"Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday." - Wilma Rudolph
Lets just all agree on one thing. Growing up sucks. Your body and mind changes, as you watch the world become a much different place than you imagined when you were young.
Like most kids in the south, I grew up playing sports. I started playing soccer when I was around 6 years old, which I did not enjoy very much. I also played softball, and danced. It was in middle school when I found the sports that would bring out the competitive heart in me.
So below is a letter. A letter to the girl or guy who grew up similar to me, and now misses everything about the time when life was simple and all you had to think about was winning your next race or ballgame.
To The Ex-Athlete:
You made it. College is almost over, or just beginning for some, and it is an exciting time in life. You're rising to the level in life for you to achieve great things. Although, the things you will be achieving will be much different than the normalcy that you knew before. You no longer have to plan out your week according to practices, you now have to plan out class and work schedules. No longer will you be stressing over the weather on race day, or game day. The main thing you will stress about now will be payday. Its a weird thought, isn't it. Just a couple of years ago, your focus was on one thing. Winning. Preparing yourself in whatever sport, to help your team or partner perform to the best of your ability.
Life is funny like that. It will take the world that you know for a short set of years, and completely change it. And it is shocking, looking back on the world that you thought you knew. My advice: listen to your parents!! Those really, and truly are the best times of your life.
Being in your mid 20s is an awkward spot in life. Its a time when your body is on the back side of the growing years, and the toned body you once had has disappeared. Muscles have faded into normal skin, and lets not talk about the excess fat.
Its okay. You are not alone in this boat. As we have new adventures, our focus shifts to the daily life responsibility that we all share.
Dont let it get you down. The passion you still hold for stepping out on that court or field one more time will always been ever-present in your mind and heart. What has helped me cope with this, is finding small things that make the disappointment die down. Going to the gym to just walk/run 3 miles makes me feel like ive climbed a mountain. Also, find things about your body that you love. Playing sports for years has helped shape your body to look like an athlete. Find ways to help work out the problem areas to maintain the look you want to achieve.
Its a hard process, but we are no stranger to hard work. Keep your head up, and keep the memories of the sports you love close to your heart.
An Ex Cross Country and Basketball Player