By Tera Bennett
Winning and losing, those two words go through a student-athlete’s mind every time a new task or obstacle gets between us and our goal. As a competitive student-athlete, my goal of playing the sport that I loved was abruptly taken from me last fall.
I dedicated myself to soccer for the past 18 years, but now I can no longer participate in any contact sports due to concussions I suffered on the field.
With such ambiguity about the lasting effects of concussions, the doctor and I decided over several months of deliberation that after suffering from my seventh major concussion, it was time to hang my cleats up.
This experience broke me down. I felt as though I had lost my identity, my confidence, my passion and most of my life because the sport had consumed so much of my day. Little did I realize that through time and acceptance this loss would open me to many other exciting possibilities.
Through playing soccer I had created a web of connections with people who have assisted me in finding new opportunities and developing new passions. When my athletic career ended, the coaches and athletic staff were extremely supportive as I began to explore new options for my future.
As of today, I am no longer simply identified as a student-athlete, but now as an undergraduate assistant coach for the women’s soccer team and a volunteer at the Institute for Sustainability while finishing my degree in journalism and preparing for what lies ahead.
Without the love and support from my family, teammates and friends I may have let this obstacle weigh me down rather than viewing it as an inspiration to reach and achieve new goals. I encourage my fellow student-athletes to think carefully about life beyond sports because its more than likely coming to an end, whether suddenly as in my case or upon graduation.
It took me about five months to accept this new beginning, but now I am excited to pursue a career in environmental investigative journalism where I can give a voice to the voiceless using many of the valuable traits I learned as a competitive student-athlete.
As head coach Keith West always says, “life is a marathon, not a sprint.”