After the senior season … what next?
Liz Fink (7) isn't sure she is quite ready to hang up her boots.
Liz Fink (7) isn't sure she is quite ready to hang up her boots.
Rolando Fines (52) is taking one step at a time since season's end.
Rolando Fines (52) is taking one step at a time since season's end.
‘The abyss’ of transition isn’t a life-long issue

Sometimes, Liz Fink feels as though she’s in limbo. Football player Rolando Fines knows exactly how she feels.

Fink’s collegiate soccer career ended Oct. 28 and she now finds herself in the same abyss that many college athletes fall into, somewhere between life as she has known it since childhood and ‘what next’?

“I don’t know what to do exactly and nobody can give me answers, either,’’ Fink, from Cumming, Ga., said. “I’ve been preparing myself but it keeps coming at me.’’

‘It’ would be the frequent internal confusion of what to do next, where to go and leaving behind what has come so natural.

In Fink’s case, options to getting to the next soccer level are limited leaving grad school or moving on with life the most plausible next steps although she still may try more soccer. Getting on with life seems to be losing currently.

“At the beginning of this season is when I really sat down and thought ‘do I want to play after this? Am I prepared enough to play at the next level? Or should I just hang up the boots and go to work and live in the real world?’ ’’ she said. “That’s (live in the ‘real world’) not an option yet because it’s either find somewhere to play or go straight to grad school (to work on a degree in physical therapy).’’

The confusion isn’t unusual, according to JU Associate Professor of Psychology Christi Bamford, PhD.

“It’s common to ask those questions about who one is and where they are going,’’ she said. “That wouldn’t be uncommon at all.’’

Jon Stabler, who with his wife Dr. Deborah Graham owns GolfPsych in Texas, agrees.

“For the college career for most sports that’s the end of it,’’ he said. “(Questions about the future aren’t unusual) especially if the player had a scholarship, that’s huge part of the college experience.’’

The good news is the abyss isn’t a life-long issue.

“If the athlete isn’t focused (on going to the next level) they will find some kind of career and employment,’’ Stabler said.

Fines, of Tampa, Fla., whose JU football career wound down a few weeks back, can relate to Fink.

“I’ve had the past four years of my life planned out for me,’’ he said. “I knew what I was doing tomorrow. I know what I was doing the week after that, I knew what I was doing three or four months in advance. I’ve had my whole life scheduled for me and now I don’t have that. I don’t have that knowing what’s going to come next, what I have to do to complete the next part of my journey.’’

As with many of Fink’s peers, as the question of the future keeps popping up the past is hard to leave and she’s not sure she has enough contacts to move on.

“I’ve had five years at JU,’’ the exercise science major said. “Every time I went home in the summer or the fall I knew I was coming back. After high school you go to college and your mind is settled in that you know what you’re doing.’’

Now, she spends her time going to class and working out, but she’s not sure how to be working out.

“I haven’t touched a ball in a month but I have been working out on my own, pushing myself and for what? I don’t even know if I’m playing anymore, should I stay in soccer shape, regular good shape, training like an athlete or a female?’’ she said.

“Part of me wants to play at the next level but there isn’t a lot of opportunity,’’ she said. “I don’t know how likely it is that I would play in the United States and that’s where networking comes in. The one thing I’d tell others (in classes behind her) is if they do want to play at the next level it’s about finding connections and keeping those. Keep your coaches as contacts and don’t burn bridges.’’

Additionally, the separation from former teammates isn’t easy.

“I don’t lose sleep over it necessarily, but I miss going to the locker room and having my locker with my name on it. I miss the inside jokes with my teammates,’’ Fink said. “We worked hard to change the camaraderie on the team. Last year I would have said I am definitely happy to be done. I’m glad that I don’t answer like that now. I’m glad I ended my career on a good note.’’

So, like many before her and many to follow, Fink will continue to contemplate.

“It’s frustrating, yes,’’ she said. “If I have to say I am done playing soccer, that’s just something I’ll have to get over. Figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life is more important. I prepared for this, but I don’t think you ever fully prepare yourself for it.’’

Fines says he refuses to get caught up in his thought processes too much.

“If I had to describe the thought processes it’s not thinking about the thought processes,’’ he said. “If I had to think about it I would be frustrated, I would be confused and wouldn’t know what to do. So, I just try to do what is best for me now and let the chips fall where they may and hope everything I’m doing leads me to a better future because I don’t know what’s in store. I can’t think about everything or I’ll just go crazy. I just take it one step at a time.’’

--Jim Nasella