What It’s Like to Be a Student Athlete: Aziz Abdel Massih and Elie Chamoun

LAU student Aziz Abdel Massih and alumnus Elie Chamoun reflect on their challenging yet memorable journeys as student athletes.

By Editorial Staff

The LAU Captains Basketball team with coach Joe Moujaes (seated right).
Chamoun playing for the LAU Captains against the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK).
“As a captain at LAU, there was pressure to maintain the greatness that LAU had brought to championships,” says Abdel Massih.
Chamoun receiving the LAU Athletics Sportsmanship Award 2017-2018 from Dean of Students Makram Ouaiss.
Abdel Massih scoring for the national team against Bahrain during FIBA Asia. (Photo credit: Lara Arapguirlian/ Sportscode Images)

Between training, games and classwork, student athletes are constantly spreading themselves thin. This is particularly the case for civil engineering student Aziz Abdel Massih and alumnus Elie Chamoun (BE ‘18) who managed the added stress of the engineering curriculum while performing at a high level on the courts.

In this joint interview, Abdel Massih and Chamoun touch on the challenges and joys of their journeys.

How hard was it juggling a rigorous academic program and an active sports track?

AAM: Engineering is extremely difficult on its own, especially at LAU, so imagine what it’s like with basketball trainings and maintaining a normal life. When playing with Sagesse and the country’s national team, especially, I have many people to make proud and I hate letting the fans down. But at the same time, I needed to work hard to keep my grades up. I would add, though, that the thought process involved in engineering served me well on the basketball court. This gave me an advantage over my opponents: the ability to make better last-second decisions.

EC: Being a student athlete seemed almost like a full-time job. The hardest challenge was finding time because there was simply never enough to attend all classes, get high grades, meet your sports schedule, join every social gathering, and get enough sleep.  Another challenge was the international tournaments. Course material kept piling up and you had to catch up. During LAU’s Athletics trip to Madrid in 2015, for example, there was a day when players from different teams were studying together in the hotel lobby because exams were right around the corner. As grueling as it may sound though, it was a great experience.

How important is it to maintain a healthy mental attitude and physical activity, especially during this pandemic?

AAM: Having the right mindset is critical during this difficult period. We can either make the most of it to develop new skills or we can sit at home all day and complain. I chose to enhance my skills by creating a mini gym at home to get stronger and faster for when the season starts.

EC: During this pandemic, I had more time to connect with my teammates and friends, which helped spread positive vibes all round. Although motivating myself was hard at first, home workouts were a great way to stay in shape and keep my spirits up.

What advice would you give to young students looking to pursue a dual path?

AAM: Never give up. I saw that two national team players managed to get an engineering degree while playing basketball at the highest level, which made me believe in myself and accept the challenge. And here I am, an engineer and a professional basketball player.

EC: Nothing is impossible. Although it might sometimes seem difficult to find the right balance, never favor one over the other. Prioritize and prepare early; you do not want to end up studying the day of your big game. 

Describe one of your favorite moments as a professional athlete.

AAM: My best moment was when I played two games in front of 8,000 people as part of the national team competition. The feeling was indescribable. Another was when I made a name for myself in the First Division after having an amazing series against Champville back in season 17-18. I realized then that hard work always beats talent.

EC: One of my favorite moments was hitting game winning free throws at the 2017 Arab Championship final, in the presence of 4,000 away fans in a hostile environment in Morocco. That and every win at the national team level.

How do you evaluate your experiences as LAU captain and professional basketball player?

AAM: As a captain at LAU, there was pressure to maintain the greatness that LAU had brought to championships. We have won the most out of any university, so as soon as you step on the court wearing LAU Captains, you have a duty to live up to that standard. It teaches you to become a real champion, even in your professional career.

EC: During my career as a professional basketball player, I was able to live the highs and lows of athletics, but always through discipline. It allowed me to achieve the highs in winning team trophies and individual awards and play for the youth and senior national team at the highest international level. And it also helped me overcome the lows in bitter defeats, tough injuries, and constant physical and mental pressure.

My experience as a LAU captain was amazing. Led by coach Joe Moujaes, I was part of a great team whom I proudly call my brothers to this day. We extremely bonded through enjoying basketball games, traveling, and competing in several countries, and winning 3 Uni-league championships during that time.