Identity Outside of Basketball


By: Taylor McCarley

I've been an athlete for almost my whole life. I started playing basketball at nine years old and was blessed to be able to play collegiately at UMBC for four years on a full scholarship. Basketball was really all that I ever knew for most of my life, probably because it was my life. It has bought me so many lifetime friends, allowed me to travel over the world, leave college with two degrees debt-free, and so much more. During undergrad one of my coaches asked everyone what their "why" is. At the moment, I thought this was a great question that allowed all of us to reflect on why we play the game. After completing undergrad, I was able to be a graduate assistant at UMBC for two years, which allowed me to see if I was interested in coaching on the college level. I knew I wanted basketball to still be part of my life, but I was unsure if that would be through me playing, coaching, or officiating. 

After my first year of being a grad assistant, I knew I did not want any parts of being a college coach. During my second year of grad school, I took classes to be a referee. After officiating a few games, I knew that I didn't have a passion for doing that either. I was coming to the realization that basketball would no longer be a big part of my life. What was I going to do? Who am I outside of basketball? I've always felt like I shouldn't just throw my talent and knowledge of the game away when it's something that can bring me some sort of income. I could have very well gone overseas and played basketball; I just didn't have a desire to do that. It wasn't until this moment, I realized that it's important to know your "why" outside of your sport. It took a lot of reflection for me to figure out what else I was passionate about since 10+ years of my life were dedicated to a sport. After doing a few internships I realized helping people is what brings me happiness. Knowing that I've had an impact on someone else's life means a lot to me. 

I'm currently a non-medical case manager for a non-profit organization and I love being able to assist people and help them get the resources that they need. I've also found joy in being a basketball coach for a boys and girls club, which allows me to give back to the younger generation. It's amazing to see that the part of basketball that brings me the most joy is something that I'm doing for free. This makes sense now that I know what my true passion is. To all the people who play a sport, it is important to remember one day the ball stops bouncing and it's up to you to figure out what else you're passionate about. I believe it is important to find a way to do internships in college so that you have an idea of what you want to do when you reach that point.