Ever since I was young, I’ve lived and breathed the sport of gymnastics. I was 7 years old when I attended my first gymnastics class, not knowing how much this sport would impact my life. I was in my element, happy as can be, and excited for what the future had in store for me. I started out in a recreational class once a week and eventually received an invitation to join the competitive team. I accepted the offer and competed all throughout middle and high school. I would spend every day waking up, going to school, going to practice and come home at 9 p.m. to eat dinner and occasionally have some extra time to work on school work. I never attended any school activities or had much free time to hang out with my friends. I felt disconnected from the rest of my friends and would always become jealous when I saw what fun they were having without me. My heart was with gymnastics and I put what I loved before anything else. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I started to think about life after high school and what I wanted to do. I knew that I wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship for a college gymnastics team, so I started to prepare myself for how different life would be without gymnastics. About halfway through my senior year, I received a spot on Gannon’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team and was beyond excited to continue what I loved more than anything else. Fast forwarding to today, I still don’t have much free time between classes, practice, work, and family obligations. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but reflecting back on how busy and hectic my life is, it is pretty alarming that I don’t give myself that “me” time that is necessary for my well-being.
So where am I going with this? As much fun as it is being an athlete, getting to travel and having all the benefits of being a student-athlete, it is NOT who you are. Only 1% of college athletes go pro. The chances of your athletic abilities making you millions of dollars is slim to none. You can’t put your blinders on and forget that you are much more than just an athlete. You are a student, sister, daughter, etc. Enjoy your time as an athlete, as you are only one for 4 years, but don’t let it consume your entire life or even your future. Make friends with non-athletes, try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Find your values because those are the things that truly define you. Write them down and embrace them. Most importantly, ask for help so you can start heading in the right direction. Finding yourself before it’s too late is essential for life success. You are a college athlete because you have a future ahead of you. Live every day like it’s your last and focus on what is to come. As much as my sport has taken over my life and leaves me with little free time, I couldn’t be more thankful for everything that it has taught me. From mental toughness to determination to self-confidence, there isn’t one thing that I regret. Just remember, you are more than a basketball or a cartwheel. Go out there and show the world who you really are.