Hi, I’m a Student-Athlete
Eat, sleep, run, repeat. This cliche moto has been ingrained in my DNA since I was old enough to tie my running shoes.
I’m from Maui, a small island in Hawai’i. Everyone there knew me as the Runner Girl. Everything I did and who I was going to be, was defined by my sport. I loved running, which is why I dedicated my everyday life to it. Being from a small community also gave me the opportunity to be successful in the world of cross country and track. By the time I finished high school, I collected ten state championship titles in varying events.
There was also this sort of pressure to maintain that success into the next level of athletics, but man, I was excited. I was getting the opportunity to line up against a conference of champions at the D1 level. Athletics usually came first and at times, even before school. Needless to say, running was a constant for me. My collegiate career was the fastest four years of my life and before I knew it, my time as a student-athlete was up. I didn't have time to say goodbye to the part of my identity that carried me for the past 15 years.
I wasn't ready to let go.
Transitioning into the life of a college graduate and away from athletic competition has proved to be more of a mental struggle, than a physical one. During the track season, I spent 30 hours a week (give or take) training and competing. Everything was planned out.
Although the extra free-time was amazing, I quickly realized that I needed that structure. I longed for it. I was terrified with the idea that that part of my life was over and continuously asked myself the question - if I’m no longer a runner, then who am I?
The adjustment was more ambiguous than it was made out to be, but I found other ways to stay involved with athletics. I earned a position as a Sports Editor for the local newspaper and I volunteered at several cross country camps and practices. Rather than being the one performing the workouts, I was able to highlight other athlete’s work through writing and coaching. It has been a coping method and way for me to stay connected to the sport I love.
Even though I can no longer use the title “student-athlete” to define my life, I believe we can still hold on to a part of that identity. Whether it’s going to the next level of competition, volunteering, coaching or simply using those skills in another field of work. I used to resent the idea of being a “has-been”, but now, I am proud to identify as a former athlete because that part of myself will never truly be gone for good. You can’t get rid of the competitive drive.
The student-athlete experience is a journey that many do not get to embark on. I’m thankful for all the early mornings, the double-days, the disciplined lifestyle, and the sacrifices made along the way. Running helped me build character, form relationships and discover opportunities far beyond my imagination.
Now, whenever I’m referred to as the Runner Girl, I’m reminded of the amazing experiences from my athletic career. It’s an identity that I will confidently carry into any stage of life.