Not Just an Athlete: Finding an Identity Outside of Sport

Cascade Swim Club

Like a racehorse with my eyes sheltered by blinders, my views were narrowed and my goals were clear. At the age of five I was in enrolled in swim club, at age twelve I began running, and later on at age seventeen I decided to pursue Triathlon. I always identified as an athlete and student because, to my knowledge, that was what and who I was. Everything I knew and what people knew about me revolved around my athletics and education.


indoor track

2011 Indoor Track

Like most high-performance athletes my childhood was not like the most. I didn’t go to parties, would go to bed early, and followed a strict diet. All of my decisions were based around my ability to show up to my next training session as dialed as possible. My daily schedule was planned to a tee and I didn’t have the time or energy to run out of line. It was the path I chose and I cherished every moment of it. I loved being devoted to a  strict schedule. I was addicted to success and would do everything in my power to achieve a positive return. I was obsessed with pushing my body to see how fast I could move and would over-study for tests at school so I could have the pleasure of acing them. I have always been dialed in my mindset and in the goals I wanted to perfect, and I prided myself on that. In a recent life change I removed myself from a toxic environment and sought a new team and coach for my training. With this transition I began letting in suppressed feelings and emotions from my previous environment and as a result I began dreading triathlon. I didn’t want to train, think about the sport, or even be associated with anyone in that environment. These racehorse blinders that I’ve had on for so long began to lift. I began to see this new world and these different perspectives that all came crashing down on me. It was a mind shock and massively overwhelming. My athletic goals became blurry like walking through a snowstorm at night: I had no sense of direction.


I have to think the reason that I identified myself so strongly as a student and athlete was because that’s how my peers treated me. If I was a good athlete I would gain more attention and be seen as a priority. I would be treated better and gain respect. I learned quickly that if I underperformed I would lose all of those benefits in a blink of an eye. I was chasing attention and this desire to impress those around me. The pressure quickly became unhealthy to please my coach and peers and I became scared of the consequences if I was not able to execute and how I would be treated as a result.


2016 Junior North American Championships

At the same time that my training began to fall apart I had just graduated from University, which meant my student-athlete identity was gone. Everything I had ever known was no longer going to be the same. I now had this opportunity to figure out who I was outside of the way I would normally spend my days. I took the time to reflect on my path so far: what I valued, what I had learned, and things I may do differently if given the chance.

People are raised to believe in this vision that to be successful your life is going to be hard, it’s going to be strict, and you are going to have to give up everything for a single dream you have. I’ve realized that’s not entirely true, but rather it’s a societal norm put in place. Why do we applaud people who are miserable while working 24/7 to achieve a goal? Why do we believe that’s the only way to success? The fact is, there are infinite ways to reach your aspirations. 

Truths I learned that no one talks about:

  • Nobody cares. People are indulged in their own problems and while you think bystanders care what you do, they don’t.

  • You don’t need to be dialed in on your goals all the time. It’s refreshing and healthy to take time off. Be with friends, enjoy a coffee date, go away for the weekend. All of this is encouraged in moderation. 

  • You can only perform as well as you can recover. Get that massage, physio, chiro, foam rolling, proper sleep hours, and accurate nutrition.

  • Being young is the time to engrain good habits, but not to take things too seriously. Be adventurous and try new things, you have a whole life ahead of you.

  • You can't be perfect, and holding yourself to unrealistic standards creates suffering.

  • Investing in yourself isn’t selfish, it’s the best way you can spend your time. 

  • The people you surround yourself with are who you become… choose wisely. 

  • A happy athlete is a fast athlete. A race performance (different from training) is 90% mental and 10% physical. Get your head right.

  • Parents that are too involved in your outcomes can cause obstructive consequences. Have a conversation rather than suffer negative thoughts. Make it up to you to choose what you do.

  • It’s okay to let go and do something new. It’s your life and you need to be happy with it.
Taking time to do something different

Sylvan Lake 2021


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