Knowing When it’s Time to Hang Up Your Cleats

At some point in our soccer careers we will hang up our cleats. I don’t mean for good, although I’m sure that’s the reality for some players. Even Megan Rapinoe will say goodbye to the UWNT some day. We don’t look forward to that day or the day we will say goodbye to our teams and the girls soccer lifestyle.

“Hanging up your cleats” has many meanings. Sometimes it refers to no longer playing competitively. I hung up my cleats after college. But since then I’ve played pick up soccer and guest played in some adult leagues. I’m just less likely to play with referees, jerseys, shin guards etc. So hanging up your cleats doesn’t mean never playing again or not having a role in the sport at all.

Throughout my childhood and into adulthood I made soccer a priority in my life. I sacrificed time with friends and family. I sometimes chose soccer over events like Friday night football games or prom. “Hanging up your cleats” can mean that soccer isn’t a main priority any longer.

During college I was getting paid to play. Scholarship commitments can be very demanding and time consuming. I spent just as much time in athletics as I did in academics. Players in semi-professional and professional leagues dedicate even more time and get paid more money. “Hanging up your cleats” can mean you’re no longer getting paid to play.

Knowing when to hang up your cleats can be a very easy decision, one of the most difficult ones you’ve ever made. Factors like lack of interest or money, choosing another sport, injury, becoming a mother, and much more can influence you.

And unfortunately, the decision is not always up to the player. Sometimes soccer parents must make the decision. Some families just don’t have the funds or time to make soccer a priority in their children’s lives or theirs for that matter. Soccer, especially at a high level such as club can be extremely demanding and costly. Or sometimes an injury forces the decision.

I know an incredible soccer player that tore her ACL three times before she hung up her cleats. In college, I suffered from three official concussions and a stress fracture. Once healed I got compartment syndrome tested and denied surgery. When soccer is a priority, you’re getting paid, and you enjoy the sport…it’s so hard walk away even with all the injuries. Mental and physical trauma, surgeries, rehabilitation, and recovery time often don’t stop players until it becomes too much.

After my last high school game I cried. And after my last game of college soccer I cried. It’s hard to leave that chapter of your life behind. But, every ending brings a new beginning. You will create new memories outside of soccer with your lifelong teammates. You will have time and energy to focus on your future career goals. Be inspired to dedicate more time to other hobbies and adventures. Most importantly, you don’t really need to “hang up your cleats” if you don’t want to. There are plenty adult leagues to play in, more teams to beat, and more teammates to meet!

Photo via Adobe Stock



Leave a Comment