By T.J. Chiang
As a former student athlete who played golf, I have always been interested in what compelled other student athletes to join and leave student athletics. I have always believed that other students’ stories could somehow be relatable and that I am not the only one who entered, conquered, and left the field. It always seemed to me that, living in a small suburban New Jersey neighborhood, which is dominated by sports, leaving sports halfway is a very unusual and disgraceful occurrence. Perhaps I could find a bond between those who left and perhaps you, the reader, could too.
I played golf competitively from 2007-2011, first in the Junior Professional Golf Association and then on my high school golf team. I have been playing the sport since the third grade, both as a hobby, which I enjoyed, and a way to exercise. I have done various other sports such as fencing and rock climbing. Though those were fun, but they never stuck. Golf stuck and I still play it today. By the time I was in fifth grade, I decided it would be my goal to pursue my hobby in high school by joining the golf team. In fact, I attended a high school golf team practice when in fifth grade. Joining the team was one of the first things I did when I finally reached high school. When I joined the golf team I wished to make friends who shared the same passion.
One respondent I interviewed shared a similar experience. He noted that he “became a student athlete to be a part of a team to make friends and to have people I can learn from.” Another respondent noted that he became a student athlete because he loved the game and it was a hobby that he loved to pursue as a student athlete.
However, after the second year, I decided to leave competitive athletics after two years on the team. I decided to leave for several reasons. First, I felt out of place because my goals and my team’s goals were different. My golf team’s goals were to win at all cost possible. There was no leisure exercise. For me, I just wanted to exercise and pursue my hobby. It became a chore to me and it left me with no enjoyment. I felt that there was a growing rift between my team and I. One respondent had similar experience; “I left because I didn’t feel accepted by my coach and my team.” He also noted that he would “much rather play the sport for the fun of it.”
Second, I felt that being on the golf team would require time and effort for which I did not have. I valued school over golf because if I ever would have a chance of getting into college, my grades would have to be immaculate. Both my respondents noted similar experiences. One said he “had a hard time balancing school with sports” and another noted it was affecting his school work and it was affecting his ability to go into higher education.
I found out I wasn’t alone and I feel better now. Hope these experiences can help perhaps you, the reader.
T.J. is a senior Sociology major.