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Why your life after college sports starts with reflection

After you play your last college game, many relationships, including the one you have with yourself, are about to radically change.

On campus, you had deep bonds with people who helped you develop your game. Teammates had your back. Coaches pushed you forward. Team physicians and trainers kept you healthy. Academic leaders supported your learning.

The focus that was once on you is now directed at others: the college athletes who are still competing.

Facing unfamiliar territory can be daunting, but the skills developed as a student-athlete are transferable and will help you successfully transition to life after sport. Awareness is a first step in finding your new “team.”

As your role shifts and the base of your core social fabric is dramatically altered, take time to think about your “new life.” Ask yourself: In what areas are you feeling the most significant changes?

Consider some of the areas below that have been imbedded in your old routine that are no longer the same:

  • Day-to-day campus routines and responsibilities that kept you occupied.
  • The commitment and self-regulation that came with being a student-athlete.
  • The feeling of being connected to a team.
  • Knowing you had a trusted advisor to talk to.
  • Required athletic training.

Reflecting and journaling on how you are approaching these areas of change helps. How have these things changed? What continues in a different form or a new version of what you had in college? Where can new relationships fit in?

Being self-aware by itself does not eliminate your feelings associated with these changes, but it’s a starting place — an understanding of what is different, and an opportunity for choice on how to approach it moving forward.

As with most things in life, when something ends — such as your student-athlete career — there is an opportunity for something else to begin. Acceptance and awareness of these changes, and deciding what skills you can take with you, will help accelerate your development toward your next success.

About the Expert

Melinda Harrison is a founding partner of Teal & Co. — a consulting firm based in Toronto that helps individuals flourish through positive transitions and organizations be successful in developing and retaining top talent. Harrison, an NCAA multi-event, multiyear All-American swimmer and team captain, earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Michigan. She competed on the Canadian Olympic swim team in 1984 and is a 2006 Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor inductee.