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Student Athlete to Student: How to Adjust

Pandemics, family troubles, moving, lifestyle change, mental health, graduation. There are so many potential reasons why a student who has been an athlete their whole life may find themselves without their sport. It can be emotionally draining to come to terms with. Your entire life you’ve embraced your identity as an athlete, so without your sport, who are you? We want you to know that you are not alone in this journey. We have compiled a list of strategies you can try to help make this transition a little bit


1. Create a Consistent Workout Routine ASAP

During your sport, your exercise routine was made for you. You went to practices, attended games, tournaments, or races. You didn’t have to put any thought into when or how you were going to work out. Now, all of that structure is gone. Without it, you can feel lost, and self-esteem can plummet. The sooner you can recreate this structure, the easier you can feel like yourself again. Be sure to create a plan that allows you to enjoy the exercise and is sustainable.

2. Journal

It may sound silly, but journaling your thoughts and experiences really can help you to understand how you’re feeling. Being forced to translate your thoughts into words and then onto paper helps to create some order when everything feels chaotic and disorganized. You may be surprised what words get put on that page. Consistently journaling can reduce the anxiety symptoms (1) that you may be feeling due to the loss of identity. It also helps to track progress. Looking back at past entries can help you to gauge how far you have come, to evaluate how you are managing n0w in comparison to when you first lost your sport. You don’t have to journal every day, but when you’re feeling particularly emotional or lost, give it a shot. You may just surprise yourself.

3. Stay in Contact with Your Teammates

Our sports offer us a social outlet that we don’t need to put effort into. Research shows that positive social environments can be beneficial for our health and well-being (2). This means it is important to maintain the friendships you have built within your sport. Regardless of if they still play your sport or not, take the time to assess which friendships you value and find ways to incorporate them back into your life. It may be as easy as going out for coffee once a week or choosing to take classes together.

4. Try New Things!

It may sound cliché, but trying new things gives us a chance to take advantage of the extra time and freedom. Going back to your old sport may be the craving you have right now, but remember, you are an athlete! Test your limits of what you can do in other sports. You have to practice honing new skills, and apply it to something new. You may just find your next sport and become obsessed with mastering it. If you’re nervous to try something new, consider what your transferable skills may be (3). For example, a hockey player may be good at skiing due to the nature of skating being so similar.

5. Join a Club

Chances are those friends you made on your team had similar interests to you. Take the time to find others like that. It could be a club related to your sport, or something entirely new. It can be a club within your school or just within your community. There are also tons of soft skills that you may have from being an athlete and teammate that can be applied within a club or on new projects (3). Take some time to browse your school’s social media pages and websites. There are often student Facebook groups that you can join that are designed to share this kind of information. Join a club and use it as a chance to learn something new while fulfilling your social needs.

6. Join a Recreation League

Just because you are no longer playing at the peak of your career, doesn’t mean you can’t play the sport at all. The transition will certainly be hard. Competition and skill levels will be different and hugely varied. Use this as an opportunity to reignite your love for the sport itself. Find that passion that pushed you to keep going after you got your first taste. Remind yourself that you can enjoy the sport, even if you aren’t competing for a gold medal. Consider intramurals, adult leagues in your community, and check out your school’s Facebook groups for other opportunities.


1. Sohal M, Singh P, Dhillon BS, Gill HS. Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Fam Med Community Health. 2022;10(1).

2. Tough H, Siegrist J, Fekete C. Social Relationships, mental health and wellbeing in physical disability: A systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1).

3. Reifsteck EJ, DeFreese JD, Brooks DAD, Seo Y, Beisecker L, Rao N, et al. Call it an “evolution”: Promoting student-athlete well-being during the transition from collegiate sport. J Athl Train. 2023;58(1).

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