Sports have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. From a shy kid going up to bat for the first time in a little league game to a two sport varsity letterman in high school, I’ve always been thrilled by the competition and teamwork of sports. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to compete in college athletics, but I know that for many college students, sports occupy a huge share of their time. Some even go to college on sports scholarships; they devote their nights to practices and their weekends to meets and games. Sports are their life and they find their identity in sports. But what happens after they graduate? Unless they plan to play professionally after college, what then?
Just because the familiar network of players, coaches, practices and games is stripped away after college does not mean that one has to give up their love of sports or reinvent themselves entirely. According to Helix, Northwestern University’s science magazine, former college athletes face both relief and depression. College sports can be grueling and taxing, taking a toll on one’s physical and mental health. Once they come to end, they free up students’ time to devote to other pursuits, such as finding a job. However, for most, graduating from college sports is a bittersweet farewell. Some former student athletes experience a loss of “sport self-esteem,” which is when a person places their self-worth in their success in sports, according to sports psychologist Mark Anshel from Middle Tennessee State University.
Most psychologists advise that the best way to cope with transition is to find a new activity to channel your time and energy into- for most, that “new activity” will be a job. But it’s important to have a life outside of work as well, and there are plenty of ways to continue your love of sports at the non-professional level after college- it’s just going to take a little more effort on your part. So learn your options and don’t get down- life goes on after college sports.
Seek out opportunities to join a sports team
According to Erin Refsteck, Ph. D., most student athletes become less active after college and one in five are not active enough to gain substantial health benefits. At the very least, keep active by working out regularly, and if you want sports to remain a part of your life but not your whole life, consider joining a local sports team. It’s easy to sign up for an adult’s sports team through your local activity center, like the YMCA, or even an intramural league. Just do a little research and you are sure to find plenty of ways to participate in sports that won’t occupy a huge chunk of your time.
Find your passion
Everyone needs something to feel passionate about to make life worthwhile. Maybe, for you, that was sports. Prim Siripipat, ESPN news anchor and former Duke University tennis captain, advises college athletes to find what they’re most passionate about outside of sports. This may not be easy for those that love sports but don’t intend to make a career out of it, but once you figure it out, make it your life’s pursuit and you’ll never have to “work” another day in your life.
Channel what you learned into your career
Once you’ve identified another passion and hopefully found a career that allows your passion to come alive, you can get ahead in your career by applying the valuable lessons you learned in sports to your job. Personally, sports gave me a newfound sense of confidence. I also learned the value of teamwork and self-discipline. These values translate perfectly into a career where you will most likely have to demonstrate your availability to work with others and manage various projects and responsibilities. I learned first hand that some industries and employers look for former student-athletes specifically for that competitive edge they have built into their nature, so use that network and make your passion into a career so you can thrive.