Athletes can find life after sports, but also challenges

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Yanni Ballis

Courtesy of Yanni Ballis

Yanni Ballis, third from the right, has played rugby his whole life and is on MSU's club rugby team.

After graduating high school, student-athletes are left with a decision: keep trying to participate in an organized sport or give it up. That decision can lead to many different ramifications physically, but also mentally.

For Giorgi Ballis, 19, and his brother Yanni Ballis, 20, the plan had been to come to Michigan State University and play rugby together — just like they had in middle school and high school.

But when Giorgi got to campus this year, after two rugby practices, he was out.

“People can say it was planned,” Giorgi said of playing with his brother. “That’s not a ridiculous statement, but from my perspective (playing rugby with Yanni) was just sort of assumed.”

It just wasn’t for him anymore. He wanted to have different experiences in college.

“I’d done rugby my whole life,” Giorgi said. “It wasn’t going anywhere, I just saw a chance to try something different.”

For Yanni, he was a little disappointed that his brother wasn’t going to join him.

“I was definitely disappointed,” Yanni said, “But I get it. He’s my brother so I’m not mad. I’m still going to see him all the time. He’s doing it for the right reasons.”

Giorgi has moved on though, he’s currently pledging a fraternity and says that’s been keeping him busy.

“I definitely miss my teammates still,” Giorgi said, “but I’m getting to know some of the guys. We’re getting close.”

In online poll by Spartan Newsroom, 43 out of 66 participants said they missed their teammates after they stopped playing sports. The same number of people reported weight gain as a side effect of giving up sports.

The other most common response was boredom. One in 5 respondents said they faced depression.

But for Giorgi, he hasn’t seen any of that.

He plays football with his friends and walks around campus like most students do, but he’s not getting the same exercise he once was.

“I’m probably not (getting the same amount of exercise),” he Giorgi. “But I can’t really tell yet.”

But when you get down to asking Giorgi if he misses rugby, he says not at all.

“I’m good with rugby for now,” Giorgi said. “I might still play next year but I’m just trying to adjust to college.”

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