By Frank Battle
Decisions, decisions, decisions; that’s what life is all about. About a year and a half ago, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I decided to give up my Division I football scholarship and transfer schools. I think it took many people by surprise but I also knew many people did not completely understand why I made the decision.
I first started playing football in the sixth grade when I was 11 years old. At that time football didn’t mean much to me at all, it was just something to keep me busy and out of trouble. However, the older I grew, the more skilled I became and the more I began to enjoy the game. I didn’t fully understood the opportunities that football presented for college until I was in High School, and that is when I began to take the game more seriously. After my sophomore football season, I knew I had several things I needed to work on if I wanted to land on a college football roster so I started working with a personal trainer throughout the week on top of my scheduled team workouts. I would attend class in the morning and afternoon, train with my team in the early evening, and then workout with my trainer by night. By the end of the day, I would get home dog-tired, fall right asleep, and repeat the same process the next day. It was an exhausting period, but I knew it would all be worth it. At the end of my junior year football season, I reaped the benefits of all my hard work. One day I was called out of class into the coach’s office and standing at the door when I got there was college recruiter who told me that his school was offering me a full scholarship to come play football for their program. It was a surreal feeling that all these years of dedicating countless hours to football and receiving a worthy offer in return. That offer made me work harder to receive more and by the start of my senior year, I had eight Division I scholarship offers. Ultimately, I ended up decided to attend University of Connecticut to play football because I felt that they offered a competitive combination of education and athletics.
I left my home state of Florida and traveled all the way to Connecticut, and I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t really know what to expect. Fortunately, the staff and elder members of the UConn football team made the transition smooth for the other football recruits and me. Before long, I was working out with the team and taking collegiate-level classes, I was officially a college student-athlete. Balancing school and football was by far the easiest thing to do, but I was always up for the challenge. The weeks began to pile up and before I knew it, my freshmen year was half way finished. It was around this time where I began to get concerned about my health.
Before any football related activities; weight lifting, conditioning, or even practice itself, I would notice peculiar things about myself. I could not eat because my stomach would feel like a bottomless pit and if I did try to consume any food, I would just regurgitate it. It was hard to sleep because I would randomly wake up in clammy sweats. My breathing felt uncontrollable at times, because of how fast it was. My body would even feel detached or as if it was operating separate from my mind. I had noticed these things much earlier than the halfway mark of my freshmen year. However, after reaching out to the coaching staff, family, and friends, who shared words of encouragement and supported me through these tough times, I just tried to ignore these feelings and kept moving forward. Unfortunately, these issues only got worse and I ended up reaching out to the head athletic trainer of the school who recommended I see a psychologist. It was a relieving feeling for me when the psychologist knew exactly what I was talking about and going through.
She diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder related to football. We explored the option of walking away from football but that was out of question for me at the time. In response, she gave me some neat techniques and exercises to try to combat these anxiety attacks and I used them throughout the duration of my freshmen year. Of course, these techniques were not always effective, but they did increase my awareness of the situations I was going through. However, I still didn’t see much improvement and I began to dislike the sport more and more each day. Football had become counterproductive to everything else going in my life at that point. My grades were dropping, I still struggled to eat regularly, and I was frequently sad.
I knew I had make an enormous decision; to give up the game I once grew to love or to stay and continue fighting this war. I had mixed feelings; I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. So I made a pros and cons list, reached out to my loved ones once again, and prayed often about the decision. The scenario repeatedly played in my head and after intensively weighing each option for several months, I decided to leave UConn and transfer to the University of Central Florida. I understood how physical and taxing football is on the body and I did not intend on playing beyond the collegiate level. I also understood that staying four more years could have possibly been detrimental for me, mentally and physically. Some people supported my decision, others did not but I knew in my heart that it was the right decision for me.
It was an enormous transition in my life at the time; letting go of football after playing for eight consecutive years and placing all of my focus on school. I was lost; I didn’t know much about what I was passionate or interested in besides football. So, I began taking different classes and doing my research on different careers. I also applied to a few internships to try to receive hands on experience in different fields to know whether I would like to pursue a specific career or not. It just so happens that soon thereafter, I landed an internship at Playground City, an organization that caters to making learning fun and helping people discover their passions and interests in life. I am extremely excited to start this next chapter in my life and discover new things about myself throughout my time with the organization.
To be continued…