Indian Hill High School - 2003-2007
Indiana University - 2007-2009 (transferred)
University of Southern California - 2009-2012; graduated 2012
Swam "professionally" after NCAA's in 2012 until Olympic Trials
This story kind of ties into my advice, which goes back to my days after my career ended and I was out of college. I graduated in the recession with a kinesiology major; needless to say, finding a job was next to impossible. I wanted to live in California, but I couldn’t afford gas or food, so I packed up my things and headed back to my hometown in Ohio to live with my family and figure out a job or if going back to school was smarter, given the economy at the time. Everyone in college tells you an athlete will have “no trouble getting a job” or a “student-athlete is the most desirable employee” and taking the blow of that not being a reality, plus being done with swimming and that whole mental transition, took a toll on me! In the most regular world terms, I sort of went crazy. I would stay out late every night and indulge in poor choices as you can assume a mid-20-something would get into. Any relationship I had was getting strained, and I look back and apologize to all those boyfriends during this time; I was a wreck and really didn’t care if I hurt anyone since I was just trying to numb my own pain. I didn’t know who I was, and instead of taking time to self-reflect and find out who I was, I used other means to just numb those thoughts each and every day. I had no money, gained like 50 pounds, and truly hated myself and all my choices. I knew I was in this cycle of patterned behavior, and knew deep down the only way out was to make a big change, but I was terrified. Making a big change was going to essentially put me in front of the mirror with myself, but it was really my only choice. I decided to take a job down in Florida, so I moved out of my hometown, away from all the choices I knew were bad for me, and decided to take control. Being an athlete teaches you a lot of resiliency, so I knew I would end up being okay, as long as I put myself out there. I was 26, and all by myself down in Florida, and over that next year or so, I put myself back together again. I didn’t drink alcohol for 365 days, I lost about 50 lbs, and started to find who I was without all the numbing and as a “retired athlete.” I finally found myself really happy in my own skin by age 27 and I knew this when shortly after I attracted the right relationship into my life, which ended up being my now-husband! It was so hard to break what was really 2 years of patterned bad choices, but like I said, being an athlete teaches you a lot of resiliency that you are probably unaware of since you are just focused on your performance results. But being an athlete, you have so many tools in your toolbox, and we are equipped to face just about anything and always come back stronger.
While you may think your sport is your whole identity, it is not! You are you(more than just an athlete), so try to explore that a bit more. I took my sport very seriously, but almost too seriously. I didn't know who I was outside of swimming or I thought I was just "Amanda the swimmer." Because of that mindset, I did not let myself have a lot of fun and relax! And sometimes being an athlete just like a bore/chore, and so many days I dreaded going to practice and thoughts about quitting a lot. I look back and can't believe I wasted that brain energy because I couldn't cut myself some slack here and there. Being an athlete is truly the best years of your life, so try to relax, soak in all those moments with your teammates and coaches, and not take yourself so seriously. I found that my most successful races where the ones I didn't put the pressure on myself or take so seriously. And now in my "adult life" I find I do the best in interviews or with friends in that same mindset; where I just relax, enjoy the moment and have fun. I'd do anything to go back to some of my biggest moments I took too seriously and redo them with this knowledge I gained post-career!
Amanda thank you so much for what you wrote. Even though we participated in different sports, our stories are very similar and I can really empathize with you. You turned into "Amanda the swimmer" as I was becoming "Gary the football player!" It also sounds as if you even hit a "Rock Bottom" in life. I'm so sorry to hear that but I'm really excited that there is a great ending as you finally woke up! This time at age 27 sounds as if it was your Check Your Game moment in life. You examined yourself or as you said, "looked in the mirror." That wasn't easy to leave Ohio and probably bad influences and easy opportunities to continue your bad choices It also wasn't easy to stop drinking for a year. Great job in doing both of these things in order to get your life back on track. You obviously were able to see more clearly and by the looks of your picture as well as reading your story(happy looking couple), the results turned out good! Thanks again for your transparency and humility to share a about a rough time in your life. I know your story will be encouraging as well as giving hope to others. -Gary Rogers