Life after college can be quite the adjustment for the average student, but it can be an even rougher transition for student-athletes. Getting acclimated to a less-demanding routine and a world where exercise is an option rather than a daily built-in responsibility can seem foreign to individuals who spent their entire lives and entire college careers dedicating their time to one sport.
Whether you go straight into the work field or take a gap year, each former student athlete must learn how to redefine what their new-found identities and journeys will look like after walking away from athletics.
Former Florida A&M track and field athlete and current Nike brand marketer Lonzetta Simpkins dealt with many emotions since coming to the realization that her time as an athlete had come to an end.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster,” Simpkins said. “There was a period of time where I always felt down because there was just this huge gap in my schedule and something that was a big part of my life had come to a random stop.”
This new transition reintroduced Lonzetta to some qualities she neglected while focusing on track.
“I am learning that I have other talents outside of track, running and using my body,” Simpkins said.
“Fifty percent of my mind always went towards my sport so now that I am in a full-time working space, I forget that I am creative, I am analytical and that I have all these pre-tangible skills that go into my craft day to day,” Simpkins added. “I just forget that I know so much more outside of track and field.”
While being so entangled with athletics, it can become easy to over identify with a sport rather than the person you are outside it, and who you were prior to.
Simpkins talks about how she has been intentional about not confusing what she does with who she is.
“It is tough not to let you do define you,” Simpkins said. “I had to figure who I was not only outside of track, but in general. I didn’t want my career to become my newfound identity now that I no longer run.”
Walking away from a sport as an athlete is a difficult adjustment, and Simpkins advises anyone facing this transition to find meaningful ways to fill their time and reconnect with themselves.
“I would really encourage people to keep themselves immersed in hobbies, so they aren’t left with nothing,” Simpkins said. “It really can be the most random things like a book club or whiffle ball team, they just need to find something.”
Former FAMU basketball star Bryce Moragne talked about his transition post-graduation and described his initial feeling towards athletic retirement as a sense of relief. It wasn’t until weeks later that he started to reminisce on his time as a college athlete.
“When I first stopped playing it was cool not having to go to weights and practice, but as the days went by, I really started to miss playing ball,” Moragne said.
It was difficult for him not seeing his teammates daily and getting acclimated to spending a lot of his time alone.
“The hardest adjustment was getting used to not having a group of guys I know I’ll see each day,” Moragne said. “Since I stopped playing, I only talk to one to two people, so being around teammates is one thing I miss the most.”
Since hanging up his jersey, Moragne was able to focus more on his overall wellbeing.
“While I was an athlete, I never had time to sit down and better my mental health because everything moved at such a fast pace,” Moragne said. “Since graduation I have had more time to reconnect with myself both mentally and spiritually.”
Being a collegiate athlete is a great opportunity that few individuals get to experience, but it is vital that they are secure in their identities and informed on how to embrace life after their final performances.