Athlete & Counseling Athletes: How I Did It All

Sports have always been a big part of my life since I could remember, even to this day. Being an athlete comes with its benefits and drawbacks, and one that I would categorize as both is being a role model to the people around you. I say both because to be very honest, although it’s always been an honor, it’s a BIG responsibility! Once I put on my jersey to compete, I always knew people were watching and looking up to us not just as athletes, but also as heroes. The sport and the whole journey in between has shaped me into who I am today. Right now, I am working with junior athletes from all across Asia on a daily basis, and my only wish is to be able to share a wisdom or two I’ve learned through my personal experience. For years now, I have had the privilege to compete and represent my country, Indonesia, in several international events. At the end of last year, my team won the silver medal at the South East Asia Games in the Philippines. It was the first silver medal Indonesia had won in 14 years! I could go on about how hard training camp was, and what we as athletes had to go through – the “drama” that is a regular aspect of playing a sport at the highest levels in a developing country etc. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

During a very intense training camp 6 months before the SEA Games (which took place in December), I was (and still am) working as a full-time counselor for student-athletes. The typical application cycle for student-athletes applying to get recruited to US Universities starts in September lasting till the end of December. This is when things are most chaotic. Students and their parents grow increasingly anxious, and the pressure on counselors rises to peak levels. I understood the nature of my job even though it seemed impossible to be doing softball and counseling at the same time. However, I firmly believed I could do both, and developed a plan to achieve this.

Some days were hard. I would train twice a day, once in the morning and another in the late afternoon, and worked on my full-time job in between and after each training session. Between calls with college coaches and evening check-ins with my clients, I made sure to have enough time to rest in order to perform well on the field the next morning. 

Eventually I fell into a good rhythm as I believed the best thing to do was persevere, since I clearly knew what my goals were – both in softball and at work. I wrapped up the early admissions period right before I left for the SEA Games in November, but even during my time in the Philippines I still had to secure recruiting offers for my clients and review their applications for the January 1st deadline. I knew what I had to do and what I wanted to achieve, hence I intentionally set aside time to do my work before the tournament and managed to retain my focus in place when it was time to compete. I remember my coach once saying, “All we need to succeed in this tournament is for the girls to always remember their goals – the team’s and their personal goals.” That was what I always kept in mind as I returned home to Jakarta with a big smile on my face. Furthermore, in the span of the first three months of 2020, my clients have received over fifteen great admissions from top colleges in the US! I believe every athlete has their own side hustle. Serena Williams, four-time Olympic gold medalist tennis player, and World Champion soccer player Alex Morgan are both moms to their beautiful daughters. Maria Sharapova, who has won multiple Grand Slams, is also well-known in the business world for launching her own company as well as mentoring women entrepreneurs. Lanni Marchant, Canada’s long-distance runner and marathon record holder, is an attorney at a law firm in Tennessee. While, I don’t mean to compare myself to these legendary athletes, there is so much we can learn from these amazing athletes: we do not have to put our dreams on pause, even if we want to pursue a professional career. It all comes back to our core belief in ourselves – our goals and attitude towards achieving our own personal goals; a wisdom I am constantly passing on to my clients.

Ashilla Safiya Associate Consultant