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Sami Svrcek: Life After Sport

I played four years of division 1 soccer at UC Santa Barbara, thirteen years ago. I have had lots of time to reflect on my experience as well as see the evolution of women in the sport. Looking back, I took my ability to a very competitive level, made lifelong friendships, led my team by example and learned a lot about myself along the way. Soccer was my identity, my world and my passion ever since I was a little girl. I had a fulfilled and successful career, but it came to a very abrupt end that I was not prepared to deal with.



I remember the last home game, I was so overwhelmed that I had an anxiety attack on the field in the middle of the game. I didn’t know how to process the end of competitive soccer. Once I graduated college, I went into a deep depression – I did not know who I was without soccer. I felt like a failure because I did not have a clear vision of what my career would be or where to go next. After many years of accolades, goals and structure, I suddenly did not have that calculated roadmap ahead of me anymore, nor did I have a team of people rooting for me. My life went from being celebrated in a team environment to “get a career and start your future by yourself”.


I did not have any guidance or counseling right after to process the loss of soccer - it felt like a loss to me. I didn’t talk about soccer for many years after because no one really understood and it was too painful.



12 years later, I got pregnant and saw a therapist. During my pregnancy, I found myself reflecting on soccer and drew many comparisons to pregnancy. The dedication, nutritional awareness/restrictions, perseverance, pain, joy and beauty. The baby forced me to process my past in a healthy way, to talk about all of it, including the hardships, conflicts and tough relationships I had when I played. The therapy allowed me to celebrate myself and gave me tools to help create a better future for me, but also my daughter if she chooses to play one day.


My hope is that more student-athletes talk about the exit from competitive sports, sooner rather than later. For me, it wasn’t really talked about and I didn’t really know how or who to reach out to. I hope to see therapy for athletes as they move throughout their athletic careers and guidance as they transition into life after sport.


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