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You Made It, Now What?

On my long drive of less than a mile to work, I am able to listen to a touch of NPR. If the one traffic light is red, I get a few extra seconds to listen. Today, NPR was chatting with author Amy Vetter and her new book Business, Balance, and Bliss. At 12 years old, Amy knew she wanted to be a CPA and set a goal to become a partner at an Accounting Firm. By 32 she accomplished this goal. The day she accomplished the goal, she realized she wasn’t happy.

At age 12, many young volleyball players know they want to play volleyball in college. It becomes their goal and often times their identity. As a college coach, we see these young athletes, as early as 13 years old, sitting on a couch in our office with huge eyes beaming about their dream of playing volleyball in college. For a select few, less than 1% of all volleyball players, that dream becomes a reality.

At 18 years old, they accomplished their goal. Now what? For many, they are willing to compete and fight their way onto the court, often times it takes years to find playing time. They have a realistic understanding of the challenges of being on a team and have reestablished goals to succeed in college. For a few, they reached their goal and are not happy. They have fulfilled this portion of their life’s goal and it’s time to move on.

For those that realize it’s time to move on, it’s a terribly difficult decision because a scholarship can be a reason to ‘force’ them to stay on a team. It is a tough conversation to have with family and friends won’t have a club because their identity is volleyball. “You spent all those years…committed all those weekends…spent all that money…and now you quit?” These kids spiral internally down a bad road and we are seeing more mental health issues in sports than ever before.

For those that succeed at the college level, Now what? Again, a goal has been achieved, but a new life begins. Twenty-two years of an identity will completely change. Most collegiate athletes are put up on some type of pedestal in college. It could be as simple as additional academic services, ‘free’ travel, and ‘free’ food, to the superstars that are treated as icons on campus. Much of that disappears when you graduate. In most workforces sports, athleticism, and your status likely won’t matter. You are doing the grunt work to succeed in your career. For a few, they are not happy in this new world.

The ability to adapt, to change, to refocus, and to establish new goals are paramount to succeed at each stage in an athlete’s life. It is important to surround yourself with good mentors that will discuss life stages to prepare you for ‘what next’. If you don’t prepare yourself for what next, the journey will not be the reward.

As a postscript to this piece – considering I’m a college coach, there are no current prospective-student athletes or current players in which this piece relates.

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