Winning, losing and letting go, find out who you are as a student-athlete through the ups and downs of your career

Being a well-rounded student athlete comes with its challenges.

You might look at a successful peer and think they have it all. You might be envious or jealous of a teammate who is excelling on the court or field. Maybe you want to sneak into their house and hold their state championship medal that they have, and you don’t.

If someone asked you, “who are you,” what would you say? Are you defined by your sport?

There were six years of my life that I defined myself solely as a field hockey player. I wanted to graduate high school only to be able to play in college. I practiced hard and beat my body up to become the best athlete. And then in a flash, it’s all over.

I will never walk on the field again wearing my uniform. I will never take that game-winning stroke or corner hit again with my gut in my throat. And I will never have the devasting feeling of losing in an overtime game and clinging onto my teammates.

Does your sport make you feel like you have purpose? Your sport is so much more than just a game or a match. You will learn life lessons by playing on a team. You will learn to compromise, be unselfish, work with others, build relationships, and take criticism from authority. These experiences will carry through to the work force one day. This will also build your character.

What if it was all taken away from you today? The number of goals, the game winning saves, big crowds at the game, and the accolades.

All athletes experience ups and downs.

During the ups – you are the winner. When you win, your body produces a hormone called dopamine. It feels good to win and you want more of it.

The downs for an athlete are the moments you really learn who you are and what you are made of. If you are injured and have to take time off – you will either throw in the towel or claw your way back into the competition.

Most of you have an athlete you admire and look up to. One of my favorite athletes to watch compete was Lindsay Vann. Her tenacity and aggressiveness on the slopes were captivating.

In her career, she had 3 Olympic medals, 82 World Cup wins, and she held 20 World Cup Titles. After her career, she wrote a book describing some of her most personal secrets. She dealt with depression and anxiety during her childhood and parts of her career.

How could my athlete idol suffer from so much mental health pain? She talked about how she got very depressed after her second ACL surgery, and she felt isolated. Her book “Rise” tells her truth about the journey, and how she had to find herself after she retired. Before retirement, she identified only as a skier. When she retired, she had to learn who she really was without skiing.

I find a large similarity between big wins and big losses. Either way, you have to face and feel emotion.

If you have not suffered an injury or battled with a serious struggle, you are lucky. Find compassion in reading this and learn how you can help a friend or teammate who is going through a tough time.

Individuals celebrate differently after large achievements. I have heard stories of state championship winners the following day feeling a letdown. This is it? This has been my dream my entire life, and now it’s over?

Then there’s an injury. An injury that takes you out of competition affects everyone differently. Your support system is the most crucial part of your recovery.

At Mary’s Health and Fitness, we have worked with hundreds of post-operation athletes. Each has their own story and has their own individual journey. I know what it’s like to have to workback from nothing. The loneliness and seclusion it brings, it’s gut wrenching.

Life continues around you while you go back and forth to the doctor and physical therapy. Will you crumble or will you rise up and fight to grow back stronger than before?

Enjoy the wins, the losses, and the climbs. Grow character from each experience and find out who you are.

Mary Driscoll’s health and wellness column publishes every other Thursday.

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