Having the opportunity to play sports in college is oftentimes a dream for many young athletes. However, this dream is not easily attained. Getting to the level of participating in sports at the collegiate level, whether it’s Division 1, 2 or 3, takes a strong work ethic, incredible skill and a passion for competing. Since it is such a unique and rare opportunity to play college sports, why would a student athlete choose to walk away?
While college sports have many benefits such as fostering teamwork, developing leadership skills and achieving goals, college athletics can also be anxiety-inducing, stressful and time-consuming. This is why one in three student athletes quit their sports while in college, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
While there could be any variety of reasons why a student athlete might stop playing their sport, two former Golden Ram volleyball players shared their experiences which led them to walk away from college athletics.
Seniors Lily Aquaviva and Chiara Mowrey share similar beginnings to their volleyball careers. They both began to play the sport around their early teenage years. Lily attended Plymouth Whitemarsh High School where she played volleyball, and Chiara went to Notre Dame Green Pond, where she did the same. The pair came to West Chester University (WCU) in 2019 and were members of the volleyball team for three years. As their junior years progressed, both players came to the realization that it was in their best interests to step away from the game they loved.
Mowrey described her decision to leave the volleyball team as a tough one. “It was a very difficult decision to make, but I felt like I was at a point in my life where the sport wasn’t making me grow as a person anymore,” Mowrey shared. “I decided it was best to leave the sport and focus more towards my academics and my future career.”
Aquaviva shared that she was unable to find the joy in playing the game anymore, “Going to practices and games started to feel like more of a burden, rather than a time that I should be having fun with my fellow teammates,” she expressed.
Despite not wanting to continue playing, Lily made sure to convey her thankfulness for her experiences on the team.
“There were definitely really amazing blessings that came with being a student athlete, and for that I am very grateful.”
One crucial aspect of the lives of student athletes that can be overlooked is that they are, in fact, students. While many student athletes have personal and team goals within their sport, the main reason they are at school is to receive an education. This is something that Mowrey observed upon leaving the volleyball team.
“Sports do take up a lot of time with daily practice, lifts and games every week,” said Mowrey. “Not being a student athlete anymore definitely is an adjustment that takes some time to get used to, but now I have a lot more time to focus on my academics.”
There are so many other opportunities that student athletes are sacrificing while playing their sports. With such rigorous athletic and class schedules, free time to do anything else but homework and sports can be extremely scarce. When recounting her week to week life as a volleyball player, Lily stated that volleyball practices, lifts and matches would take up about 15 hours every week.
Now with that additional free time opened up, both women have found ways to involve themselves in other aspects of their surrounding WCU community, as well as focusing on personal growth.
“Without having volleyball, I have become more involved in other opportunities on-campus and off-campus that are preparing me to pursue a future career and to commit more of my time being of service to others,” said Aquaviva.
Lily devotes her additional time within organizations such as the Phi Epsilon Kappa honors health service fraternity, the Exercise Science Club and the Catholic Newman Center at West Chester.
Chiara shared that she too has been able to join clubs for which she previously would have been unable to find time, as well as taking time for herself.
“I spend more time doing things I feel as though they elevate me as a person, like going to the gym, studying, reading or going to church,” said Mowrey.
It is most important that students at West Chester, and across the world, are spending their time in college in a way that is fulfilling to them. To some, that means competing in college athletics, and to others that means spending your time in different ways. For Lily and Chiara, leaving the volleyball team was their decision to make and one with which they are both satisfied. They have found ways to put their best foot forward and make their mark in the WCU community, despite being off the court.
Tommy Anderson is a third-year Communication Studies Major with a Minor in Journalism