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Organized sports have always played an integral role in my life, starting all the way back to when I was around three years old and continuing up to today in different, yet important, forms. In elementary school alone, I played soccer, basketball, softball and cross country before settling on swimming, which I did on a club team up to 15 hours a week for years. 

By the time I was halfway through my sophomore year of high school, I was tired of only swimming all the time. I made a  life-changing decision and  left my club swim team in pursuit of becoming a tri-sport athlete. I ran track that spring, played field hockey that fall, and continued to swim on my high school team during the winter, giving me the perfect balance between the sport I had done for years and the new ones I was learning.

I absolutely loved every moment of being a tri-sport athlete in high school. Each sport was so different from the others that I was never tired of any of them,  and found different friends on each team. I didn’t have to worry about getting into a serious fitness routine outside of what my coaches were telling me to do in practice. I definitely took being in great shape for granted.

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Now that I’ve been away from this structure, I’ve been struggling with this transition. Throughout quarantine, I managed to get into a good running routine, hoping that I would be able to have some type of shortened track season. Once I realized that there was nothing else to work toward, I found myself struggling to get excited about the sports I used to look forward to. I quickly learned  that it can be a lot harder to find the time and motivation to get in a workout when you’re not surrounded by your best friends. 

Before I came to college, so many people told me about how difficult it could be to learn to live without parents, adjust to college academics and make new friends, but I was completely unprepared to miss the structure and sense of community that my sports teams brought me.

I still haven’t found a definitive answer to what the next step of my fitness journey will be. I’ve thought about trying to set some long-term goals, such as training for a half-marathon. Maybe a University club or intramural team will help me find sports fun once again. Committing to exercise regularly without anyone to hold me accountable is difficult, but I think what’s helped me the most is taking advantage of the opportunity to finally do a sport without the pressure of improvement and just for pure enjoyment. 

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I’ve found that being able to run around the lakes, surrounded solely by nature and my own thoughts, is a side of athletics that I haven’t been able to experience before now. Who cares if my pace is slower than I used to run in high school? What I’m beginning to realize is that loving a sport for what it is, instead of the team I do it with, brings me the happiness I need now and will make me want to stick with it for many years to come. 

Hi, I'm Mary Kate! I'm a first year student at Notre Dame studying political science and global affairs. Outside of school, I love playing sports, baking, and going to the beach.
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