For many student-athletes in the NCAA, the time leading up to graduation is a very chaotic period; usually presenting us with more questions about our future than answers. How is the next stage in your athletic career going to play out? Is there a chance that you could become a professional athlete after college? How am I going to earn a living and play my sport? Should I continue competing? These are just a few of the questions that I remember asking myself in my final days at the University of Tulsa back in 2010.
Academically, graduation was a time of such fulfillment. The realization you successfully completed your athletic eligibility and achieved a degree brings forth a sense of such satisfaction. For the last four years, you had your life planned out for you day-by-day; exerting yourself both physically and mentally to achieve success on the playing field and in the classroom. Now, things that used to be planned out for you as a student-athlete were now your responsibility. Budgeting, meals, and scheduling was now all on you. I was not prepared for how much different the next phase of my life would be.
One of the biggest challenges for me post-collegiately was athletics. Continuing to be a competitive athlete was difficult. While in the NCAA, student-athletes are treated as professional athletes. They are given everything they need to succeed for free. The reality is depending on the NCAA sport, less than 2% of NCAA athletes actually become professional post-collegiately. After spending four years down south and now back in Canada, I no longer had access to the perks of being a NCAA athlete. I did not have a training room to walk into to receive a massage. I did not have access to an ice bath post-training. I had to pay for my travel and races as well as having to buy my own pair of running shoes! To be a competitive athlete post-collegiately is very difficult without any support. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic support group training with my high school coach Peter Grinbergs, as well as receiving a running kit sponsorship from Mizuno Canada.
Some of the other hurdles I encountered post-collegiately was money and living arrangements. After living four years on my own, I was now living at home with my parents. Many things had changed back home with my family and with my friends during the four years I was away. I also needed a job to support myself. This took time away from training and recovery. I struggled with how I was going to successfully position myself in the working world; to use the degree and skills I had learned at university.
Transitioning from a NCAA student-athlete to an adult is not easy. The first year post-collegiately for me was a tough change of scenery, and often is for any aspiring athlete who wants to keep competing. In my next blog post I will share about my transition from student-athlete to working life, as I continue my series – An Athletically Inspired Educational Journey.