For many student-athletes in the NCAA our sport identifies who we are. Growing up as a child and continuing on through higher education, sport (track and field specifically) was all I knew. My sport was what people associated me with. Back home, I was known as “Runner Boy” and the “long distance runner” was how I introduced myself to people. Running was how I met most of my friends, running was how I paid for my education, and running results controlled my daily emotions. In fact, most of what I had in my life was a direct result of running. It was safe to say that running became my identity.
We all cannot become professional athletes though. What happens then, during life after sport? The reality is all of us have to earn a living at some point. We all need to earn money to put food on our table and a roof over our heads. To do this, you need a job. And to get a job, you need experience. Experience that most of the time has nothing to do with sport. The reality is, most employers do not care about your sport accomplishments as good they may be, and do not understand the sacrifices and hours of dedication and training it took to achieve your results. Your athletic ability no longer sets you apart from the “rest of the crowd.” Leaving us asking ourselves, how to cope?
The good news is there is life after sport if you want there to be. I found there are so many transferrable skills that you learn as a high level student-athlete that applied to the working world. For example, six years ago I joined a tech startup and I was given a chance to become professional at something that was not related to sport. This was a new concept to me, and I did struggle at first. I knew though, through my days as an athlete that hard work and discipline were key factors to my success as a runner. I would use these skills and treat my new profession, like I had treated my sport. Hours that were spent on the practice field were now hours that were spent learning skillsets. My drive to be successful as an athlete also helped me to drive to be successful as a professional. The skills are very transferrable, and this gave me confidence.
The truth is that there is life after sport, and even though your sport may be your identity at the time, this does not mean that life is “over” the day you stop competing. As a student-athlete, it is very important that you focus on your school work as much as you focus on your athletics. This will allow you to give yourself another option once your competition days have passed. Make the athletic and educational experiences a journey together, and, know that there are endless success stories of athletes in the working world.
In my next blog post, I will share about how a bad lifestyle impacts more than just sport performance as I continue my series – An Athletically Inspired Educational Journey.