Giving it all up: athletes tell us why they walked away

College athletes usually dedicate years to their sport. However, once in college, a number of people choose to give up their sport. This happens for several reasons: some players find other callings they want to pursue; others find sports to be too much of a time commitment; others still, for whatever reason, simply find they no longer have a passion for their sport. Whatever the motivations, quitting a sport at the college level is fairly common.

Personally, I have always had three measures for whether or not I want to continue playing on a team, two of which need to be fulfilled in order for me to want to continue to play. One, I have to like the other members of the team; two, I have to like the coach; three, we have to be winning. If I can’t check off two of those criteria, I struggle to justify spending my time on that team. Prior to college, this meant switching clubs, or only playing the high school season of a sport. In college, though, that generally means giving up the sport for good, at least competitively. This can be an incredibly difficult choice, especially when you’ve played a sport for years. The sport, and everything that comes along with playing that sport, becomes a part of your identity.

I was initially only recruited here for soccer. I had no intention of being a dual-sport athlete. It wasn’t until I got to Macalester and walked onto the softball team that I became reattached to the energy and excitement of the game. The decision, then, to quit softball two years later was a difficult one because I had already said my goodbyes to the sport once, and found myself wanting to come back to it. I made friends with people that I probably otherwise would have barely known, and I learned a lot about myself over the two years I played. In the end, I quit for a lot of reasons, but mainly, I found that I really just fell out of love with the game.

My experiences and decisions mirror those of other athletes who have quit sports at Macalester, but they are also vastly different from others who have also decided to quit. For Brooke Finney ’18, quitting the swim team was mostly about the time commitment. As a first-year and sophomore, Finney both swam and played water polo, and she felt that playing both sports and being a full-time student meant that she couldn’t give 100 percent to any of her endeavors. By only focusing on school and water polo, she feels she can manage her time more effectively and put in a better effort both in and out of the pool.

Her teammate, Courtney Overland ’19, had a very different path to the water polo team. Initially recruited for the women’s soccer team, Overland gave up water polo after high school to concentrate on soccer. After a program at UCLA this past summer inspired her to pursue animation and film, she is now in the process of creating her own major with the help of Macalester professors. This major, which requires her to take two classes at the Minnesota College of Art and Design in addition to three classes here every semester, does not allow time in her schedule to continue playing soccer.

“It was hard to give up soccer, but at the same time I was super excited for the classes I was going to be able to take. Also, my team was really supportive of my decision, and I was still able to be around my teammates as their manager and cheer them on during games,” Overland said of her decision to quit the soccer team. Because of water polo’s schedule, which almost entirely consists of weekend tournaments instead of bi-weekly games like most MIAC sports, she was able to get back into the pool for the spring.

Dean Shoham ’19 quit the men’s basketball team after his first year, which he has found to be a very positive decision.

“My GPA has gone up, I am less stressed, I have remained friends with the team and I have been able to have more time to spend with other friends and increase my social network,” Shoham said. He still plays pickup and intramural basketball occasionally, which, he said, “more than satisfies [his] desire to play.”

Lisa Semro ’18, quit softball following her sophomore season after playing on competitive travel teams since she was 10 years old. Ultimately, Semro said that the main reason she decided to give up softball was her course load this semester. Since quitting, she has been able to pursue new academic and career interests, getting a new job as well as taking additional credits to help her prepare for graduate school. She says that the main thing she’s lost by quitting softball is the mandatory workouts, but she feels that she is still able to find time to workout and stay in contact with the members of the team.

Among everyone I interviewed, no one regrets their decision to quit their sport. Maybe this is a product of thinking about the decision for a long time, as I did, or because they’ve found new ways to occupy their time, like Overland and Semro have. For Finney and Shoham, the positive effect of having more time and being able to concentrate on other things has been noticeable. It seems that in general, people do not take quitting their sport lightly, and are sure of their decision when they eventually make it.