As an elite football player, Bruce Djite never leaves anything out on the pitch. Maxims such as ‘finish the game with no what ifs’, and ‘leave no stone unturned’ have guided his approach to the game.
The former Socceroo has taken the same approach to his Bachelor of Business degree at Griffith University and was recently recognised with the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence for maintaining a GPA of above 6.0.
“The mantra of ‘Ps get degrees’ certainly does not resonate with me,” he said. “I believe that if you are going to commit to something then you may as well do it properly and leave no stone unturned.
“Personally, I have always had high expectations of myself, and I think that comes naturally to any high performing athlete. It is a mindset that is developed very early in life.”
Bruce studied online for the past eight years as he played football full-time, grew his young family, worked at a prominent business consulting firm and also took on commentary commitments with Fox Sports.
He began study at the Griffith Business School in 2011 when he was playing for the Gold Coast United franchise in the domestic A-League football competition and continued the degree during stints with several other clubs including Adelaide United, where he won a premiership and championship in 2015/16.
Juggling various responsibilities has been the toughest part of completing the degree. But by managing his time effectively and engaging his steely focus, Bruce found it possible to find harmony between his competing priorities.
“I am not easily distracted,” he said. “When it is time to study or to prepare for exams, I forget football for that period and fully concentrate on my studies. It comes down to having high standards, discipline and good time management.”
He admits, though, there is one thing he will drop everything for – family. Anyone who has two children under five knows that it is an extremely rewarding and exceptionally busy time.
“My kids do their best to distract me, and to be honest they are the only ones I will drop everything for to hang out with them. Otherwise, everything is scheduled in my diary,” he said.
Bruce was able to draw on the commitment and dedication that has been essential to his success as a football player to achieve excellent results at university. He describes studying for a degree as just like the football pre-season.
“Every elite athlete will tell you that without a solid pre-season under your belt it is very difficult to perform consistently well during the season,” he said.
By completing the pre-season well, athletes are showing the coaches that they are ready for the demands of the season. Or in the case of tertiary education, students show they are ready for employment.
“The key reason I am completing this degree is to show any future employers that I am someone who is capable of completing a number of tasks at a high level whilst under constant scrutiny, which comes with being a footballer,” Bruce said.
While there are plenty of analogies between sport and study, Bruce sees one key difference between success on the pitch and in the classroom – when you put the time and effort into tertiary education, the rewards come. That’s not necessarily the case with sport.
“Sport is unique, as there are so many variables; hard work is not always enough to get the desired outcome. With academic study, hard work alone will allow you to get the result you desire – anyone can do it,” he said.
Very little compares to sharing the joy of kicking an important goal or winning a trophy with teammates. Nevertheless, Bruce’s graduation day will be one of the proudest days of his life.
“It’s been a fantastic experience; we are very lucky in Australia to have such great universities! I am so grateful to Griffith, especially the lecturers and tutors who have been instrumental in engaging me throughout my studies. I will always be an advocate for Griffith University – it’s a truly brilliant university.”
Looking ahead, Bruce has several options open to him, whether that is continuing his work in the media (which he thoroughly enjoys), moving into business, or both. In business, he would like to work in or with the football industry in a role that allows him to work to his strengths in stakeholder management.
“I am a people person and I truly believe that rational actors make strategic decisions, which generally lead to solutions for almost all issues. I would enjoy working with a wide range of stakeholders simultaneously to deliver better outcomes for Australian football – a role that could be described as Corporate Affairs, Stakeholder and International Relations.
“Whatever the label is, as long as I work in an organisation that can replicate or is working towards replicating the high-performance environment I am used to as a sportsperson, I will be very happy.”