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Between the Uprights

November 21, 2014

My athletic career ended last Saturday. I’m no Bo Jackson, but I was an athlete. From playing pee-wee soccer in a T-shirt way too big for me to finishing my career here at Monmouth in a skin tight Under Armour jersey, it’s been a trip.

It ended much less ceremoniously than I thought it would. Not accompanied by fanfare, fireworks, the whole bit. I didn’t expect that and not because I fancy myself a big deal, but I think anyone who has been an athlete romanticizes the ending. As much as I love playing sports and my teammates, it doesn’t seem right for it to just be over.

Ever take your number at the deli and wait for your shaved turkey? Being an athlete is sort of like that. You wait until your number is called, run some sprints and then it’s over. Sometimes you got a little extra (trophies, awards) and sometimes you don’t.

I didn’t get to sign a one-day contract to retire with the team of my choosing. SportsCenter didn’t cover my last game at every place we played this year (cough Jeter cough). It was just sort of here and then gone.

People recently have been telling me “oh, you’ll miss it.” And you know, I most likely will at some point. But there is something oddly comforting about knowing I never have to kick a football again. I love it, it’s what I do (did). But there comes a time when that page will inevitably be turned.

This is a huge struggle for some athletes who have put so much time and dedication into something; it seems criminal that someone isn’t paying them to do it. Maybe I’m naïve to think I won’t struggle with it whatsoever, but hey, c’est la vie.

I had a coach once tell me, “You’ll never regret something you’ve done more than you’ll regret something you didn’t do.” That was honestly the basis of my decision to be a collegiate athlete. I could have hung it up, went to a state school and drank myself silly. But I came here and I’m damn glad I did.

When I finished my senior seasons in high school, it never felt like it does now. Back then there was something waiting in the wings. Another season, another off-season to prepare and a whole new set of memories to be made.

I’ve always been focused on the concept of “next season.” Now that next season is a thing called the real world, and there really isn’t a concrete game plan for that.

Ace Henricks
Columnist

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One Response to Between the Uprights

  1. Tim McGrath

    November 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Ace,

    Thanks for a great reflection. Dave, my son, I think felt very similarly when he finished his cross-country season this year at Illinois Wesleyan. I suspect that there are countless athletes across the country who feel the same way. Good job on a successful career and for expressing the end so skillfully.

    Tim