By: Carly Jane Henkins
When you’re getting ready to graduate high school, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders: trying to pick a school, deciding if you want to continue being an athlete, being away from home. But what people don’t tell you is that it will all work out (I promise!)
When I graduated from high school after being a three-sport athlete, I had no intention of continuing my career in college. I chose Southern Illinois University for my next venture, and after a long 6-hour drive later, I was there. Alone. I was lost, confused, nervous and scared, as I had never been away from my family before. My grades were slipping (so not like me), I was skipping class (also not like me), and I was mentally drained. While I thought I could “suck it up” and handle everything going on by myself, I actually couldn’t, and I dropped out about a month and a half later.
I knew that wasn’t the end. I knew I was going to make something of myself, I just had to find myself again. Coming back home to Sterling, I started the search for another college and found the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. A quaint, DIII school in Wisconsin, only two hours from home. When I got to Platteville, I (again) had no intention of doing a sport. But after meeting someone on the track and field team on my floor the first week in the dorms, I thought I would give it a shot... why not?
After making the team, I found my grades had improved! I was happy as ever, and I was making lifelong friendships (as well as finding my future husband!) The season ran from December to May, with practice starting as early as September. We had practice daily, with meets almost every weekend, but I still found I had the chance to experience college life and keep my grades where they needed to be. I’ll be honest, it was hard, but so worth it. College sports are a whole other level of intensity and competition, but our coaches understood this and were extremely supportive and awesome.
I never got recruited, I never got a scholarship, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I started out at a place that wasn’t for me, but it led me to exactly where I needed to be. It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to change your mind. Just because something is great for someone else doesn’t mean it’s great for you, and that’s okay. You’re never stuck in one place, and you never know what will happen if you take a chance!