When the Playing Days End

This article from NCAA.org written by Rachel Stork discusses what comes after graduation and how to leave college sports without losing yourself.

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T
he college seniors were gathered in a familiar athletics meeting room on The University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus, chatty and at ease until one unfamiliar question gave them pause.

With help from an NCAA grant, Erin Reifsteck launched the Moving On! program in 2015 at UNCG. Since then, other schools also have used it to help their graduating college athletes. Mike Dickens / The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The words, printed in the workbooks before them, were strikingly simple. And that very fact — that one of life’s most fundamental questions could seem so complicated to answer — sent the student-athletes into a quiet spiral of thought.

Who am I?

Their immediate responses came like a reflex. They were softball players, tennis players or basketball players. Cross country runners or track athletes. Team captains. Team starters.

Teammates.

They were student-athletes. Of course. But what else?

Erin Reifsteck, an assistant professor in the UNCG Department of Kinesiology who was guiding this discussion, challenged the seniors to think outside their sports. In a few short months, once they hung up their uniforms and cleats for the last time, they wouldn’t have a choice.

“We all kind of looked at the question and almost, like, laughed,” recalls Danielle Vega, then a UNCG softball player. “We had this moment where we were like, ‘Um, I don’t know.’”

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