Letters to the College Athlete on a Team: Who are YOU?

As a college athlete you need to build your identity based on things that will transfer throughout your life after college.  Once your athletic career is over, you should be more certain of who you are and with an increased self importance.

In March of 1989, my college athletic career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was over.  I was no longer a college basketball player.  I felt that I was no longer important.


I had psychologically identified myself with being a basketball player.  I had been a team basketball player since I was 8 years old.  That’s what most people knew me as, and that’s what I knew.  All my efforts had been rooted in becoming a great player.

It was a great achievement.

But when that achievement was over…..

Who was I?

I had to realize that basketball was no longer a major part of my life and that I had to build on other things to succeed further.

After your college career is over, you have to rely on other personal attributes to carry you through to the next stage of your life.  So, while you are competing, focus on building those good personal attributes.  Start identifying yourself with things that are transferable to other areas of your life.  Things that you will always have, regardless of what direction you choose in life and regardless of what ends in your life.

Start identifying yourself with personal attributes like being disciplined and honoring and respecting people.

For example, if you build your identity on being a great basketball player anything associated with that part of your identity will likely disappear with that achievement.  This includes people.  The result will make you feel isolated and unimportant.  Instead, build your identity on honoring and respecting people.  You will be identified as someone who honors and respects people and people who are around you because you honor and respect them will remain.  Some degree of self importance will be remaining along with a personal attribute to utilize in the next level of your life.

I encourage you to build your identity on things like being disciplined and honoring and respecting people.  These attributes are constant regardless of what stage of life you are in.  So when you complete your athletic career, it will not be the end of YOU!!! It will be the beginning of a stage where you will be more certain of whom you are.

Is the major part of your identity based on something that you cannot carry after your career is over?

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