Being A Washed Up Athlete Is Awesome

Every article out there talks about how sad it is when college athletics ends or how there is nothing like playing under the lights and representing your school across the nation. And that could not be more true! There is no feeling like making the game winning save in double overtime and securing a huge win for your team (I was a goalkeeper, so obvs my big moment is a save). But I’m not sad now that it’s over, I’m smiling because of all that happened!

Now it’s a long story… and I mean a very long story of how I ended up playing for two schools and completing two degrees and leading two very different experiences, on and off the field; and I won’t bore with all the details but here’s the short and sweet of it in 10 steps:

  1. Committed to a school in California
  2. Played every game for three seasons, broke some records, made awesome friends
  3. Following the final game of my junior year, got cut from the team
  4. Decided to stay in Fresno and finish up my Bachelor’s degree early
  5. After a year of not playing, got a call from a school to go play there for my last year of eligibility and go to grad school
  6. Emailed a school in New York City about the same opportunity
  7. They dug the idea, said let’s make it happen
  8. Moved across the country in the middle of winter and prayed I still knew how to dive
  9. Still knew how to dive, competed for playing time, got some but not all of it, got to finish my career with my best friend from high school
  10. Finished up a Master’s degree, made more awesome friends and proved to myself that if you train hard every day over summer, you can just barely pass the fitness test come season

It’s a little more complicated than those 10 steps made it sound but let’s talk about the post-all of that-life. While I loved the grind of being a student-athlete and all the growth that sprouted from those amazing experiences, I haaaated it.

I hated being up at 5:00am for a 7:00am practice just so I could sit on a table in the training room and compete for some intern’s attention because my legs were barely holding together.

I hated the daunting feelings of the fitness tests and the days leading up to it. Am I fit enough? Am I going to pass? Am I going to die? What happens if I don’t pass? Maybe if I just jump in front of a car real quick… then I wouldn’t have to run, right?

I hated all the school I missed and the teachers that didn’t cut you slack. And yes, contrary to popular belief, a lot of teachers hated student-athletes and would make our lives heck when we missed classes. It wasn’t all presented on a silver platter.

I hated the anxiety of dealing with it all. Missed calls from my mom, emails from classmates, homework due by midnight, meeting with my coach later, not eating properly because I had 10 minutes to run across campus from practice to class. And truly the list goes on, and on… and on!

And now, I don’t have to deal with any of that; except maybe the missed calls from my mom. Now, there’s no more dealing with early wake up calls or sleepy interns who don’t know the difference between a horseshoe and a figure eight. No more constant pressure of being in good enough shape to pass a fitness test; now, all the fitness I do is self-imposed and because I actively want to live a healthy lifestyle, not because a coach is breathing down my neck about it. I can now put in as much or as little effort into progressive learning as I want because it’s on my own time and I get to choose the topic! Goodbye, business statistics. And a lot less anxiety! When I was done playing, it was like a wave of fresh air came over my nerves and I no longer had to constantly think about the extra details involved with college sports!

Being an adult is scary and confusing but there’s nothing like being the boss of your own time. What do I do now?

Well, I have a full-time job which is sweet because now I make money. I still workout every day and while I try to train with the same mentality, it’s ok when I don’t. I got into coaching soccer in my community because I love having the opportunity to give back to the sport and be a role model for these young athletes. I get to go out and have a social life whenever I want. I can drink a beer without fear of running sprints the next day; for those of you familiar with the 24/48-hour rule, it was never my friend. And overall, my mental health has improved drastically. I get to do what I want, when I want and get to be fully present in each part of my life. No longer is everything sacrificed because I have soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved playing and traveling and the friends I’ve made but it’s not like I’m still living for those glory days. Now I’m finding glory in each day. TC mark

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