I have always been a dreamer. I was born and raised in small town Nebraska where I fell in love with everything Cornhuskers. I grew up attending many Nebraska Women’s Basketball games hoping to one day be a Division I basketball player. From 2010 to […]
Have you ever undergone an extreme amount of happiness while also experiencing a hint of heartache? Have you ever felt so thankful but also wish you could rewind the last four years of your life? Have you ever been so encouraged and simultaneously felt frustrated that what’s left behind is exactly that: left behind?
If you’re a ‘retired’ college athlete, I’m sure you answered yes to all the above, or at least to some degree, have been engulfed in this series of emotions of which you are left to untangle. It’s a strange dichotomy between latching on to every once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you were afforded while in uniform, and developing the inherent belief that, even though the show goes on without you, your pride and happiness must remain unscathed.
For the retired college athlete population as a whole, jealousy is not an anomaly. Toss all negative connotations associated with the word aside and what do you have? A population whose experiences meant so much to them that they wish they could do it again. A population whose experiences are replete with life-altering moments that they wish they could replicate one more time. A population whose experiences, as now witnessed from the stands, walk away jealous they can’t spend their whole lives anticipating something unlike any other day: game day.
It’s a type of innocuous jealousy- if there is such a thing. It’s a type of jealousy that yields the absolute best in our ‘retired athlete’ selves because it stirs up sentiments of which we are forced to come to terms with. Although these feelings may hit us like a ton of bricks from time to time, it’s more so a wink and a nod to what truly matters: not you, but your team, your coaches, your university, your fans, and whoever else played a role in making your college-athlete experience so special.
It’s nearly impossible not to experience every emotion in the book once your playing days are over. But where every ‘retired athlete’ far and wide should channel their energy into are the people who continue to carry out whatever legacy they left behind. We are not swept under the rug nor are we forgotten. Rather, we are one piece of a jumbo puzzle neatly tucked into place, while the rest lay scattered on the table until it is known where they fit into the enigma.
What it comes down to is this: our past should not thwart our ability to completely immerse ourselves in the now. Frankly, something probably went wrong in your four years if you aren’t just as anxious on game day, just as excited to pump up your teammates when facing a good team, or just as eager to congratulate them after a win. All is not lost. These are the cards we are now dealt- why not jump in with two feet? Why not dilute any salt in our wounds by radiating a pride so thick that absolutely nothing gets in our way?
Besides, we owe it to our people. We did something only a very small percentage of athletes get to do, and we surely did not do it alone. Once we are able to sort through these feelings, intertwined with a wide array of contradictions, the rest seems to take care of itself. We quickly learn that although one very important chapter in our lives has closed in one sense, it is also welcoming us back with open arms in the other sense. Our playing days are over, yes. But our pride and happiness simply cannot and will not ever be replaced.
Our new normal isn’t so bad.
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In light of the Jody Adam’s allegations to hit headlines this past week, I can’t help but ponder what is true, what is not true and what is being exaggerated. Here is a quick synopsis: four women’s basketball players, two of which were starters, transferred from […]
To think that 5 whole years have come and gone is something I’m still trying to comprehend. From the day I visited Drake’s campus for the first time, to everything in between, and now getting one last chance to explain what this incredible chapter in my life has meant to me.
This journey all started in my driveway- with mostly just my dad wearing multiple hats as coach and rebounder. Unfortunately back in the day, my older brother would never play with me because he knew I would win, and my sister Dana was pursuing things I wanted nothing to do with like dance or piano lessons. My dad and I have always had a special bond through basketball. In fact, I would be remised if I didn’t give him a shout-out for breaking a middle-school basketball habit of mine: that is picking up my dribble at the absolute worst possible times. I can still hear his voice echoing throughout the gym & needless to say, I dropped that habit pretty quickly.
I will forever be in debt to my mom and dad for their tough love of this sort and the many sacrifices they have made to help me get to where I am now. In a way, I began to build my identity as a basketball player these past couple years as the spark plug, the energy off the bench. I know the love and enthusiasm I have for this game all started with them. My siblings, too, deserve every bit of credit. From day one, it has never mattered to them whether we played great or had an off night, whether we won or lost. No matter what, they have walked with me every step of the way.
When people ask why I decided to come to Drake, it is always because it just felt like I belonged here. Duke University, who my grandma still thinks I play for, can’t even compete with Drake. This place continues to exceed my expectations in so many ways because it is embedded with people who care deeply for every single person who walks through their doors. And how could I possibly say no to that?
Since coming here, I have experienced firsthand a level of growth and maturity purely as a byproduct of the people I have been surrounded with. The first on that list being my coaches and teammates. It is tough to put into words how much this group of people means to me- not even because of the experiences they have afforded me, but because of the type of people they are. This coaching staff has played an integral role in why I have enjoyed these past few years as much as I have. You don’t just walk away from a journey like this and go your separate ways- these are the types of relationships you hope to have the rest of your life.
And to my teammates: what we felt were the triumphs, defeats, or conundrums of the season can almost be interpreted as another opportunity to lean on one another. One of my all-time favorite quotes says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Thanks to this group of women, I can say this year was one of my favorites because of how far we came and went together.
As a senior especially, I have had the chance to impact each of them in different ways- even if it is wowing them with my dance moves in the locker or weight room or laughing hysterically at one of Liza’s peanut gallery comments (and by hysterically I mean so obnoxiously that you have to laugh too). PS I got that trait from my mother.
Nothing will ever match the memories I have made with you all, but know I cannot wait to be apart of your journey from the stands. In what it feels to be the blink of an eye, you will be standing up here just like I am reaching for the right words to end on. The best piece of advice I can offer to you today is to savor everything it is that you have in front of you. Because the sooner you recognize its immense value, the better off you will be.
It is pretty crazy to think that my days as a college basketball player are over, and in a way, part of me is being left behind. When basketball has been your life for so long, it can be a tough pill to swallow. But even in accepting these realities, my heart has never been so full. What I hope for every person here to remember is that my Drake experience would have been nothing without all of you. You are the reason I am so incredibly proud to wear Drake on my chest and will continue to give back to this university and program in whatever ways I can.
I have never felt so confident, prepared, and excited to take on the next chapter because of the people in this room and the experiences I have been exposed to. I will not remember the tough losses or times of frustration themselves, but rather what I have gained them. I will remember the upsets, playing in the Knapp Center, and the history we made this season among others. I am completely humbled to have been a part of this place for five whole years, and for that I cannot thank you enough. All my best to the place that will always be home and people who will forever be family.
“But no one escapes this world unhurt, emotionally if not physically.”
Not to put a damper on your day, but this quote in a recent Boston Globe article jumped out at me. It talks about parents, youth athletics and reasons why “kids aren’t playing.” I’ll admit. It is a touchy subject. But I absolutely love and appreciate the argument it raises. As someone who has grown up around sports, I simply cannot imagine my life without them. However, they are not the end all be all. And for parents: sports do not define your children.
Sports shouldn’t define any athlete: young, old, athletic, not athletic, naturally talented, hard working, driven, or participating just to participate. Not to disregard the kids themselves as a source of blame- but parents are often the ones who lose sight of this notion. From a player perspective, whether it was middle school, high school, or college, I never quite understood why parents would insert themselves in situations when their kids weren’t playing.
Since when does every single player get playing time? In what sense do parents think their kids are entitled to playing time? It drives me nuts when the coaches or other players are automatically victimized. I am not a parent and will not be one for a while. But, honestly, what message are you sending? It seems like a lesson of placing the blame on other people when things aren’t going your way.
This is where I would say ownership comes in. Ask your kid what’s going on. Ask how practice is going. Ask their opinions of why they think they aren’t playing. Don’t just assume they deserve to be playing and get upset about it. Take ownership yourself and expect the same from your kids. It could solve a lot of problems.
I say this because, yes, even as a college basketball player, I have rode the bench plenty. I’m not embarrassed to admit that. Why? Because I had parents and mentors who told me to get over it, to work harder, to not give up on something I really care about. It is absolutely true: no one escapes this world unhurt. Things don’t go your way. Coaches miss what you bring to the table. So what! Show them differently.
The earlier we realize that, the less parents will have to say. Sports can be an incredible outlet for growth when approached with a truly competitive mindset. Maybe it’s just me, but thinking everyone should play is far from a competitive mindset. The best players play. The hardest working players play. The most gifted players play. Anything less than that is a harsh reality: they probably don’t play.
Where many parents are mistaken is 1) thinking their kid should be playing without any grasp, or unrealistic expectations, of the situation and 2) pointing the fingers elsewhere. Just because your kid doesn’t play doesn’t mean it will always be that way. But if it is constantly the coach’s fault, and never a matter of ownership, chances are your kid will never understand what it means to compete. And to me, competing means to find what is wrong and doing everything you can to fix it.
Food for thought.