I have been known as the “athletic girl” all my life. Obviously, as a tall 5’ 11” female, questions about what sports I play are inevitable. I’ve played lots of sports from volleyball to basketball to track/cross country to rowing. My childhood was spent going to school and then immediately going to whichever sports practice I had that given night. My mom joked that the basketball gym saw more of me than she did.
Until about middle school, I loved everything about how sports made me feel. I felt strong, independent, and mentally tough while I was playing. I felt unstoppable. Middle and high school made me lose a lot of these feelings about sports. ‘Athletic’ became the only characteristic I was known for among everyone in my life from classmates to friends to my immediate family. Granted, I know there can be many worse things to be called in middle school. When asked who Kiley was, people would describe me as the tall girl on the basketball team, failing to mention any of my other personal qualities.
Although sports were a big part of my life, I definitely did not want people to only know me as the gangly basketball player. I knew this was a problem when I started to believe my success in basketball was what defined me. I would put an immense amount of pressure on myself to be successful in games and when I didn’t do as well as I thought I should, I thought I didn’t deserve to be known as the ‘basketball girl.’ I began to obsessively work out, refusing to do much other than practice in the gym. Basketball transformed from a carefree hobby into an unhealthy obsession.
At the end of high school, I was committed to play Division I basketball. After a lot of tears, I decided that I couldn’t make it through four more years of college basketball. I made the decision to de-commit and chose to attend UMD for academics alone. Separating myself from basketball has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and have now found a healthier team to be a part of that I’m very grateful to have discovered. Rowing is now my competitive and fun outlet and I am a part of the team solely because it brings me joy which is absolutely what sports should be about.
-thoughts from a Real Girl