Senior athletes comtemplate life without sports

Ryan O'Connor , Staff Reporter

When student athletes play a sport, it becomes a part of their identity. However, when they enter college and decide not to play any more, it causes a range of emotions from depression to relief to even joy.

“It made me really sad thinking that a huge part of my life was just going to be gone,” senior volleyball player Sarah Whipple said.

For senior Dakota Hoppe, running track and cross country has been a big part of his high school career. He is one of many senior student athletes who will not be playing in college. Some student athletes make the decision not to play because college level can be too demanding, they end up getting injured, or they plan to focus more on their studies.

“The coaches rule your life in college, they dictate what you eat, how much sleep you get, and how many times you work out. It’s like a job,” Hoppe said. Hoppe plans to pursue a career in physical therapy, a seven-year degree. Hoppe felt like running track in college would interfere with schoolwork.

When a student athlete is not able to play in college they come to the realization that they are losing a huge part of their lives. For Whipple, it will be a big transition from having volleyball consume her schedule to not playing at all.  For her, it feels like having a gaping hole in her life when she starts college without it.

“It sucked. I’ve been playing all this time and it’s been a huge part of my life, and I’m then going to college and it’s not there,” Whipple said.

For many student athletes, the choice is made not by love for the game, but by what comes first. Senior Lauren Willover made the hard decision not to play lacrosse in college. Even though she loves the sport, it would take too much focus away from her studies and the college experience.

“I was sad because it’s a sport I love, but at the end of the day, I’m happy with the decision I made,” Willover said.

For some athletes, making the decision not to pursue college athletics is easy. Many feel that after playing a sport for years a change is needed. Students often become tired and burned out after playing a sport for so many years. Others feel that the magic has disappeared.

“I’ve been running for five years now, which is thousands upon thousands of miles. I’m getting burned out,” Hoppe said.

While students may get burned out on one sport, the option is always available to play other noncompetitive sports.

“Ultimate frisbee is another sport I really like,” Hoppe said. “Maybe I’ll try tennis. I really just want to expand my horizons.”

For other students, however, it is not necessarily a choice. This was just the case for senior Kylie Houston, who got injured during the beginning of her junior year. She had to get surgery on her elbow, a detrimental injury to have as a volleyball player. Although Houston returned to play her senior season, she decided to move forward without playing volleyball in college.

“I didn’t even have the chance to be recruited because of my injury,” Houston said. “That’s just how life is. It was meant to be. Now I can focus more on my studies.”

The decision to give  up the sport makes students remember all the reasons why they started to play it. For many athletes, they were inspired by an athelte they looked up to, while others were introduced to the sport by family.

“My dad played in high school and college so he encouraged me to try and then I ended up loving it,” Willover said.

Even if a student athlete is not playing in college, they are still putting all their energy and spirit into their final season. Many want to make their final season a memorable one.

“This is the last hurrah, so I’ve got to give it all I got,” Willover said.