About ten years ago, I was part of the national synchronized swimming team, now called artistic swimming. I trained at the Institut National du Sport du Québec in Montreal, for 40 to 50 hours each week. I liked what I was doing. No, in fact I LOVED synchronized swimming since it was more than a passion. It was my ENTIRE life!
Then things changed, I started having tough times at training. I was told that I wasn’t thin enough. Not tall enough. Not enough like the others. Then I got injured. That was before I started having doubts about myself and started to lose confidence… to finally reach the point where I wondered what I was doing there. Doubting myself and my abilities, it got to the point where I started telling myself that I was no good, that I was weak. In short, I no longer had my heart in it, and I no longer felt at home at the pool. Happy as a fish in the water like the expression goes? To me, the jar was overflowing, and I saw my sport more for all the sacrifices it imposed on me than the positive experience it was supposed to bring me. And that was when I realized that it was over for me. I had to turn the page and do something else, because the love I had for my sport was no longer there.
But when an athlete decides to leave their sport, can they just do it overnight?
With no consequences or snags?
Is it possible to simply do something else in life, without being prepared and without feeling overwhelmed? Unfortunately, and you already know this, the answer is no for far too many athletes. And my personal experience attests to that.
Until this watershed point in my life, the only thing that came to mind when I introduced myself was to say:
“Hello, I’m Anne-Marie, I’m a synchronized swimmer.”
But when synchronized swimming was no longer part of my life, what was I supposed tor say?
I didn’t know. Even worse, I didn’t have ANY idea. I had never asked myself this question. I never prepared myself for “after.” Probably because I didn’t believe the day would ever come.
It took me some time, (not days, weeks or months…) to answer this darn question “who am I?” I didn’t know where to start. What else did I like? Did I have other talents? Other passions? What do I want? Do I have other ambitions? Was I going to be able to someday define myself by something other than my sport?
We all know that transitions in general are difficult and take us out of our comfort zone. Changing cities, changing jobs, changing schedules, changing lifestyles… But going from a sporting status to an indeterminate status is also a transition! And let me tell you, it’s a big one. What am I going to do with these 50 free hours now? Where am I going?
Directly into a wall. That’s exactly how I felt. The feeling of not being in control. The feeling of having lost all of the points of reference I had for so long. Losing my friends-teammates. Losing my life habits. Losing my discipline, my sole passion. Moving back home to live with my parents. Ouch!
I had the impression of being in a movie and not being able to decide what comes next for the lost soul that I had become. Lost and facing this question haunted me constantly, “what do I do now”?
What did I do to get out of this situation?
I went to see a psychologist. She helped me get through this rough patch by providing me with a space to live and understand my emotions.
I went to see a guidance counsellor. She helped me do research on study programs and different professions. She supported me and guided me in my queries and in my quest to find a new goal in life, a new flame.
I spoke with former athletes. They helped me with their testimonials and their encouragement. I understood that I could experience good things, even if I had the impression that everything was over for me.
I discussed my situation with friends, my family. Just to ventilate, just to feel better.
And, most importantly, I have myself a good kick in the butt. Things couldn’t stay this way and I had to do something to overcome it. I had to do it by myself, for myself.
Seeking help is ESSENTIAL, but that’s not all. We have to work hard on ourselves to succeed in moving forward. That is also inevitable.
For my part, I went back to school. In career development sciences – how ironic! I tried new sports and leisure activities to find one that pleases me. I worked as an employment counsellor to help people get through their professional transitions, – irony number 2. And here I am today with the Sport’Aide team. Ready to do everything I can to promote healthy and safe sports. Because sport should always have a positive impact! Even when it’s over!
Are you experiencing a difficult transition after leaving your sport?
I cannot tell you that it will be easy. However, I can GUARANTEE you that there are other things, that you can find good things, even if it’s hard to believe at first. Do not hesitate to TALK about it, you are not alone…