The problem with being an athlete is simple; it can’t last forever. Most hobbies we pick up in life, we can continue to do, but the athlete life just never got the memo. Most people start playing sports at a young age. So young that sports transcend something to do, they become a part of the fabric that makes you who you are. Your identity is often built on it because everyone knows you for being the start athlete right? These things are all great until it is time to leave the game and they can all backfire on you. The goal here is to make sure that there is no backfire. Just forward progress to what you want with ease.
One of the sweetest feelings, when you are young, is being known as the star athlete. People love to watch you perform, and your name is rarely mentioned without also hearing about the sport that you play.
I remember this feeling in high school an I will throw in here that I loved it for a while, but I will tell you when I noticed that it would be an issue.
Growing up in Toronto, I decided to go to school at Iowa State which has 0 connection to my home. The good thing about this is that no one knew me and I could have a fresh start. The bad news is that no one would know what I did in high school and I had to rebrand myself.
The question was what I would be known as? I was going on an athletic scholarship so I knew I could try to be known as an athlete, BUT there was no guarantee of this. The NCAA is very competitive, and you can’t guarantee that you can come in as a hotshot freshman and brand yourself as the up and comer.
It was a scary feeling knowing that I no identity now. It was like all my “greatness” from high school was just WIPED off the map. Nothing I did yesterday mattered, so the only thing that mattered at that point was the next move.
What I decided to do was to focus my talent into entrepreneurship. I am not saying you should do the same thing, but I am telling you my story of how this one choice saved my life.
I started a blog similar to this one, to be honest, called Cover Ground. Here is the problem though I had a lot of creative ideas, I was a horrible writer. My grammar sucked, and I got BLASTED by the reality of internet bullies. People had nothing beautiful to say about what I was writing.
The worst comment I had ever gotten said: “You have the writing level of a 2nd grader.” Now, I was in college so reading that was brutal! It was just the beginning of something great though.
1. Learning New Skills
The most significant thing I got from starting a blog was that it opened so many doors for my life. I would have guessed that making the Olympics in 2012 would open the most doors, but it has not. What has changed my life was starting that blog my first year in college.
From that one choice, I started learning
– Customer Service
– Social Media Marketing
– Video editing
– Audio editing
I had learned so much more than this, and these skills ended up getting me jobs and are what built the foundation to allow me to create Kho much later. I owe my life to these skills.
2. We Can Decide What We Are Known For
I did not ditch the athlete life entirely as I still was having success in that area. Slowly though, I started to become more known for my work in entrepreneurship then I did for just running fast, and that felt good.
The reason this felt good is that it reminded me that I am more than an athlete. Everyone needs this healthy reminder because it is the truth of us all.
What Can You Do About This?
Start Buiding Skills and Talents Outside of School and Sports
Most of us from a young age put all of our efforts into being good athletes while also trying to get high grades. That is what we are told is important. The problem is that we feel forced into a school and sports just can’t last.
Our economy is much different these days because we don’t just look for people with good grades but we look for people who use the knowledge they have. Meaning that if you are great at running social media sites and you can prove how good you are not a whole lot else matters. Someone with a degree that cannot prove they can produce results will not rank higher.
The quicker you start building skills, the more those skills compound over time. There is a reason many of the best actors, chefs, etc. start young. It is because it is more years to keep working and fine-tuning skills. A lot of athletes do this but the issue is their career could be over at age 30, and there is still plenty of life to be lived.
You Can Play Sports Without Being Defined By Them
When I say this, I mean that you can still show up and give an all-out effort daily. Being defined by the sport has nothing to do with your attitude or the character you build playing it. It just decides whether you allow that to be the thing people think of you as being.
You know what is better to be defined as? Someone that works their ass off. The reason is that that can be applied to everything you touch for the rest of your life. You are always in control of your effort, but you can’t still control being a famous athlete.
We know sports will end for you one day. Once that happens you have to transition to the real world. In the real world, you more than likely will not be praised for everything you do. Matter fact compared to sports the real world will seem boring.
Where depression and suicidal issues come in is when your identity had been attached to your sport for so long that you don’t even know who you are outside of your sport.
Even if you get a great job and it seems from a worldly perspective like everything is great, on the inside, it becomes too much to bear. You feel lost and unimportant, and it is mostly because you are unaware of your surroundings. You had not spend your whole life preparing to work in a cubicle. You spent your entire life working to be the best athlete, and that is the problem. If you don’t become the best, you have to find something else to do.
You are much more than an athlete. You can think you are smart and blessed in so many other ways than just your athletic ability. To shake that athletic identity you are going to have to find something to excel at that falls outside of school and your sport. You are also going to need to decide what you want to be known for.