The day I walked away from my last Point Loma Nazarene University soccer practice is forever branded in my memory. It was a beautiful day, like most days in San Diego. The pristine grass field stretched out before me, the blue sky melting into the deep blue ocean beyond.
I remember the confused looks I got from teammates trying to figure out why I wasn’t dressed out in practice gear. I remember trying and failing to hold it together as I explained I was done playing. It was so much harder to say it to my teammates than it had been to say it to anyone else.
I walked away from that practice straight into the athletic office. I had a plan. I was going to apply for a writing position that I had heard about a few days ago with PLNU’s Athletics Communications office.
The Assistant Athletic Director for Communications had been looking for a student who could help him cover games and contests for PLNU’s Athletics website and social media platforms. When I first heard about it I thought it was such a cool position, but I knew that I wouldn’t have time as an athlete to take on something else, especially because it was my junior year and I was going to be getting into my upper division courses.
I walked into his office, applied for the position, and the next day I had the job.
I was ecstatic. I thought, here is an opportunity to stay connected to the athletes I loved so much without seeming like a groupie while benefitting my education as a journalist. I praised God for his goodness that night, thinking I had made an even trade – the life of an athlete for the life of sports journalist covering athletes. I thought I wasn’t going to have to leave the world I had been living in just yet.
But, as you can imagine, things didn’t go nearly as well as I had anticipated. It’s one thing to play on a team and feel as though you’ve had a part in a successful season, it’s quite another thing to photograph a successful team and not participate at all.
Thus began the season in my life of what can only be labeled as an identity crisis. I watched my teammates continue to play, I hung out with them outside of practice, and sat with them in our school wide chapels, even as I faced down a single question: If I was no longer an athlete, who was I?
That question became the focus point for a lot of self-discovery over the next year and a half. I always knew it was a question I was eventually going to have to face. All athletes know it. But it happened so fast and I wasn’t prepared.
I wasn’t ready to surrender my whole identity to the Lord even though I knew that’s what he was asking me to do. So I tried to pretend I was still a part of the team in all ways except playing. I wanted so desperately to stay connected to them, to continue identifying with them that I drove myself crazy.
It wasn’t until I finally graduated, left San Diego for a job at Pepperdine University, and had been working for some months that I realized what I was searching for during that time but had never found: God’s perspective. I was finally able to broaden my view and come to the realization that I am first and foremost a Spirit-filled human through whom the Lord works.
Sometimes I will understand the ways God works through me, and other times I won’t understand at all. The point is, it’s not about me. Coming to that realization helped me to place soccer in its proper place in my life.
I was able to classify it as a way of bringing honor and glory to God. I was finally loosening my grip on my image as an athlete, and letting my faith be the term by which I defined myself.
I found that when I stopped trying to define myself without the Lord, not only was I able to rest, but I was above my own desires. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 61:2. It says: “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” The idea that the heart, the very soul can become tired and faint from the burdens of the world resonated with me when I was going through that transitional period.
I remember reading and thinking to myself that if Jesus is the Rock, how much higher can I reach standing on Him than standing alone?
Three years later, I see how necessary it all was. God was working behind the scenes in a thousand different, little ways at once. My current passion and career path would have been much different if it wasn’t for the work I did with PLNU. It was there that I realized how much I loved working with athletes, especially at the collegiate level. Without the connections and experience I gained in my position with athletics communications, I can confidently say that I would not be doing the work I am doing.
As I write this blog post I can’t help but think about the timing… senior fall sport athletes have recently finished their final seasons, and are staring down what they’re going to do now that most of their athletic careers have ended.
My advice to you is this: First, don’t believe that your journey is so unique that no one else can relate to it. You have friends, former teammates, athletics alumni, and coaches who are there for you. Ask them for their advice and for their help. I wish I had earlier!
Second, remember that God is in the waiting. He has not forgotten you and He will never leave you.
Third, God did not create you just to be an athlete. He gifted you with certain abilities that, so far, you have used in an athletic setting. Now it’s time to use those abilities in a new setting. You are ready to grow in this way, and He is ready to lead you.
I'm a former womens soccer player for Point Loma Nazarene University. I currently work as a social media coordinator at Pepperdine in Malibu, CA. On the weekends you can find me at Calvary Community church or hiking in the Santa Monica mountains.