Eventually, every student-athlete reaches a point when their eligibility expires, meaning their participation in college athletics comes to an end. While some athletes will stop participating in sports completely, others will stay involved with the community in various ways. After graduation, student-athletes make these decisions for their future that alter their relationship with sports. Regardless of how involved in the sports community they choose to be, they can still apply what they learned in sports to life.
Jordan Pingel, assistant coach of the cross-country and track team, transitioned smoothly into coaching because he received advice and feedback from his mentors.
“The transition from student-athlete to being a coach was, and still is, challenging and exciting,” Pingel said. “It is one that I could not have done without the guidance and mentorship from other coaches. I have had some incredible mentors in my life whom I looked up to as an athlete. I try to emulate and adopt some of their behaviors as a coach and apply them to my own craft.”
While Pingel knew from the beginning that he wanted to coach after his graduation, transitioning from college sports to life can look differently for others. Anna Mate, a member of the women’s cross-country and track team and master’s of business administration student, will focus on her career rather than sports after graduation.
“I do not think I would like to pursue running at a professional level,” Mate said. “Even though I could eventually claim to be a half marathon and marathon professional runner, it is most likely that I will continue to run just for fun. However, I will always stay involved in the sports community because I love sports and the benefits it gives me.”
Although student-athletes do not always make it to the professional level, sports teach them essential life lessons. Zlatko Kozuhar, a member of the men’s cross-country and track team and senior mechanical engineering major, said he intends to rely on these values to succeed in the workplace.
“In sports, it is extremely important to be competitive, hardworking, and believe in yourself,” Kozuhar said. “If I apply these values in life, I believe I can achieve all my goals, fulfill my purpose, and live a happy and successful life. Overall, being a student-athlete in college has given me many opportunities to improve as an athlete and as a person. I am looking forward to the next phase of my life, and I am sure I am prepared for it.”
Mate also said she is grateful for all that her sport has given her.
“(My) sport made me stronger, both mentally and physically,” Mate said. “I did not only become more persistent, but I also learned how to collaborate with others, deal with failure, and understand what hard work means. In other words, I am sure that I will benefit from all these life skills in my future.”
Sports help people develop different skills, such as resilience, discipline and teamwork.
“There are a couple of main ways that I am trying to utilize things I have learned from sports to my own life,” Pingel said. “Habits are everything as an athlete. Firstly, I have learned to adopt positive and healthy habits that keep me grounded and consistent as a coach. Secondly, everyone involved in sports realizes that there are failures and successes, whether in competition or training. The same goes for life. Understanding how to take these moments, recognize them, and grow from them is critical in life.”
This type of outlook is crucial for any athlete not just in sports but in life. It demonstrates the real world applications that lessons from sports teach us. Building, good, positive habits but also learning how to deal with failure can help one better manage the challenges of the real world. More importantly, it gives many athletes the confidence they need as they transition to the real world.
Whether student-athletes choose to continue playing, their transition into life post-graduation is inevitable. Sports have given them many opportunities and taught them many lessons, both of which will serve them well in the next chapter of their lives God has planned for them.