I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if I hadn’t played organized sports.
It taught me to value hard work, I learned the intrinsic reward of a job well done and trying your best. I gained confidence in my abilities (especially as a shorty), I learned to give and take direction and give and take criticism/feedback. I learned how to think on my feet, but also take my time and be strategic. I learned to wait my turn and go after what I want with assertive force. I could write an entire post about the benefits I gained from being an athlete (and I probably will), but this is all to say that I loved playing basketball and running track and any other sport I was involved in intramural or organized. I would never discourage anyone from participating and going all in with it. Hell, I did. It was awesome too! I would however encourage them to keep sports in its proper place. I hear all the time the phrase”ball is life” and I get it. It’s not though. Life is life; sports is just a fraction of life. Even if you dedicate your livelihood to the game (i.e. Pat Summit) your life can’t be reduced to that little orange ball (or white ball, stick, skates). Yes, she is the G.O.A.T. of Women’s basketball, but the way she inspired and instilled courage and confidence in hundreds of young women is far more impressive than her championships. Coaching was her “passion”. Helping student athletes be the best the could be, discover what they wanted and helping them develop was her mission. The medium she used to accomplish that was basketball. So yes, ball was a huge part of her life, but I doubt (and correct me if I’m wrong I’ve never been there) her gravestone says she’s the winningest coach of all time. It probably says something about the impact she had on people’s lives.
"Life is life; sports is just a fraction of life."
When it comes to life after sports I’m referring to the QUALITY of life, not WHAT you actually do professionally. That is a factor, but understanding what you want your lifestyle to be and what you want it to look like helps you make decisions that support that. You can go get a job or you can make a living doing something that you enjoy OR you can have your job while pursuing things that satisfy your core message. Let me give you an example… You are head strong that you are going to the league so you don’t take your studies seriously or consider anything other than professional sports, you don’t make it (for whatever reason) so you may or may not get a job using your degree. You end up in a position you can’t stand and spend the days watching the clock waiting for your next vacation. You need the job “because bills” so you just stay there. On top of all that you keep thinking about “the glory days” and how good things used to be and how you were so much happier back then. You blame your injury or coach or school for not doing enough for you. Financially, you are cool, but internally you are unhappy, on auto pilot, and indifferent about everything (because if you act like everything is fine, it is right?) Sorry to paint such a grim picture, but quiet as kept there are a lot of athletes that feel this way. There are also a lot that just don’t have the quality of life they envisioned for themselves, not because they aren’t capable or they did anything wrong, but because it just wasn’t something they thought about early on.
"You can go get a job or you can make a living doing something that you enjoy OR you can have your job while pursuing things that satisfy your core message"
As an a human, you have an internal fire that get lit when you are walking in your purpose. As an athlete, you playing that sport lit it! (There are also other ways that it can be lit, but playing is the most apparent way sometimes). Athletics may have kept it burning, but it’s not the only thing that can. There are many things in life that can, you just have to recognize it. If that fire goes out and you don’t know how to reignite it your quality of life goes down. You are trying to light it with something, anything to make you feel alive again. That can be a good thing or a terrible thing. It has nothing to do with a job or career and everything to do with your core message.
Exathlete is a MINDSET not a status. You don’t cease being an athlete once your playing days are over, just as you aren’t ONLY an athlete during those same days. It’s a mindset that grows with you as you mature as a person and a player. It’s one that encourages personal responsibility and self awareness. It’s a mindset that can lessen the likelihood that you just drift through life and let opportunities pass you by or turn down blessings because you’re operating from a fear-based mentality. As an Exathlete, you go all in on your athletic endeavors because you are so sure that you are going to make it pro (or get a scholarship), but you also are so practical to know that athletics doesn’t define you If your transition happened tomorrow you would be able to pick up the pieces and roll into your next chapter of life. Whether you make it or not, you will be the author of your story. You take responsibility for the quality of life after sport and aren’t so prideful that you reject help.
Initially I was focused on helping myself get out of a slump, but it turned into so much more as I began talking to other athletes, especially the ones that I considered “had made it”. I started putting out content chronicling my journey (which I’m still on might I add) to a more fulfilling quality of life. I noticed that athletes were on the news more and more for foolishness and I also personally knew some athletes that had chosen to suffer in silence lest someone find out they aren't as tough or put together as they put on to be. It hurt me to know that there are athletes in positions they hate because they didn’t believe in themselves enough to try something different or confront a fear and pursue more worthwhile for them. Some complain about the industry taking advantage of them, and feeling unfulfilled in life because let’s be real the applause is intoxicating. This led me to research what programs are already available. Are there some? Absolutely. Are they accessible to the current student athlete population? Some are. Others are leadership programs that focus on leading others when I feel that the first person you need to be leading is yourself. There are topics that I think are left out or untouched (self awareness, personal responsibility, emotions, vulnerability, shame, self reflection, physical, mental and social changes that occur, financial stuff). That is beyond the scope of this post though.
As I interviewed athletes, they appreciated me asking them about themselves aside from sports. They liked talking about personal stuff. They expressed that they had never been asked questions like the ones I asked so it was hard to answer them or took them a long time. There was a mixture of those that blamed (society, their institution) and others that recognized that they could have done something differently or asked for help. It was a great experience (if you want to be interviewed email me at Exathlete22@gmail.com). The content that I create (Exathlete Life Show, my social media posts, and blog posts) is meant to add to the existing body of work already available about athletic transition, personal development for athletes, and overall quality of life after sports. I hope that it reaches people in a way that causes them to take action. I am a solution oriented person so instead of harping on the problem, I’ll focus on actionable steps that can be taken immediately to create change or get the ball rolling in life. I'll also pose questions to think about. These steps helped me and I’ll also add anything I find along the way from other resources.
"It hurt me to know that there are athletes in positions they hate because they didn’t believe in themselves enough to try something different or confront a fear and pursue more worthwhile for them."
Who do you think you are!?
That’s a fair question and one I don’t mind answering. I am Exathlete on the road to self-discovery myself. I have dreams and talents yet to be tapped. I’m improving my quality of life day by day and laying it out for others to see. I know what it’s like to be at the top on the mountain and feel like I’ve peaked at 23, not ask anyone for help because “it didn’t seem like something I should have to do”. I’ve been lost, unable to make new friends , felt like I was nothing without my jersey, purposeless. I. GET. IT. I'm also someone who confronted those feelings, swallowed my pride and asked for help, stopped being stubborn and thinking I know everything, reached out with no guarantee that there would be a response, admitted the hard truths about myself and my disposition and stopped coasting, sulking, and blaming other things/people for the way things were. I am a dreamer, but I'm practical and understand that I have to put in the work. I'm a leader, but I also know how to follow. I'll self aware enough to know that I'm a great #2,3 or 4 but a mediocre #1. I'm a wife, daughter, sister and friend. I'm a Christian and I'm black AF. I love seeing people come into the knowledge of the person they always were. My favorite quote (it's tattooed on my hip seriously) is As we are liberated from our own fear, we unconsciously liberate others. I believe that shyt too.
I'm also someone who confronted those feelings, swallowed my pride and asked for help, stopped being stubborn and thinking I know everything, reached out with no guarantee that there would be a response, admitted the hard truths about myself and my disposition and stopped coasting, sulking, and blaming other things/people for the way things were.
Whew! Thanks for reading this far! Here's what you can do now… If you've found this beneficial and want to keep tabs...
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On Facebook and YouTube (Shannon Carlisle) I have a show called Exathlete Life, that joint is live (in the slang way lol) and getting better every episode (if you are a film person or graphic designer/social media content creator holler at me and let's barter some stuff or collab).
Then I've got the blog you're reading right now. Join the email list and get a free transition plan to get you started on your legacy.
If you are in…
High school: grab that transition plan and get crackin’
College: hold tight! I got something for you 😉
Pro: Maaaaaan, I'm jealous lol. JK, talk to your inner circle about options for you, branding and such. If you have questions about discovering your purpose and core message, leveraging your current skills, or identity hit me up at Exathlete22@gmail.com.
If you are out of school like I was when I “saw the light” watch this.
If you're a coach, share this with your players. If you're a player, share this with your friends. If you're a parent, share this with your sports community.
Peace and love folks
Shannon M. Carlisle