Entering the Unknown

November 24, 2019

By Camila Wesbrooks, Former College Tennis Player

As a collegiate athlete, I went through a lot of various stages and events. Most student-athletes receive some sort of a scholarship, work with tutors, get free gear, travel to cool places, and eventually earn a degree.

But what no one tells you is what life is like afterwards. No one tells you how to prepare for limbo, that period of time when you don’t know what do to between being done with your sport and finding your first job. Yes, people tell you “it’s so sad”, “it’s bittersweet”, “so much free time”, but there’s absolutely no way to prepare for it.

For me, that moment came when I got absolutely crushed in the Pac-12 tournament against UCLA. When we met to shake hands, I forced myself to hold back tears. Because my team was still playing, I held on to a brave face, focusing only on the game and supporting my teammates.

It wasn’t until we officially got beaten that my fellow senior teammate Sophia Thomas came running to me, her arms wrapped around me and we broke into tears. She said, “this is it, it’s over, we’re done.” In that moment, it was all over. My heart hurt physically and emotionally.

But that moment with her was so important to me because I knew I wasn’t alone, and that’s what every student-athlete needs to know… you are not alone.

Hundreds of other athletes are going to go through the same thing, if they haven’t already. I’ve learned that it takes time to move on and that’s ok. First comes acceptance within yourself, you need to be ok with it being over. Be excited for what’s ahead, even if you’re not sure what that might be yet, which is my current situation.

I am in the process of applying to jobs, because I finally found what interests me and that is, Public Relations and Marketing. It took me a really long time to discover where to even begin, but internships really were key in assisting my path for what I want to get into once I no longer had tennis. While in my 5th year, I am taking classes to finish my journalism degree and working as the Sports Information Director for the women’s tennis team at Arizona.

For my life after sports I initially planned on working a full-time job for my fifth year in school. However, it was hard for me to plan ahead, because I got knee surgery at the end of August that held me back from even walking normally for a month and a half. I think this obstacle has also helped my transition because knowing that I physically am not capable to play right now has made it easier to accept.

Playing with an injury was not always fun, but my experience at Arizona was irreplaceable. My injury is due to a defect which causes missing cartilage in my left knee. Essentially, it’s bone on bone, so at the beginning of the school year I underwent my last and final surgery.

My transition from collegiate athletics into everyday life has been difficult to overcome, but also very manageable. Knowing that I went from 100-to-0, in the short period of three months. In reality, yes, I had a very hard time this past summer accepting my circumstance of no longer playing competitively. My goal has been to seek alternative methods of staying productive in my fifth year, as I slowly get over a major time in my life.

The only advice I can share to new student-athletes who are in the same situation, or will be, is to take advantage of all the resources your school has to offer. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone sooner to speak with advisors in the academic center. They spoke to me about my resume and gave helpful tips on ways to improve it. I also think it’s super important to develop relationships with those who help you along the way.

Attending career fairs and finding summer internships are important to show that you are capable of doing more than just your sport. Interviewing with different companies, I realized that the fact I was a collegiate athlete set me apart immediately. But I didn’t want to oversell it, which becomes difficult after multiple years of dedication to a sport. I think it’s possible to talk too much about your sport.

I think it’s important for employers to know that there’s more to you than what’s on the surface. In my case, that I am not solely defined by my years as an athlete, but as a dedicated individual who picked up a few extra skills along the way. Effectively expressing strengths you’ve acquired, as well as what you’ve learned as a student-athlete will be critical in improving not only yourself but also your abilities to find jobs.

No matter what your current situation is at this moment in time, keep in mind that you are on your own path, not anyone else’s. It’s important to not compare yourself with where your friends are, but to stay centered and own that you are where you’re meant to be.