1) What is your Check Your Game Story?
–> I come from a family of basketball players and coaches. It was in my blood. I spent most of the winter months growing up in gyms whether it was for my dad’s games (coaching high school boys) or my own games. It was something that had always helped me understand who I was and gave me an automatic group of friends.
As someone who has a very strong type A personality, I always controlled who I was, what I wanted, and I didn’t stop until I had accomplished all of my goals. I played basketball all year round from the time I was 11 until I was 20 years old. I played on very successful AAU teams, but lost in the national championship the summer before my senior year. In high school, I was extremely successful. I exceeded every personal goal I set for myself with the exception of a state championship. I loved the game so much! I was coming off a successful senior season and very excited to play at Indiana Wesleyan University…or so I told myself, my family and friends. The school was my perfect match. A Christian college with a close knit, successful team that wasn’t too far from home. I had always worked well on a strict regiment however, playing collegiate sports, puts you on a schedule that cannot compare to anything you’ve experienced up until that point. When you start playing at a higher level, you’re playing with the best from all of the other schools. I had always been one of the best at home. However, now I am playing with much older girls and I soon learned I wasn’t the best. This didn’t go well with my personality. I lost control of who I was on the court which had always been what I believe defined me off the court. I started to control other aspects of my life that I knew I could own. Introduce my eating disorder. I started watching every calorie I consumed, how many calories I burned, and what the scale told me every afternoon before practice. As I started losing weight, I felt accomplished. When people commented how thin I was, I felt successful. I had found something I could own and be in complete control over without anyone telling me what to do. By this time, I also met one of my very best friends. She was the kindest person with the strongest faith in the Lord. This friend was diagnosed with Leukemia a month before starting college. She and I were both going to be playing together and we decided we wanted to be roommates! We had planned everything, but all of our plans got placed on hold when she received her diagnosis. She stayed home the first half of the year to seek treatment. After Christmas, she and I finally moved in together and decorated our dorm just as we had planned! She would go to class, attend every practice and then go get chemo. There were days I would come swooping into our room, turn on all the lights, just to hear her kindly ask me if I could turn off the lights as she was resting from her spinal tap and chemo treatment… ugh!!! How inconsiderate I was to not even think about my poor friend! By my sophomore year, my eating disorder had taken over! My coaches, teammates and more importantly, my parents were worried. I was starting to get really weak on the court and was pushed around in games. The playing time that I saw my freshman year was absent my sophomore year. I would sit on the bench all year and count down the minutes until we were back on the bus heading home. We won the NAIA DII national championship my sophomore year, but I never felt a part of the team. I had given up. I had not fought to keep my spot on the team and I didn’t care. All I cared about was being thin and looking a certain way. Fast forward to end the of the season… It was 3 AM and I shot up out of bed in a panic. I was having anxiety and called my mom. She always was able to calm me down from a panic attack, but not this time…. I was losing it. My Check Your Game moment hit me at 3 in the morning! I was a blessed individual in perfect health who was causing harm to my own body! I was sharing a dorm room with a girl who didn’t choose to have leukemia and fought for her life at every chemo treatment. She was experiencing pain and I was choosing pain. WHY?? All because of control! God works in miraculously ways! It was time to check my game! I asked my parents for help. I also told my coaches I needed help and began seeking counseling and started a healthy eating plan. I got my health under control but I was still not happy. Eventually, with the support of my family, I decided to stop playing basketball after conditioning my junior year. I transferred to Ohio State where I experienced a whole new set of struggles. As I look back now on my college experience, 10+ years later, would I change anything? Should I have stayed at IWU and continue to be on the team but be unhappy? I don’t know. Should I regret the decisions I made once I got to OSU? I don’t know. The experiences that you face are what help to define who you are. God has a plan for your life. It’s your choice on whether you follow it or not. That’s why He gives us freewill. But what I can tell you is that no matter what season of your life you’re currently in, it’s the season when you’re closely connected to God that will always be the most fulfilling. You will stray because you are human. That’s what’s so awesome about our forgiving Father. He is always there with open arms. Embrace his hug and move closer to him!
“Whitney, I don’t know what to say. I’ve known you for a lot of years but never knew of your struggle and so sorry that you had to deal with that. I wish I was able to go back in time to try to help encourage you as this was happening. The great news is that your story is going to strike a cord with other young women who might be dealing with similar things you did to help encourage them in sports but more importantly life. Thank you so much for your transparency and humility to be able to share this. Thanks again. God is good and he is watching over you and your family.” Gary Rogers
2) If you could give advice to a current athlete, what advice would that be?
–> Stay true to who you are. Do not let every decision you make define you. Its okay to make mistakes. It’s just important to learn from them and not repeat the ones that were harmful. Do not let the game define your identity. It is important to work hard, set goals, and meet them, but at the end of the game, you’re NOT just an athlete. Be known as the person who treats others kindly and is confident in the person you are off the court/field. Be known as a giver rather than a taker. Be a servant leader and see others as the way Christ sees us.