Graduating Athletes Speak on Life After College Sports

With the spring sports teams having wrapped up their seasons earlier this month, all Oberlin athletes set to graduate in June have completed their athletic careers. Some of them feel the pressure being lifted and an appreciation for their newfound free time. Still, many look back on their time on an Oberlin sports team nostalgically and want to stay connected to their sport. 

Fourth-year jumper on the women’s track and field team Aesha Mokashi went through an array of emotions after completing her college athletics career two weeks ago. 

“I remember going back to my parents’ Airbnb, reminiscing and getting very emotional about it,” she said. “It hit me that it was the last time I would ever run track. There aren’t that many opportunities to just pick up and go and do track in the way that you can [with other sports].”

For many college athletes, their final event or game for their school is their last opportunity to participate in their sport competitively. For Mokashi, it was the first time something that had been such a major force in her life ended in that way. 

“I don’t think there’s ever been a moment in my life where I’m like, ‘Oh, this is the end of something,’” she said. “There’s always been continuation and it was such a big part of my life. It was kind of overwhelming.”

Fourth-year Bonnie Wileman appreciates the free time she has had since her field hockey career ended in the fall, but still misses being on the team.

“I have a lot more free time than I previously had,” she said. “Now it’s the offseason, so during previous years, I would still be lifting and conditioning and practicing right now. I miss my team and seeing everyone every day, and I miss the structure of that.”

Fourth-year soccer player Ryan Kim also has mixed emotions about his career ending this past fall.

“The fact that I am finished with soccer did not sink in until the start of this semester,” he said. “It was a bittersweet moment, as I was grateful for everything that soccer has given me, but on the other hand, it was sad that I could not put an Oberlin uniform on again.”

Kim felt some relief when he completed his career, but nevertheless, he misses the excitement of the competition.

“There definitely was a feeling of relief after ending my college career because I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, which has helped motivate me to become a better player,” he said. “On the flip side, this pressure can sometimes be a lot because the upcoming game can be the only thing on your mind for days as matchday approaches.”

All three retired fourth-year athletes have incredibly fond memories of the experiences they had on their teams. Mokashi cherishes the support she got from her teammates while competing in her events. 

“I was so blown away that every single person on this team cared about me and cared about what I was going to do and wanted to give me that energy,” she said. “They were so loud that the officials of the track meet had to put up a rope to keep them from getting too close.”

Wileman values much of the time spent with her team, including the field hockey team’s Teamsgiving celebration where they ate and sang together. She also describes a moment on the field that she will never forget — her team’s 1–0 victory over Transylvania University in the last game of her career. 

“I watch the video back so many times,” she said. “I jump up in the air when [second-year] Susan [Robinson-Cloete] scores and then I hug her and pick her up. I have a really sweet screenshot of that moment.”

Kim looks back fondly on his team making the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament after winning their last regular season game of 2019 as well as his two-goal performance against Wittenberg University last season. 

Although they may no longer be able to play competitively, Mokashi, Wileman, and Kim all intend to stay connected to their sport in the future. 

Mokashi, who is headed for the University of Washington’s School of Public Health to study ecotoxicology, is considering signing up for open track meets or finding a way to be involved in the university’s track meets in a non-athlete role. 

Wileman, who will work at the Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina after graduating, is looking forward to supporting college teams in the city and the rest of the state. She is excited to watch the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s powerhouse field hockey team with Review Contributing Sports Editor Zoë Martin del Campo, who will be attending graduate school there as well. 

As Kim looks forward to a career in software engineering, he intends to keep playing soccer in some capacity, and may explore coaching. As his time at Oberlin comes to an end, he has some words of encouragement for younger Oberlin athletes.

“Cherish your time as a student-athlete at Oberlin because it is a privilege to be a part of the community,” he said. “You will meet awesome people and make so many memories on and off the field. I would say to never give up on yourself and to push to become the best athlete you can be.”