Friday, December 26, 2014

"How does it feel that your team is better off without you?" Retired Athlete Problems

In case you aren't involved in the volleyball world, December is the month of the NCAA Tournament. On my trip to Rome earlier this month I stayed up way too late in order to watch my old teammates win, and make it to the Elite 8, a HUGE accomplishment for a team that my freshman year wasn't even eligible to make the NCAA Tournament.

The year after my career ended I helped out on game days producing highlight videos, and still hung out with the team on their off days. This was my first true season away, and I found myself living vicariously through them as they beat dook, FSU, won the ACC Championship, and made it farther than any other UNC team in history.

Today at work a colleague who's daughter plays collegiate volleyball as well, asked me if I still followed the UNC Volleyball Team. I told him I feel like I do more than follow, that I'm a borderline groupie I'm still so invested in their success. To which he followed up with this question that I didn't have an answer for- How does it feel that your team's better off without you? 

On my drive to pick up some lunch today, Ariana Grande's "One less problem without ya" followed by Beyonce's "Upgrade U" played back to back, apparently in honor of one of the radio hosts going through a breakup- and the irony was not lost on me. I was so happy for these girls, and jealous I wasn't apart of it that I had never even considered that us older girls could have been the cause of our team's lack of championships. I felt a longing to suit up and play when I'd watch the team play in Notre Dame and IL this year, and now I realized they probably wouldn't even want me or any of my teammates anymore.

I was fine with this chapter of my life closing, but I thought I was breaking up with Volleyball, not the other way around. Like anyone who's involved in a breakup, I could only hope I'd be the one upgrading, going onto bigger and better things. And I began to be really sad and think about what I could have done differently during my time at UNC that would have produced my teams better results. However the more I thought about what each team was able to accomplish, I realized we were laying the groundwork for the teams ahead. The girls older than me at UNC started something that made great players choose Carolina, and I'd like to think the cycle continued every year.

I never really understood what it meant to be apart of the Carolina Family until I left it. I used to think once I graduated from Carolina and moved away, that chapter of my life was over. But it's no different than how my great grandparents (many who I've never met), influenced my grandparents, who influenced my parents, who influence me, can still play a role in my life even though they are no longer with us. I'd like to think some of our major failures or learning experiences were able to be passed on to younger teammates, who didn't have to go through the screw ups in order to learn from them. You may no longer be in the official team pictures, but you really don't ever stop being on the team. Your teams' past failures and successes are all building blocks to what the team is today, regardless of if you've met the players. So I'd like to think the team isn't better off without all of us alums, rather we're all still part of the tean and I can't wait to see what we do in 2015.

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