Competitive Athletic Identity During a Pandemic When All Your Competitions Are Gone by Kaitlyn Shikaze
October 18, 2020
Sometimes it takes losing your identity to allow yourself to find and search for your true identity.
Before I dive in, I’d just like to give a shout out to the OCA and the amazing Molly Hurtford for simply doing what they do, truly caring about high performance athletes and seeing them as more than just athletes but as people. They inspired me to think about this topic and to reflect, realize and expand my identity as an athlete during this pandemic. Thanks!
“Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same”. – Anne with an E (My most recent Netflix show obsession :)).
This year, by the time racing would have ramped up in April/May, it was looking like there wasn’t going to be much racing at all this season.
With the season being canceled and the world turned upside down I struggled to find my description, my identity.
However when I found myself, done school for the year, with nothing else to do but train for races that were not happening, I hit a mental wall. I didn’t want to ride, but I still wanted to train. I recognized how fortunate I was to be able to ride, to have time to train hard for the races that I knew would eventually return and for cycling to be a sport where I could train almost normally given the pandemic, but I felt like I couldn’t. This inability to ride took a toll on me. If I wasn’t training to be a bike racer, then who was I? What else did I do? What else could I do?
This year I learned I’m a cyclist. I learned I’m an artist, a guitarist, a writer, a student, a coach, a friend, a leader, a photographer, an activist, a believer, an adventurer, a chef, an explorer, and a creator. It doesn’t mean I’m any less of a bike racer and it doesn’t mean I need to stop dreaming of racing and becoming a better racer than the day before. It just means I’m more than just that. And not everyone has to know or see me as all of those and that’s okay. It also doesn’t mean I’m as good at all those things or spend as much time on all of them either. There’s a reason I don’t hope to open a restaurant and why you’ve never seen a video of me singing in public ;). But they are still part of my growing identity and things I am truly passionate about. I also learned that identities are not categorical. That an athlete can also be an artist. That an introvert can also be very friendly and social and that you don’t have to call yourself a political person to have passionate opinions.
I recognize I am extremely fortunate to be able to speak of growth from this year as so many have been negatively impacted from COVID-19. But I know that I was able to grow and learn because of the honesty and expression of vulnerability that others have shared. And that although it can sometimes look like people are having highlight adventure years, that its important to share honesty as well and connect to others who may be struggling though these times. I hope that if I share my honest lessons, open myself up for vulnerability and am able to help one person in some way – it is worth my time and worth the risk.
I want to thank my Highgate girls and especially Deirdre, the woman behind the whole masterpiece who inspires me to be truthful to myself and look in the best interest of others. Joining Highgate this year for my road team has been one of my best decisions. Even without any road races, I am beyond grateful for a group of incredibly encouraging and accepting women from the Highgate community who have allowed me to be comfortable to share and express the important lessons this season has taught me.
To conclude, this year I’ve learned that I am a bike racer not BECAUSE I race, compete and train hard. But, because IN SPITE of NO races, competitions and normal training, I am dedicated to the things that I am passionate about and strive for creativity, adventure and challenge.
I’m still trying to find my identity. I’m not sure if anyone ever completely finds it. But I know that the acceptance of growth is one of the most important steps. And growth doesn’t happen in a straight line.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading <3