Without The Game

Without The Game

For every senior collegiate athlete whose season is about to end or has already ended, this one's for you.
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Silence is usually described as a feeling of stillness; a state of peace, a split-second of quiet, a season of serenity. It’s harmonious and soothing and usually portrayed by unruffled waters or someone sitting in tranquility. This is what silence looks and feels like to a lot of us most of the time. We long for a moment of silence in this loud and crazy world. We crave it and when it finally comes, we close our eyes and hang on tight to it, for it is ever-fleeting.

But, what if this isn’t what silence always looks like? What if there was a silence that hung around for a little while? A silence that is deafening, unwanted, and conflicted. A silence that looks more like someone struggling to stay afloat in rough waters rather than someone sitting peacefully near unruffled ones. What if silence looked like this instead? What if silence felt like this instead? What if I told you that this type of silence actually exists? Would you believe me?

Almost all elite-level athletes—college, semi-pro, or pro—experience this kind of silence. There comes a time, whether due to injury, retirement, or ineligibility, where the silence sets in. No more cheers of the crowd chanting. No more recognition for record-breaking performances.

No more noise, clamor, or commotion. Just silence -- echoes of what used to be.

Some might say that this is too drastic and dramatic; that sports are just a silly game us athletes play and that we need to get over it. But what those people might not understand is that losing the game is like losing a part of ourselves. We’ve spent most of our lives dedicated to our sport—years preparing, conditioning, competing. We’ve not only invested ourselves physically, but mentally and emotionally as well -- becoming consumed with the wins and losses, the highs and lows. It defines us in a way. Gives us purpose. Gives us an identity. It becomes our world and we become wrapped up in it. So that is why, when it’s all said and done, when the final buzzer buzzes and the last whistle blows, it’s a big loss -- probably the biggest loss in all of our athletic careers.

At this moment, we’re left to undergo some serious life re-evaluation; left asking who are we? What do we do now?

As the collegiate fall season nears an end, the first wave of senior student-athletes begins to face these questions. Less than 2 percent of collegiate athletes will go on to play pro, leaving 98 percent subject to the silence soon. Sure, there are adult leagues and beer leagues we can go on to join, but it won’t be anything like the game we played in high school or college. We’re competitors; we love the thrill of a rivalry, the pressure of a playoff game, the grind of going to practice every day, the feeling of being victorious, the locker room celebrations, the long bus rides. We live for that. And while recreational sports may still have all of that, it won’t ever have quite the same feel as it once did.

This transition is something that we rarely talk about. But, I say, if every athlete is bound to go through it at some point, why not bring it to the forefront and acknowledge it? Through sports, we have been lucky enough to create more friendships and memories than most people dream of. We have grown as people and learned more lessons from athletics than school could ever teach us. So, when that moment comes, when the clock strikes 0:00, and it’s all said and done, while inevitable sadness will strike, I’d like to offer a little bit of advice.

Take it all in. Take a look into the stands to see your family and friends who have been there to support you every step of the way – remember to be thankful. Take a look at your teammates to the left and to the right of you, and think about how these people, who have become your family, have shaped your life – remember to never let these relationships go. Take a look at playing stage, whatever it may be, one last time and replay all of the great victories and celebrations – remember to cherish those feelings of triumph. Take time to reflect on all the years you’ve played – remember to never take those years and opportunities for granted.

Finally, no matter how deafening it may be, take the time to listen to the silence, because while our sport has certainly molded us and inarguably impacted our lives, it is in no way definitive of who we are. Remember that, and more importantly, believe that. Believe that you are just as important and just as valuable to the world as you were when you played your sport. Because if there's one thing I know for sure it's that being a good person is what truly matters in this life. Who you are without the game is what matters and how good of a person you are doesn't change just because your playing days are over.

The silence will only begin to fade, once you believe that.

Cover Image Credit: Brian Schneider

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To The Girl Who Isn't Graduating On Time, It Won't Feel Any Less Amazing When You Do

Graduating is something to be proud of no matter how long it takes you.

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To the girl who isn't graduating college "on time,"

I promise, you will get there eventually, and you will walk across that graduation stage with the biggest smile on your face.

You may have a different journey than the people you grew up with, and that is OKAY. You may have some twists and turns along the way, a few too many major changes, a life change, you may have taken most of a semester off to try to figure your life out, and you're doing the best you can.

Your family and your friends don't think less of you or your accomplishments, they are proud of your determination to get your degree.

They are proud of the woman you are becoming. They don't think of you as a failure or as someone any less awesome than you are. You're getting your degree, you're making moves towards your dreams and the life that you have always wanted, so please stop beating yourself up while you see people graduating college on time and getting a job or buying a car.

Your time will come, you just keep doing what you need to do in order to get on that graduation stage.

Your path is set out for you, and you will get there with time but also with patience. The place you're at right now is where you are supposed to be. You are going to thrive and you are going to be the best version of you when you graduate and start looking for a company that you will be proud to work for. Don't look on social media and feel less than, because at least you're still working towards your degree that you are finally passionate about. You will be prepared. You will be ready once the time comes and you cross the stage, move away, and start your journey in whatever field you're going into.

Don't question yourself, and be confident in your abilities.

With love,

A girl who isn't graduating on time

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10 Things I Want My Future Self To Know About Fear, Faith, And Forgiveness

I hope you can look back and see the growth over years of learning.

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Often times at night I have a hard time falling asleep. Sometimes it's because I drink too much caffeine during the day, other times it's because my mind simply won't shut off. It's in these times when I'm laying in bed that I tend to get inspiration for my articles. Recently, I was inspired during another insomniac bout to write a letter to my future self. Yes, that's right. Not my younger self, the self that I can currently look back on and be like: "Oh, you were an idiot." No, I wanted to write some words to my future self, and so here they are: 10 things I really hope my future self knows, understands, and learns about fear, faith, and forgiveness.

1. Future self, I hope you're not afraid of change.

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I hope you don't fear the change that so often comes with life. Don't be afraid to move, to start that new job, or to be vulnerable when the time is right. Accept change by moving forward in faith.

2. Future self, this brings me to the next "F", faith.

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You have to have faith in God for your future. When you were writing this you had no idea how long you were going to be living in that dingy apartment. You had no idea when you were going to get married. You had no clue how that summer trip to Eastern Europe was going to change your life. That all took faith. God doesn't give us all the answers for a reason.

3. Future self, I truly hope you look back on your years and can say that you have forgiven.

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There are no grudges to hold and no painful years of bitterness that need to be righted. Forgive and be free of those burdens.

4. Future self, I want you to be able to say that you punched fear in the face.

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It's scary, but as my pastor once said, "Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real." So punch with courage!

5. Future self, I hope you let go and said, "Ok God, I'm done trying to control."

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It's my kneejerk reaction, but it's exhausting. You know what is best because You are in Heaven and I'm down on earth." Do you truly want no regrets? Having faith is something you'll never regret.

6. Future self, you've been shown such grace and been forgiven for much.

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Do the same for others. I want you to be able to look back and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you extended the same gracious attitude towards others that have messed up. You were a rookie once, too, so I hope you don't act like you know it all.

7. Future self, speaking of punching fear in the face, please look back on your life and know that you sang your heart out in front of people and didn't care what they thought.

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You love to sing, and some people have said that you have a good voice. Whether you actually do or not doesn't matter. Just sing!

8. Future self, it takes guts to live this life. It takes guts to keep moving forward after failure.

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It takes guts…it takes faith. Not knowing the future is scary. But I hope you think of it this way: Remember when you were a little kid and you used to jump to dad in the pool? You couldn't swim at the time, but you had faith that dad was going to catch you and not ever let you go. It's the same with God.

9. Future self, remember when you were so angry at those girls who left you out when you were in junior high and high school?

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And you held on to that anger for so long? I hope you don't do that with others who have wronged you. You know better by now.

10. Future self, through fear, faith, and forgiveness I hope you can say you lived.

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You lived your best life. And while there will be pockets of regret and times when you should have done this or that, I want you to be able to say you lived for His glory.

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