OT: Transitioning to college and life after high school sports

What we leave behind. Photo courtesy of Samantha Fye.

GRACE WRIGHT | OPINION COLUMNIST | gawright@butler.edu 

Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines and gives them a Butler-centric angle.


They unite us, they inspire us and for some of us, they define us. 

57.4% of high school students participate in sports. These athletics improve not only physical fitness but also academic performance. They teach discipline and mental fortitude, and they provide a sense of belonging. But only 7% of high school athletes will go on to play a varsity sport at the collegiate level, so how do these students cope when high school comes to an end and the sports that have so deeply impacted them abruptly stop? 

Transitioning to college itself can be difficult, so losing something that has always been an outlet certainly does not bring any extra comfort. In my experience — having been dedicated to the game of tennis since sixth grade — this change can be a shock to the system. 

For me, I have always felt healthier — both in mind and body — when I am active, but because I spent five or six days a week on the tennis court, I never really had to be intentional about that.

First-year marketing major Shea Williamson has also struggled with not having a workout built into her daily routine. 

“In high school, I was always in a sport, so I had the same schedule six days out of every week,” Williamson said. “Now that I no longer have a two-hour practice after my school day, I have struggled finding a ‘perfect’ schedule … at Butler.” 

Fortunately, Butler has a lot of opportunities for us former athletes to remain active — even if we do have to be more deliberate about pursuing them. The Health and Recreation Complex is the hub for these activities. 

One thing I have found so special about the HRC is the versatility it offers. If you are looking to design your own workout, you have access to free weights, cardio machines, a pool and more. The HRC also offers group fitness classes if you want a little bit more structure or to try a new workout style. 

Abby Duffy is the HRC’s postgraduate fitness intern under Dan Scripter and Beth Lohman. As a former college basketball player herself, she finds these group fitness classes to be an opportunity not only to try something new but also to maintain the sense of community you had through sports.

“The HRC has a great group fitness class schedule, which allows individuals to still be involved in a group or team setting,” Duffy said. “The classes are a very different format than what I was used to, but [they] opened my eyes to a lot of different and beneficial forms of exercise.”

In spending so much time on the tennis court in high school, I never went to the gym, so designing my own workout is still new and daunting territory for me. Having a bit more direction and guidance makes my workouts more productive, so I have found a lot of enjoyment in the group fitness classes. Pilates is my personal favorite because the workout itself forces me to be really intentional. Enhancing this mindfulness in pilates has allowed me to become more intentional in other aspects of my life as well. 

The HRC also supports a variety of intramural and club sports. You might not have to give up your sport after all, and you can continue playing in an environment that isn’t as intense. Duffy also sees these organizations as an opportunity to continue your passion in more of a low-pressure environment. 

“Clubs and [intramurals] give the individual the opportunity to continue playing the game they love and maybe in a way that’s more enjoyable since it isn’t as ‘serious,’” Duffy said. 

Intramural sports are usually formatted as a one-day event or a three-week league, offering a special activity with minimal time commitment. 

Club sports are typically more involved. These organizations hold regular practices and events, and some even compete against other universities.

I was ready to start fresh and move on from tennis in college, so intramural and club sports are not a particular interest of mine. For many of my fellow Bulldogs, however, I know that these activities are meaningful in bringing their passions with them to Butler. 

Sam Lineweaver, a sophomore biology and psychology double major, joined the men’s club volleyball team to continue the sport that brought him so much joy in high school. 

“Club volleyball provides me with all of the structure and exercise that I enjoyed in high school while also not being an overwhelming commitment,” Lineweaver said. “There are only two practices a week, so it is easy to balance with all of my other commitments. We are still able to travel and play at competitive tournaments, so that is very fun.”

Lineweaver also discussed the comfort and encouragement club sports foster.

“[Club sports] also provide you with an amazing community of like-minded people who are there to support you through the transition [to college],” Lineweaver said. 

Aside from these on-campus opportunities, there are also fitness communities in the greater Indianapolis area. Like the HRC’s group classes, fitness studios like Rumble Boxing, Shred415, CycleBar and [solidcore] offer a supportive environment if you have access to transportation and do not mind spending a little bit of money. 

I have only made it to a couple of these studios so far, but they have given me an opportunity not only to try a new workout with the structure and guidance that allows me to thrive, but also to get off campus and explore the city around me. 

At the end of the day, though, one of the most important things is that you feel happy and healthy. Sometimes just going for a walk or doing a little bit of stretching can be more rewarding than an intense cycling class. It’s all about what fits your schedule and what makes you feel strong and empowered. 

It is also important to understand that your body is probably going to change. You are not competing at as high of a level, so you are not training like you were in high school. I have watched my muscle definition and physical stamina decrease, and my body image has been one of the biggest challenges for me in making this transition to life after sports. One thing I have realized is it is okay to notice these changes — it means you are being mindful of your health — but try not to characterize them as “good” or “bad.” 

Life is different now — in more ways than one — and as long as you are still being intentional about taking care of yourself, there is nothing wrong with these changes. Appreciate what your body does for you, what it has accomplished for you in sports and what it will continue to provide for you in this new chapter. 

You might get a little lost before you find yourself in life after sports. Just remember there are always communities willing to support you, and more importantly, you have the strength within yourself to navigate any challenge that comes your way. After all, you are an athlete, and even if you are not competing anymore, sports still shaped you into the resilient person you are today. 


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