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When the end of your sporting career is unexpected…

What happens when your sporting career ends suddenly? When something that you have invested in for so long, is taken away from you without your permission? That is something you don’t wish from Santa Claus. I knew that was always a possibility and that was one of the reasons why I did things carefully pretty much every day, but the ultimate wish still is that everyone can quit when we are ready for it.

My dream was to play in the European Championships with the team (that was more like a bunch of dear friends!) that I had been on the journey with for two years pursuing, and enjoy and see what determined hard work can bring. Well that didn’t happen. I am not the only one who has had to quit in an unintended way, against the plans and dreams. Only a few can breeze through this kind of situation without a scratch. 

(For the new readers: I got a bacterial infection in my ankle while I was playing professional volleyball in France. The infection had spread also in my bone tissue and made it tricky! Only after 4 surgeries and 4,5 months of being almost like a bed patient, I was able and allowed to stand with two legs and start learning how to walk again. That was one year ago. I will translate the blog later that I have written in Finnish about this..)

One bigger thing for me to understand has been that this power and fire or whatever you want to call it, is still there inside me (and you!) burning for volleyball, or the sport you do. The world of sports is an excellent platform and environment to harness the fire. Sports and my personality were a match! Just like in Tinder! 🙂

Personality in sports emails

And so when the sport is taken away from that equation, the fire is left behind and it is frustratingly alone. Life will be kind of an adaptation fight for a while if that makes sense. Trying to transfer the fire to something else is also hard and feels scary. Is it worth it to get so passionate about something again if soon you are plowing the earth with your face again?  And/But can you get the same kind of kicks from anything else than from sports? 

But we should not suppress that fire, I think. I don’t want to suffocate mine. It might be better just let some time pass and explore if there is anything that would make it feel more alive again. It might take time to find something. Fire has been married to sports for so long time that it is always pining for it a bit. Just like our first loves. The very flaming sort and ouch ouch ouch, then oh how the world blackens for a moment when it is gone. 

I am nevertheless happy that I am healthy and I have not experienced anything too tragic like paralyzed in an accident or something like that. Every one of us has to, however, go through certain challenges and questions in our minds when the sporting career hits a wall you did not expect. 

Do I want to quit like this? 

Can I quit my career like this, to this, due this? 

Is it ok if my career is over now? If not, why not? 

What would comeback mean in my case? What do I sacrifice and risk if I aim to come back? What would I gain? What do I sacrifice and risk if I just end my career now? 

I was careful for a long time not to say that my career is over. I just often repeated that “let’s see…”. I wanted to leave that door open even though I was well aware that that the possibility for returning was as tenuous/thin as me quitting coffee drinking. 

I wanted to see where the leg and its condition will start to develop but the normal range of motion and flexibility would still require quite a big investment financially and timewise. And even if I would recover, what awaits me? A crazy uncertainty that will I be good enough to play anywhere anymore? If I play, I would have wanted and needed to be something else than a ball girl or a volunteer. So the weight on the scale has become unbalanced, tipping towards leaving the competitive sports. Too much to risk and uncertainty compared to what there is to gain. 

So that is the end of this tale. The tale and chapter of me doing professional sports.

It has been quite a tale folks. Now I am crying again when saying it and letting go when I am writing this. 

I am crying for all of those damn dreams that were cut out of me without my permission. 

I am crying for that fire I had towards this sport that was taken away before I was ready to let go. 

I am crying for those now empty wishes and hopes that I would recover and get back on the court. 

It also made me cry quite a bit sometimes when I moved here (Denver) and started going to the practice as a coach and could not start applying the passing tips to my own passing as a player. I had to swallow the sorrow that I was not walking into the gym with kneepads on anymore. 

So, yeah I have cried over this enough already. You just get tired of crying at some point. Didn’t want to water all the little flames that were left of the fire. The sadness is sometimes still present but life’s content is a lot more than sadness. Focusing only on the sadness is like walking into a bag of colourful pencils and only seeing the black one. There are other colors. It would be a shame not to try them out too right…

My injury/sickness was like winning a shitstorm lottery, beautifully expressed, but by getting bitter, I would let the brown storm win and carry that heavy weight in my chest forever. See, I would rather let go of that pile and move on a little lighter. Some crap is gonna hit us eventually again so I don’t feel the need to carry the previous weights with me. Everyone has to face some unpleasant things and suffering in this life, that is the bitter spice of life. I would rather transfer my wound to a scar and it has. My wound is not burning, bleeding and open anymore. It is a scar, telling the tale.

So I don’t want my injury to be a curse word – I am not going to be someone who buries a part of myself to the grave with the sport. I am going to be someone who can revive that fire back to life and shouts even louder in the other fields after sports, utilizing all the amazing things that sports gave me. And that is plenty. I truly wish other people will do the same! <3

Thank you for reading <3

Saana

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