Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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I Chose Not to Play in College - Here's How I Feel About It

“I Chose Not to Play in College; Here’s How I Feel About It”

By Alex Leaf

“Remember every minute of this. You’re 17 and it goes fast. Don’t sleep. Don’t waste a second of it. Before you know it; its done. Nothing but babies and memories.” A quote from one of my favorite movies – Friday Night Lights.

Now the babies part of that quote doesn’t pertain to me yet at this stage in my life, but the memories holds true each day. Being an athlete has shaped my life in every way possible. It played a large factor in my career decision – becoming a high school teacher and football and track coach. I am beyond grateful for the memories I do have from sports, and like most, I would give anything to go back and do it over again.

I chose to not pursue sports after high school. While this was not an easy decision to make, I look back nearly 7 years later, and I know I made it with the right reason in mind. Overall, my health is of the utmost importance. With multiple concussions throughout my athletic career, I knew it was in my best interest to hang up the helmet. I also viewed the transition from high school to college as an opportunity for a fresh start by surrounding myself with new opportunities aside from traditional athletics. I wanted to make new friends that revolved around my new interests.

Choosing to not be an athlete at the collegiate level weighed heavily on me for multiple years. In some sense, I felt as though I didn’t utilize my full potential. There were times where I was hard on myself, feeling as though I took the easy way out instead of attempting to be both a student and an athlete. Socializing with surrounding peers sometimes made it more difficult, as some individuals would enlighten me on what I “could’ve been” had I continued to play football. Despite these rendering thoughts and abstract conversations, I stuck to my original decision and remained a NARP (non-athletic regular person) in college.

Accepting not being an athlete isn’t something that goes away easily (and in some sense it will never go away). For most of us, we are athletes because we have this innate urge to be the best at whatever we do. We do not take losing lightly. We want to be challenged, perform at our highest level, and strive to achieve goals we set for ourselves and the teams we are apart of. For me, this acceptation has recently surfaced, alas!

I am 25 years young, and I have the pleasure of coming to work everyday with the opportunity to help young minds grow and make decisions that best suits THEIR interests and aspirations. I strive to make them better students, better athletes, and most importantly, better people. In attempting to do this, I am challenged daily. By whom, you may ask? Not the students. Not my colleagues. I am challenged by me. I challenge myself to be a better teacher, better coach, and most importantly, a better person. Regardless of what level you end your sports career, the characteristics you acquire during that time play a role in shaping the individual you can become. With that in mind, I know a part of me will forever be an athlete.