An Open Letter to the College Athlete in 2020

Kailyn Stone
August 30, 2020

“In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Postponed. Cancelled. Rescheduled. Hearing any one of those three words has caused my heart to drop on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, these three words have been a constant basis dictating the reality in which we have lived for the past seven months. A countless number of athletes around me have come forward, admitting how mentally tough it is to continue training in the midst of so much uncertainty, and I can relate. I spent months training in order to be fit for my season only to be told “the season has been postponed.” I was upset of course, but I picked myself up and continued to push out of respect for the few games that I was told that I would get to play this fall. A few weeks passed until I was told those four words that no athlete ever wants to hear: “the season is cancelled.”

For those of you continuing to train every single day without the incentive of competing against an opponent — keep pushing. You are not alone, and the work you are putting in has not gone unnoticed. I am in no way, shape, or form suggesting that it will be easy. It will be very hard, and there will be many days when you simply do not want to roll up the sleeves and do the work that you know you need to do. Competition or not, run in a way that will win the race. When you are feeling tempted to throw in the towel and simply go through the motions, I urge you to remember 1 Corinthians 9:24, which says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Be disciplined enough to continue working just as hard even when there is no definite end in sight. Also remember that the race is not only run on the track, on the field, in the pool, or in the gym, but it is also run in the classroom, in the community, and especially in secret when nobody is watching.

For those of you who are either in quarantine or are not actively practicing with your teammates right now, you probably bear a mental burden that is even greater than the burden carried by the rest of us. If you are anything like me, you are guilty of basing your entire identity off of the sport you play. With such a limited mindset, it will be impossible to operate as you normally would now that your sport has been taken out of the picture. I encourage you to use your time wisely by thinking a little deeper. Who do you want to be after you hang up the cleats and turn in the uniform? A mentor? A leader? What do you want to be known for? Your kindness? Your confidence? Take the time you have now to develop the life-long qualities that you aspire to possess. Regardless of whether it occurs sooner or later, we will all face the inevitable reality of saying goodbye to the sport we love. You are more than the sport you play.

For those of you who are seniors and have decided to move on without the sport you love whether by choice or by force, all I know to say is I am so sorry. My heart is breaking for you. Romans 8:18 is a good place to start. You are not the sport you play. It is worth saying twice.

Others of you probably feel like you are being robbed of a “normal” college experience. But then again you have never been “normal”. I implore you to stop for a second and remember everything it cost you to make it this far. When your classmates were out partying you were in the gym, working. When your friends were hosting bonfires and movie nights and get-togethers on the weekends, where were you? Probably either at a tournament trying to get recruited or practicing in order to get ready for the next tournament or the next competition. If your passion towards your sport is not unmatched, then you should probably rethink why you are doing this in the first place. If you are a college athlete, nothing about you should be “normal”, including your experience playing at the highest level. We all know by now that the pursuit of athletic success requires sacrifice. You know as well as I do that sacrifices of time, of social opportunities, and of average college experiences are mandatory trade-offs at the collegiate level. No great athlete ever graduated without making sacrifices. If you love what you do then that should not be a problem.

I feel safe making the assumption that most of you, as collegiate athletes, have experienced enough adversity in your lifetime to overcome the race that is ahead of you now. Run it with confidence. We will play the sports we love again. When the time comes, make sure you are ready.

Kailyn Stone

NCAA Mental Health Awareness Page/Resources