A 14-year career at one job in the “real” world is considerably long.
To have a 14-year career as only a high schooler seems even longer.
After talking with Luis Barragan and Sergio Galiana for this week’s episode of The Sports Report Podcast, I thought more about their lengthy athletic careers. They’re seniors on the Imlay City boys soccer team and they’ve been playing the sport since they were four years old. They probably can’t remember a time in their lives without a soccer ball nearby.
I’m sure they’re not the only high school athletes with stories like that either. There are plenty of baseball players whose parents have funny videos of them attempting to hit off of a tee or runners whose moms have been dragging them to road races for more than a decade. Just because kids are in high school does not mean they don’t have a long history with their sport.
Maybe this is something most people already realize and understand, but for me, I found it rather striking as I thought about what it really means: a deep sense of identity.
A common question people ask when they’re trying to get to know a person is, “What do you do?”
They don’t mean what you like to do in your free time or what you do that makes you who you are. Instead, they want to know what you do as a career.
As a student-athlete, I couldn’t tell you how many times I responded to that question with, “I run and play basketball.”
Those three sports – cross country, basketball, and track – were my career. My goals were centered around them, my schedule prioritized them, and my confidence depended on my success in them. My identity was largely wrapped up in who I was as an athlete.
A question I often ask athletes in interviews, especially seniors, is, “What does this sport mean to?” and often they’ll respond by saying, “A lot,” or “Everything.”
I think I sometimes forget that high school sports are really everything to a lot of students. They’ve dedicated so much time, made so many memories, and achieved so much progress in pursuit of being the best they can be – and not just over the course of four years, but for a lot of them, the majority of their lives.
No wonder it’s so hard when their seasons come to an end.
As we’re already (somehow) reaching the middle of October and the fall sports seasons are drawing to a close, I think as spectators and supporters of high school athletes, we could all be reminded of the importance of giving a little extra grace to these athletes whose careers are coming to an end. They're not only losing something they love, but a piece of who they are.
And to those athletes getting ready to move on, just know that there really is more to life and who you are as a person than your athletic performances. The skills you’ve learned, the character you’ve developed, the memories you’ve made, and even the way you’ve impacted those around you will carry on for much longer than your stats and season highlights ever will. You have much more in store.