When Student-Athletes Retire


By Magdalena Knapp, Editor in Chief

Picture courtesy of the three interviewees and Magdalena Knapp

Every athlete knows this moment will come eventually: One day we all are going to put on our goggles for the last race, tie our shoes for the last penalty shoot-out, and walk off the field one final time before we are officially done with our senior season as a collegiate athlete. To be honest, this moment seemed to be so far in the future just a few years ago. After middle school, athletes continue their sport in high school, after that they move on to college athletics, and after college – well, what is going to happen after college?

I love swimming so much that I moved from my hometown in Italy to a different continent. For almost four years I have been swimming now in a pool that is 7,665 miles away from my home pool. I loved it, from the beginning to the end that is now so close. I started swimming at the age of four because my mom put me into swim lessons. I wasn’t a big fan at first because the water was cold and it was hard to see through my swim goggles. Year after year I fell more in love with the sport, so I started my “career” as a competitive swimmer. Back then, I did not know where this path was going to lead. With every race I finished my love for this sport grew, and with every adrenaline kick I could see it clearer: I wanted to swim.

Playing a sport throughout college has really shown me what it means to be determined and disciplined. Most athletes at McKendree University have their first practice of the day at 6 a.m., which means they sometimes have get out of bed around 5 a.m. to be on the field on time. One would think that students would soon quit doing their sport because it is so hard to combine the life of a student with the life of an athlete, but that is not true. It makes them more determined to do the seemingly impossible for four years without a break.

Even though it seems as if all college athletes live a similar lifestyle during college, all of them have different dreams for the future. Hannah Murphy is a senior at McKendree and recently retired from softball due to an injury. Her goals for the last semester are clearly defined:

“Since I am not able to play my last season, I want to still be a big impact and help my team as much as I can,” Murphy said. “This fall especially, I feel like my role became more of a leader than in the past few years and I want people to know they can still rely on me and I will be their biggest fan now in the spring for season.”

When asked what she will miss the most about being a college athlete, Hannah said “I will miss everything. I will playing on the field with my team. I will miss all the laughs on the bus and the memories I have made. I will miss being part of a bond and a family, but I will never be able to forget about my bearcat family.”

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Hannah Murphy during her final season

Being a student-athlete is so much more than simply playing a sport. Student-athletes are an example for other people and want to make an impact on them. Sam Liddington, senior soccer player at McKendree, shared his goals.

“One of my main goals which I wanted to achieve before the end of the season was to try and make sure I had an impact on the team in some sort of way,” Liddington said. “I wanted to at least be remembered as an important member of the team.”

Most students leave their hometown and family behind to start a new life when they decide to go to college. As a student-athlete your team soon becomes your second family and this is what most athletes will miss the most after their eligibility ends.

“I believe that the thing which I will miss the most about being a student-athlete will be the team atmosphere in the changing rooms and on the picture,” Liddington said. “On a soccer team there are a lot of jokes and banter flowing between all the players and this is one of the main reasons why McKendree’s men’s soccer made me feel welcome!”

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Being part of a team in college means being part of a family

Meredith Geyer, a senior swimmer at McKendree has some set goals for her final semester.

“My goal is to get as much as I can from each practice,” Geyer said. “I have been swimming competitively for the past 13 years so I really want to try to embrace the sport as much as I can before I’m done.”

She has been practicing 1-2 times a day for years, and even though her schedule was pretty tight, she will be missing many things.

“Apart from eating whatever I want, I will miss the consistency that swimming has brought into my life. Like I said before, I have been swimming for the past 13 years so I have grown accustomed to a certain way of life. However, I am excited to see how things will change despite leaving what I would consider a comfortable time in my life.”

Despite the fact that athletes go through many obstacles during their college career, they will miss it. Sport will forever play an important role in all of our lives, in one way or another.

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Moments like these making it worth pushing your body through hard practices over and over again

Playing a sport in college teaches us so much more than simply being determined. Hannah sums it up pretty well:

“I have learned [during college] more than I ever thought I would. I have become a much better person and no one who hasn’t experienced being a college athlete will ever understand. I know what it is like to go from hours or lifting/practice and class all in one day every day and never regret it because the bond I have made with some people can never be forgotten.”

Becoming a college athlete creates bonds among people more than any other thing ever will. Being a college athlete is a temporary thing, but the lessons that sport has taught us and the friendships we have made will last forever. This is a little tablespoon of sugar that makes retiring from being a college athlete a bit sweeter.