Why It's Heartbreaking Saying Goodbye to Your Favorite Sport

Nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak that is leaving your sport. For me, it was soccer. Hanging up my cleats was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made. I chose to go to college for academics, rather than sports, but I didn’t know it would be this painful.

For many like myself, we played our sport every day for years. It has been approximately 10 months since my last game, and I have missed it every second since. Soccer was a huge part of my identity. Everyone knew me as the varsity goalkeeper. Everyone knew I couldn’t hang out on the weekends because I had tournaments. Now, I have to tell people it is just something that I used to do.

No matter who you are, or what level you have played at, the day that your career ends is inevitable. Serena will put down her racquet, and Alex Morgan will no longer lace up her cleats every day. This emptiness is something all athletes will experience.

Whether you are hanging up your cleats, pointe shoes, or knee pads, no one will warn you of the pain and confusion that comes with it. It is not only grieving the loss of practices with teammates, or the adrenaline of making a huge play, it’s grieving the loss of yourself. I thought I would love the free time, but I don’t. I wish every afternoon that I was out on the field, sweating with my friends.

The hardest part is trying to figure out who you are now that you don’t have a sport defining you as an athlete. The truth is, you are still and will always be an athlete. That badass midfielder, first basewoman, dancer, or point guard is still inside of you. Just because you chose to move on to other things, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t still you. This has been the hardest thing for me to realize, and I am still in the process of coming to terms with it.

So, how do you move on? Maybe you don’t have to. You can always try out for a club sport. You can look for pick up games. Some of us will coach, and pass down the lessons our coaches once taught us, but the most important thing is to never lose your passion. As painful as it is to hold on to, the passion and love you have for your game are what truly made you who you are and those things don't have to end.

It is okay to grieve. It is okay to miss everything about your sport, but know that no matter how lost or unrecognizable you may be to yourself without it, you are still just as powerful as you were when you played. That person will always be inside of you.

 

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