Dartmouth College ‘18
I have always identified as an athlete. I’ve been playing sports as long as I can remember and it’s something that has defined the person that I am today. Sports were always something that came naturally to me.
Identifying as an athlete was easy because, not only was I good at it, but I also was doing what I loved. What I didn’t account for was what would happen to my identity without sports. My sophomore year of college, I found out.
In high school, sports became more important to my identity than ever before. As a freshman, I played on three different varsity teams: soccer, basketball and track.
My junior year of high school, I was recruited for track by Division I schools. All the hard work I had put in over the years was validated. Sports mattered to me so much for so long, and getting the opportunity to play in college meant that it was all worth it.
Schoolwork was also important to me, but I had never felt that I could find an identity in the classroom. I was a good student and received good grades, yet my mind was more often filled with thoughts of what team we were playing after school than what I was learning in school at the moment.
After meeting many different coaches and traveling to visit various schools, my family and I decided that Dartmouth College was the best fit for me academically and athletically. In addition to being an Ivy League school, Dartmouth recruited some of the fastest girls in the nation every year.
When I started college in September, I had many competing priorities, but was determined to run well. I put everything I had into practice, but I found myself crossing the finish line last in many workouts.
Doubt once again worked its way into my head. Why could I no longer find success in something that was so important to me? I had lost faith in myself and it seemed that my coach, too, had stopped believing in me.
At the beginning of the winter season, my coach was impressed with the progress I had made on my own, but with only a few weeks left in the season, I began to feel pain in my right shin. My shin was tender to the touch and I had trouble walking to class, let alone running. A few days before spring break I had an x-ray taken of my shin and the doctor informed me I likely had a stress fracture. I was instructed not to run for six weeks.
Track, which once felt so important to me, started to feel like it was holding me back.
Although I was still on the roster, I no longer felt like a part of the Dartmouth Track and Field program. As the spring term came to an end, I realized I wasn’t even an athlete anymore.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college was extremely reflective. I realized there was a possibility that when I returned to Dartmouth, I would no longer be an athlete. I still loved sports, but it was clear to me that after injury and heartbreak, I no longer loved being a college athlete.
I was extremely afraid to quit, as I had never quit anything before, but I knew that it was the right decision for me at the time.
For a few months after quitting track, I did not know how to spend my time. There was a large part of the day between the hours of three and six that I had never had free before. When sports no longer seemed as important to me, I learned that there are many other parts of my identity that I have not yet explored.
It has been almost seven months since I quit track, and I am happier at Dartmouth than ever before. I didn’t know if I would like college, or if I would even like myself, without sports. But, it is clear to me now that I am so much more than just an athlete. And, Dartmouth has so much more to offer than just sports.
I got so caught up in trying to be successful, that I forgot why sports mattered to me so much in the first place. The best part about quitting track has been running for fun again. After many years of obsessive training and racing, it has been such a relief to once again run for fun.
I am able to run mile after mile without checking my watch to make sure I am on pace, or looking around me to see if I am keeping up with the other girls on the team. Instead, I look around and take in the scenery.