Latrice Lewis | Kennesaw, GA
Former Team USA Handball Athlete
Written by Malik Brown
"My dad is the elite soccer player, and he wanted me to get into activities. So he decided to teach me soccer when I was five, and that was my first sport ever. I started to bond with him, and I started to watch a lot of sports. I got the attention from him because he was teaching me sports. I wanted more attention, so I decided to watch sports with him, and this kind of developed into a competitive thing.
I tried out for my first elite soccer team when I was eight, and that was the first time ever I didn’t make a team. I remember going back to my dad, and he sat in the car during tryouts. I told him I didn't make the team, but it was okay because the coach said it was okay, and it doesn't make us not winners. He was like, “You are never doing this again. From this point on, you make every team.” So we put in the work, and I told myself I'm not going to not get picked anymore.
I had a lot of pressure. My whole identity was on being an athlete, I was referred to as “The Athlete.” People didn't use my name half the time. I knew that my dad would continue to give me attention as long as I was making the top teams and I was winning, so that kind of became the relationship where I built an identity around that I had to win. It wasn't even necessarily pressure, I expected to win and be better than other people.
Failure didn't happen often. Failure just meant that I had to work harder. Failure was temporary. So I never really let it get me down. There were times when I did fail, and my dad made sure to make sure that I knew that it was unacceptable. I was that kid who would have to walk home, or not have dinner, or not have dessert. It was clear that this is the punishment.
2014 was when I finally was like, I'm not doing this anymore. It actually stopped being fun. I realized I didn't care about winning anymore. I didn't need to win. It wasn't part of who I was, and it didn't change who I was.
I experienced a lot of loss around the time that I retired. So from about 2005 on I lost my fiance to a tragic accident, and I lost some friends. Part of my identity felt lost there because those were my connections outside of my identity of sports. So with sports also leaving, I was very much stuck with, “I don't know what to do with myself.” So I actually spent a year doing nothing.
I kept in touch with my sports psychologist. I had one as an athlete. I had a severe back injury that took me about a year and a half to recover from and because of that, I got assigned a sports psychologist through the USOC and kept in touch with him. One day was like “Latrice, you can do this. You have everything in your background to help athletes.” I thought a lot about it, I did some research, and I was like, “I could do that.” I also recognized that I was somebody people like to talk to in general. I was like I could do counseling, too. I could do both of those things.
I would have had an easier time as an athlete. I would have separated my identity from sports. I would have known who I was. I would have saved myself a lot of time from being lost. So I want to help athletes with that. I struggled with my transition out of sports, and a lot of athletes struggle, a lot of athletes end up depressed, and suicidal. So I want to help athletes with those aspects. But also, I was a very successful athlete. I don't try to be humble about it with people. I learned tools that made me successful. Once I got my education, I realized I was using scientifically proven tools I just didn't know I was.
If you ask athletes how much of their game is mental, they'll tell you that pretty much 80% of it is mental, but they're not putting in those reps. And if they really want to be successful, that's how they're going to get it and they can get that knowledge on their own, and they can seek help on it with people like me."
Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon
Director of Photography: Scoot Took It
GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner
Story Written by: Malik Brown