Most, if not all athletes find themselves adapting to change once they finish playing at the high school, collegiate or professional level. As a DI athlete there were A LOT of adjustments I experienced after graduation in finding a new identity, schedule and lifestyle that worked for me. Here were 6 changes I made after I finished playing at the DI level:
Structured Practice. One of the biggest adjustments for me was not having to attend scheduled workouts. Waking up late spring semester, and not having a workout? It just seemed weird. Especially since my life revolved around ball. Scheduling classes around workouts, grabbing a bite after weights, fitting in study hall and free time around practice.
How I adjusted. If you’re missing this type of structure, plan your week to accommodate your new schedule, and don’t assume you’ll get a workout in. I took a few months off of consistent workouts, but I soon realized how much fitness was a part of my life, so scheduling an early morning or post-work class helped me feel good.
Food intake/metabolism. This my friends was a HUGE change for me. The first few months after I finished playing was no biggie. But after the summer/fall, I noticed I couldn’t down a pizza, ice cream, and snacks in one meal without feeling it. As a collegiate athlete I burned through so many calories that I usually struggled to keep my weight up. I also wasn’t too adventurous of an eater because I liked very specific foods- chicken, pasta, salad, etc. so that I knew exactly how I would preform before a workout.
How I adjusted. I realize many athletes struggle with weight gain/loss after sports. For me, it really came down to understanding what a typical portion size was, and how I can adjust those portions for days that I’m active, and day’s that I’m not. To this day, I really try to limit sodas, sugars, and I try to eat as much unprocessed food as possible. I am not an expert in this area, but I know it feels good to eat as clean as possible.
Anxiety Wake-ups. This was crazy because for about a year/two years after I graduated, I would wake up most nights around 4 am or 5 am thinking I missed a workout. Trust me, you did not want to be late for ANY workout, especially in preseason.
How I adjusted. Eventually I stopped waking up early and realized- you never have to do preseason again! 😀
No more gear, and free trips. As an athlete at most levels, you’ll get gear and equipment as a member of the team. My program was super generous in that we received multiple pairs of sneakers during preseason and throughout the season. This included different kinds of practice gear, travel sweats, bags, you name it. Travel to games was also covered: buses, flights, hotel stays, etc.
How I adjusted. After I graduated I realized I needed to buy my own gear, so I focused heavily on finding sales and discounts. For travel, I also realized that it helped to use points and discounts wherever possible.
Playing with… scrubs. Kidding here- sort of! For those of you who finish playing and still want to compete- be weary! I was able to find a ton of good runs in my area of the tri-state, but I also realized that not every athlete plays in a way that protects their bodies.
How I adjusted. I learned to become more selective with my runs. If I felt myself playing with reckless athletes who could cause me injury, I sat out a game or two or found another workout. Who got next? It wasn’t going to be me if I felt that playing could get me hurt
My New ‘Crew’. After I graduated that meant I wasn’t spending every day with my teammates. This was a group of disciplined, hardworking ladies that got ish done. My new ‘crew’, or my colleagues in the NBA were an interested mix of folks:
- Some coworkers were sports junkies that knew player info, game stats and more dating decades back
- Others worked tremendously hard to the point of burnout, which I wasn’t interested in feeling after 4 years playing DI ball
- Others were just like me- they lacked working experience and were just trying to figure out their new routine.
How I adjusted. I decided to learn a little bit from each person instead of seeing this new circle as all negative. For my sports junkie crew, I decided to learn more about the analytics and business side of the game. I pushed myself to put in extra hours in the office to help build my resume, and I gave myself the permission to be new and learn an industry. Everyone starts somewhere, right?
If you’re an athlete who is trying to adjust to life after sports, don’t be too hard on yourself and remember- you’re not alone. We’ve all gone through it, its just about making adjustments and finding out what formula works best for you.