An Open Letter To The Struggling Athlete

As many of you know, I play Division I golf at Arkansas State University. Almost everyone from my hometown knows me as "the girl who golfs". Growing up I absolutely loved this because it was the main thing I was known for, and quite frankly, it was for good reason. However, my first semester of college athletics was not exactly what I had hoped for. Although I've just gone through the hardest three months of my life, I would like to reflect upon it and hopefully help someone else who is feeling the same way.

Let me start out by saying that by writing this article, I'm also helping myself understand my own feelings, and how I can make them more positive. If you're an athlete or have been competitive with anything in the past, you know there are times where nothing goes right and it begins to consume your entire life. It's what we do. No matter how much someone says to us "it's just a sport" we will continue to make it the center of our thoughts and everyday life. Although this may seem unhealthy, it's simply what successful people do. If you want something bad enough, it's all you think about. However, sometimes this can become detrimental to not only your athletic performance, confidence, and love for the game, it can also affect other areas of your life as well.

Now let me give you some background on why I was moved to write this article. Growing up I played many sports but focused just on golf in high school. I made a lot of sacrifices as a teenager. I missed football games, trips, and other social events, in order to go a step farther than my competition. I wanted to be the best and eventually become a Division I golfer. Thankfully, my hard work and dedication ended up paying off for me. However, I didn't realize at the time that signing my national letter of intent wasn't an end to my story, it was the beginning. Throughout my entire athletic career, I've had many ups and downs. Golf is especially one of those sports that includes a lot of inconsistency due to the weather, style of course, etc. When I came to college, everyone I knew, and I myself had very high expectations for my college athletic performance. I was made to golf and I was right where I needed to be.

The only way I can describe my first semester of college athletics is a blur. I simply was not myself. The confident and successful athlete I was in high school was not showing through at the college level. I struggled with understanding why I was performing the way I was, and why this was happening to me. I did not qualify for a single tournament this fall. If you know me, you know that's not something I would be ok with, at all. For three months I simply did the bare minimum with golf for the first time in my life. I did what I was told, but didn't do more like I usually do. It began to show. The sadness and hatred I associated with golf was disheartening. I had never felt so negatively about my passion in my entire life. It wasn't until I had a meeting with my coaches after the season that I personally realized what had occurred.

The hardest part about coping with a below average season is being able to clearly understand how to handle it. At first, I didn't even know what to think. I questioned my athletic ability and my love for the game. However, after taking a week or so off of golf completely, I realized some separation was all I needed. Whether you're a high school athlete, college athlete, or play any competitive sport, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to step away for a while. Although a week might not seem like a long enough amount of time for a "break", it is. College athletes have extremely busy schedules and it is very easy to get caught up in the stress and quick pace of everyday life. Realizing you need a break is the most important part. In the past, I would neglect my stress and continue to push myself because I thought if I wasn't always giving 110%, I wasn't trying my best.

Sports are a way of unifying people from all over the world, which is why they are such a large part of our culture. Athletes everywhere push themselves every single day to get better and become the best. Some become successful, some don't, some lose their passion, and some stop because of injuries. No matter what your story is, just remember that it really is just a sport. At the end of the day, the people who truly care about you won't judge you for how poorly or well you did. The sun will still shine tomorrow, and life will go on. It sucks, it really does, but giving up would even worse. If you truly love the sport you play, never stop trying to improve yourself. The earlier you realize that you can't control everything in your life, the sooner you will reach a more positive and successful point. Like my dad always says, "It's not about the destination, it's about the journey."

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