I'm only 24 but I've been involved in sport, specifically speed skating, for almost 20 years now. In high school it was something that I did after school and on weekends, I wasn't able to do school sports in the winter because there was no time, in the summer it was something that I would train for in the mornings or evenings with days and time off to have a social life and a job.
When I moved to Calgary, speed skating became my full time job. As an amateur athlete in a fringe sport there was no way I could afford that level of training by myself, the training fees alone are over $4,000 not including boots, blades, protective equipment, and flights and accommodations for competitions. In order to get the smallest improvement I've been training twice a day, every day, 6 days a week. Some people are able to do skating and school at the same time but if my marks were good my skating would suffer. I've lost jobs because I would have to be gone for weeks at a time to attend training camps, and competitions that I would have to fund myself. I haven't been home to see my family or friends for more than two weeks at a time for almost 5 years, I miss out on some social things because I know that if I don't get the right amount of sleep I can't perform as well at practice or in competitions not to mention that on paper I look like I've just been slacking off because I have no degree or diploma, no stable job, and don't even have a ton of speed skating results.
Don't get me wrong, I love skating and there's nothing quite like to feeling after the execution of a perfect race, or even just one perfect pass or block but I've come to realize that you can pour everything you have into something and try your hardest and still not achieve what you've been working towards. Elite sport is exhausting not only physically but also mentally and emotionally; it can be absolutely draining in every sense of the word. Sport can be greatly rewarding but I can also attribute the few times in life that I've been completely shattered, heartbroken, and beaten down to sport. There are so many people in different sports in the same position as me who never get any recognition, who try their very hardest but just don't make it, and there are even more people who will never understand the sacrifices and hard work that go into being a high level athlete.