Stories from the Sideline

For as long as I can remember, competitive sports have been a core part of who I am. I spent the majority of my life as a multi-sport athlete, living for the anticipation, the exhilaration, the ups and downs of tough losses and comeback wins. On the best days, I felt invincible, like I could play the sports I loved forever. But the truth is, my days as a competitive athlete were numbered, and the clock on my career eventually ran out. When it did, I found myself asking, “What next?” Without sports to drive my path and purpose, the “real world” was a scary place to navigate.

I felt isolated, frustrated, and lost. It wasn’t easy trying to figure things out on my own, but as I talked with teammates and friends, I came to realize I wasn’t the only one feeling this way on the sideline. The more I started the conversation, the more questions came up on how we should navigate everyday things like diet and exercise, as well as the bigger topics like identity, purpose, and self-growth outside of our sports. These were things we were all facing, and that no one was talking about in the open. We struggled and succeeded alone, not knowing there were others out there with stories similar to our own.

That’s why I started The Sideline Perspective—a place for individuals to share inspiration, support, advice, and the real highs and lows of their transitions. It is a platform where injured and retired athletes can come together to build community, share stories, and move forward with purpose. It’s a place where we can start to reflect on questions like “What next?” or “Who am I?” and support each other as both athletes and people.

My call to action for this community is to lift each other up as Total Teammates. Being a Total Teammate comes with an understanding that our value comes from who we are, not what we do. It is a recognition that our experiences—challenges and triumphs—have helped us grow and have added to who we are as people.

We appreciate that we’re teammates in all aspects of life—on the field, in the workplace, in our communities—and rise to the challenge of supporting those around us in whatever capacity we’re able. We know that our story matters, and we’re on a mission to let others know theirs does, too.

My story is that I’m 23, still searching for ways to stay active, and trying to figure out most other things in my life like getting a “real job,” finding ways to travel, and learning how to cook for myself. I’ve found there is no one way to define success in life outside of sports, and while none of us are experts, we don’t have to have it all figured out yet for our stories to matter. I believe every perspective is valuable—and whether our paths are similar or different, we can support one another.

I say we learn, we try, we fail, and we succeed—together.

Learn more about The Sideline Perspective here.
Mackenzie St. Onge

About the Author | Mackenzie St. Onge

Mackenzie St. Onge is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College, where she was a psychology major and two-sport athlete. Growing up in Vermont, she's always loved the outdoors, and you'll rarely find her inside or sitting for too long unless she's reading a book or enjoying a cup of tea. She's currently working on her own story collection project where former athletes can reflect on transitioning to life after sports.

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