Drew Eastland ‘21
According to the Davidson College Athletic Department, Davidson welcomed 135 first-year athletes to campus in the fall of 2015. Today the Class of 2019 only has 72 student athletes. 42 percent of those once first-year athletes have retired, quit, or transferred. Jumping to the conclusion that athletes quit because of the workload or use sports to get into Davidson fails to delve into the complexity everyone’s situation. Athletes retire from their sport for a variety of reasons, but injury often plays a large role.
Jan Brentjens ’21 played football at Davidson for one year until myriad injuries forced him to retire. Last season, he sustained a back injury that ended his career. Timmy Douglas ’21 retired from the football team the second week of practice of first year at Davidson. He had not sustained any injuries, but he had lost his love of the game in high school, and college hadn’t brought it back.
Jennifer Thompson ‘20 left the track team after two years because she believed that she could not live up to her own expectations. This season will be her first in nine years not running track. “I felt as though I wasn’t doing it as much justice as I could’ve been,” Thompson said. “I knew what my potential was, and I wasn’t fulfilling it.”
Adrian Mayans ‘19 came to Davidson in the fall of 2015. He planned to be part of the growing baseball program; however, those hopes were dashed when he sustained an injury wakeboarding the week before. “I felt something weird and I heard something pop or crunch… initially out for four weeks… I was pissed about that,” Mayans said. “I planned as starting as a [first-year]; I had pretty high aspirations… Four weeks turned into forever.”
Last season, soccer player Coleman Richards ‘19 sustained an in-game concussion. He hoped to be back on the field for his senior year until a car accident blindsided him with another concussion. Richards was medically cleared to play; however, he still had symptoms, and when he separated himself from the team this summer, he realized he wouldn’t be ready to come back.
Fellow soccer player Shannon Ballard ‘19 suffered a similar situation. Last season, she battled to come back from a concussion but kept feeling symptoms. “When I stopped going my symptoms went away.” Ballard said, “It was kind of like my body saying thank you, can we not do that again?” Ballard also highlighted that the grind of a Davidson scholar athlete probably took a toll on her and made her recovery harder. “If you think about it there are a certain number of hours in our days that are no longer ours… For me [soccer] took away the down time my brain needed.”
Some of the injuries that players sustain never go away. Richards still feels symptoms from his injuries. Likewise, Mayans’s injury still bothers him today. “I have to sleep on my right side…if I sleep on my left side I’ll wake up with cramps down the left side of my back,” explained Mayans. “I’ve learned to live with it, but… just talking to you right now I can feel it.”
For some athletes, dropping a sport has opened new opportunities. Mayans started his own company, Lucid, LLC. The company uses drones to clean buildings. Douglas has become a leader with Davidson’s Young Life organization. Thompson is on the e-boards of both the Black Student Coalition and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Most athletes still maintain a strong relationship with the team. Richards and Ballard both remain involved with their teams and work with the players directly, and the other athletes are still friends with former team members. “They’re still all my friends,” Mayans said. “I still train with them… I went to war with them; it’s a brotherhood that doesn’t really change.”
For many retired athletes, the hardest part is seeing their former teammates suit up to play games. Brentjens reminisced: “You get that adrenaline rush; you’re about to step on the field and you’re about to play 60 minutes of football.”