Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Written by Amber Montero
The news, social media, family, and friends keep telling you that you lost your senior season, that you got cheated out of a year, and that it isn’t fair. I’m here to acknowledge that all of these things are true, but sports have also given us the tools to not only start the next chapter of our lives, but to dominate it.
I got the opportunity to play D-III college softball at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was at this small, all women, Catholic university that I learned the most about myself, made life-long friendships, gained amazing mentors, and even won a conference championship ring and made a trip to the D-III College World Series. To say I’ve been blessed by my experiences is an understatement. My senior year of softball was primed to be the best one yet. The years of training had been put in, the team culture was near its peak, all of the cards were in place for a storybook ending. It felt like we had everything under control. But that’s the thing about life, most of it is out of our control, including what came next.
March 13th was easily one of the worst days of my life because that was the day our season was officially ended and the day I lost the game I’d been playing since I was 5 years old. There are no words that could have comforted me in the moments after we found out. I felt an enormous loss– I was unexpectedly facing not only the end of my softball career, but the loss of my identity as a softball player that I’d held so dear for my entire life. Any significant loss requires a grieving process that takes time, and this is no different.
A couple weeks passed and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry almost every day. If it weren’t for the incredible support system I have, it may have gotten uglier. One of the most critical people during this recovery process was my coach, Colleen Powers. Coach P has coached me since I was 13 years old and has taught me so much about the game of softball but even more about the game of life. She has completely changed my life and core values for the better.
In the first few days following our season being over, her advice to me was to “go slow” and if that wasn’t enough, “go REALLY slow”. As a person who measures the success of the day based on how much got accomplished, this was hard to do. But I had to take the time to grieve. Sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and not doing much of anything was where this process needed to start. If I had not allowed myself this time to truly feel all of the emotions, I don’t think I would be doing as well nearly a month later.
As athletes, it is our natural instinct to push aside negative feelings, push through pain, and simply do what is required of us. This instinct needs to be temporarily turned off and the grieving needs to happen. Now more than ever, it is okay to not be okay.
Because I allowed myself this time to really sit with my feelings and have low expectations of myself, the following weeks got easier. Day by day I healed. I was so fortunate, and still am, that so many of my teammates and friends had reached out during the weeks after. Staying connected to my people, being vulnerable with them, further helped with my healing process. It would have been really easy to let myself disconnect, but I had teammates that were also hurting incredibly bad, senior year or not. They needed me just as much as I needed them. Remembering this, and connecting with them helped all of us heal. If you are someone who has let yourself completely disconnect, I’d strongly encourage you to reach out to your teammates, to your inner circle. Tell them why you love them, chances are they need to hear it.
As I eluded to earlier, if I am not busy every minute of the day I don’t know what to do with myself. And now, with the season over and a lot more time on my hands, I needed something to throw myself into completely. Like many athletes, I don’t do things halfway. So, since I’ve never run a race further than a 5k and I come from a sport that doesn’t require you to be super-fast, the natural and logical thing to do was to start training for a marathon. I threw myself completely into my marathon training and found my new outlet.
A couple of months ago I was a self-proclaimed non-runner and now I wake up every day looking forward to my runs. They have become therapeutic and the best part of my days.
As athletes, for many of us, our sport was our outlet for stress relief. This outlet is still something that we all need. So, no matter what it is, move your body. Take up a yoga routine, do a tabata workout in your backyard, go on a walk with your mom, just do something that makes your soul happy and gets you sweating.
Or if you are like me and love the feeling of pushing yourself to new limits, maybe you will sign up for something like a marathon. Our whole lives, sports have shown us all that we can achieve and this part of us doesn’t change just because our sport has ended.
Sports have prepared us our whole lives for moments of adversity. Even moments of adversity that are as great as the one we are facing right now.
And I can guarantee you this won’t be the last time you are faced with great adversity. When your team lost in extra-innings, or you didn’t make the highest team, or you struck out with bases loaded, or you didn’t max-out your squat to where you wanted to, how did you respond? Did you give up and quit, did you feel sorry for yourself? Or did you show up the next day and push a little harder?
You have all the tools you need to not only start the next chapter of your life, but to dominate it.
Win every moment by bringing your best attitude and effort to whatever you do and then you will win the day. Nothing about what makes you authentically you has changed. All that has changed is where your efforts are being directed, so make it a positive change. Take this time to build a better you and to give back to your community. Rise and shine.
I’d like to leave you all with a poem written by Katrina Kenison that was sent to me by Coach P and has been a source of peace for me in this time. I hope you find it as meaningful as I have throughout this healing process.
When the going gets tough
Written by Katrina Kension
When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.
When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.
When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.
When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.
When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth.
When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness.
When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind.
When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings.
When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind.
When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time…