You have extensive amounts of training and preparation when you’re a collegiate athlete, whether it be practice, conditioning, walk throughs, film, et cetera. However, there is often little to no preparation for when those competing days are up. It can be a bewildering thought for most athletes to fathom and even harder to come to terms with. This transition is a challenging one that leaves many with a deer in headlights moment – what do I do now that my collegiate sports days are done? How do I fill my time? Who am I now that I’m no longer a college athlete?
Free time? Don’t know her
The transition of competing in a collegiate sport to the “real world” can feel like going from working a full time job to having unlimited free time. A way to combat this difficult adjustment is picking up some hobbies or creating a passion project. Whether it be another sport or something completely different from athletics, like painting or fishing, it can be invigorating and fun to try a new medium for time freedom. Alternatively, you can also continue to embrace your past within your given sport by coaching, officiating games and events, or participating in recreational leagues.
For years, many athletes’ precedence falls on their given sport, between practice, lifts, games, meets. But with those days in the past, it can be easy to neglect your own wellbeing in contrast to the way you revered it as a collegiate athlete. It is imperative to continue to make yourself a priority, just as you did with your sport, no matter what that may look like. With previously scarce rest days becoming unlimited after finishing your sport, dedicated R&R days are still necessary and crucial to your own success. Spanning from physical to mental to emotional health, allowing yourself the ability to unwind and decompress should remain an indispensable piece in your life. And yes, recovery days can still be productive, both in and out of the gym.
60 to 0 mph in 3.5?
Just as quickly as training for a collegiate sport ramps up in preseason does it wind down when those competing days are up. You go from practicing vigorously everyday to seemingly having nothing to train for at all. Similarly, your nutritional needs swiftly change from a three or four thousand calorie diet to two thousand. Despite these shifts, you can still workout and eat like an athlete with some modifications. Hana Porkornowski, an Inspired Athletx athletic trainer and Gustavus Adolphus swimming and diving alum, shares excellent tips on continuing to train like an athlete in a previous blog post. In conjunction, the NCAA Champion magazine released an enlightening article in 2018 about this transition as well as shifting nutritional needs. Some of the key points made within the article include appropriately adjusting your caloric intake, eating lots of colorful fruit and vegetables, and avoiding skipped meals.
The athlete’s identity crisis
Regardless of level of play, DI to DIII, NAIA to JUCO, playing a sport in college is a massive accomplishment and something to be proud of. According to a study conducted by the NCAA analyzing the probability of competing in varsity collegiate athletics, just over 7% of high school athletes go on to play at the collegiate level. It can be easy to forget how much of an achievement that is when it may not always be acknowledged in the “real world”. Nonetheless, being an athlete will always be a part of you. Those traits, attributes, and behaviors will remain ingrained for the rest of your life; furthermore, I encourage you to utilize those strengths in a variety of ways. In life beyond the playing field, relentlessly pursue your goals, allow yourself to be bad at something new, continue to use your time management skills, be a team player to yourself and others, embrace the pregame jitters that transfer over to everyday life, and get 1% better each day.
– Brooke Schermann, University of Minnesota Physical Therapy Student & former collegiate volleyball player