Upon graduation of grade 12, my competitive years ended as I ventured into University to focus on academics and my future career. I found the transition from competitive sport to recreational pursuits very challenging. Sport had consumed such a large amount of my life that when it was gone, I felt like a piece of me had gone with it – if I wasn’t a figure skater or sprinter, then who am I? I experimented with a few recreational activities (campus rec soccer, running, attending the fitness centre); however none of these activities seemed to fill the void. I also struggled with body image issues. Since I wasn’t training for 20 hours a week, my body transitioned. I gained a few pounds, I was not as lean, and I lost a lot of strength. Competing in an aesthetic sport, I was very obsessed with body image and I know many other young girls like myself struggle as well.
Over the years I have developed strategies to help female (or male) athletes transition from competitive to recreational sport/activity:
Discover your true identity- Understand that sport does not define you. It is important to acknowledge all the great attributes you gained from sport (i.e., confidence, independence, perseverance), but it does not truly define who you are as a person. Expand your self-identity to other pursuits, and discover interests for other activities beyond sport.
Become a coach – Giving back to children and youth is a rewarding experience. The first thing I did to help fill the void was become a certified track and figure skating coach. It allowed me to still be involved with the sport and pass on my knowledge and skills to younger athletes.
Compete as an adult – Many sports have introduced adult programs that are both recreational and competitive. You may not be at the same level you once were, but being able to continue with a sport you loved so much as adult is a great way to ensure you are still connected with your passion.
Find a new passion – For me, it was CrossFit. Something completely different than I have ever tried, however the skillset I gained from figure skating and track provided me with a great base for the sport. It’s also an activity that allows me to compete as an individual and remain active as an adult.