Gone are the days with countless hours spent out on the field, court or track. The weight rooms were crowded with other student athletes, and with sweat dripping down your forehead you pushed through your workout with the knowledge that your hard work would pay off. The passion is still there, but the option to continue playing has been taken from you. Whether by choice or because of the school you now attend, being part of a collegiate varsity athletics team is not a possibility. After the glory days of high school, with a love so deep it becomes part of your identity, not being a college athlete can be difficult to cope with.
In just my first semester of college, there were a number of times I found myself left with more than a five-hour period ahead of me with no obligations to fulfill. In high school, my “free time” was mainly spent on the track or in the weight room, preparing for each of the track meets I’d have the following weekends. Despite being a decent athlete, choosing to enroll at a university with Division 1 athletics brought my dream of running in college to an end. For those with an ever-present love for the sport, acknowledging the consequences of this choice can bear significant tolls on the mind of the individual.
Even so, there are ways to cope with the knowledge that you are no longer a student athlete (at least officially).
Social support like your friends and family are great resources when it comes to the transition of not competing in college.
The number of times I’ve called my mom on a Saturday morning because I didn’t know how to fill my time is somewhat ridiculous, but that’s ok, because she loves me. Friends are also awesome people to talk with, especially friends from home who share your similar interests, because they know what you’re going through. They get it. They’re dealing with the same things. It helps to talk with others to handle the loss of your treasured high school athletic career.
Involving yourself in activities off the field is also incredibly important.
Finding interests outside your sport can be difficult for some people — I can attest to that. It’s key to invest your time into clubs or causes that you deem worthy. Whether it’s rushing a sorority/fraternity, joining student government, or even a photo club, being involved will help alleviate the void you may feel in not being able to compete at the collegiate level.
Take time for yourself.
Accepting that your time as a competitive athlete is over is difficult. While the emotional transition may not be something you’ve encountered before, take time to feel the loss and know that your value is not mirrored by your athletic success. You’ll get through it, and in time the absence you feel from your sport will be filled with other passions too.
The more you devote yourself to something, whatever it is, the more difficult it is to let go. It’s hard to cope with losing part of yourself, but part of doing so is realizing that life will go on. It might be hard to believe, but there is so much more to life than athletics.