and music. 

“To me, art is everywhere in soccer, just like music. The detail in jersey and retro designs is art, just like the detail in melodic DJing. And at the end of the day, soccer and music just bring me peace. There’s just a level of sincerity there, deep within me.”

Passion is a rare beauty. When you find yours, hold onto it. Some people never do and wonder what’s the use. Answers vary. Ask any serious athlete why they spend hours on end working on their form and they’ll look at you sideways, as if there should be no question. The same thing goes for artists and creators. Each commits their time and dedicates their headspace to this one thing with no guarantee of success or applause. The only thing they do know is that they always have something to call their own.

“Soccer’s been amazing - the way it affected my life is insane. And what kept me at AU was the people. They're still my best friends today,” he said “We’re locked in, committed to each other's lives. The more I thought about leaving, the more I wanted to stay because of the people. It’s really all about who you’re around.” 

When asked about his next steps, Zouantcha knows that both soccer and music will be a part of it.  

“I want to work in the space of soccer and music but more so within a marketing sense. I want to work with artists, photographers, content creators and designers, while creating campaigns that highlight moments and deliver authentic stories. That’s where I would be most happy.”

The world of sports and music collide on all levels. The mentality of an athlete and a creator is maintained by a pattern of similar threads sewn together. That is what attracts creatives to one another – people don't realize how versatile it is to be a creator and how much of sports is artistic expression. Art and sports require a certain type of energy that is not talked about enough, but maybe that’s the point. Both allow you to speak your mind without saying a word.

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Sophie Myers. 

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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