After the Play Ends: Matt Wiscomb


Anya Olson, Staff Writer

Ending an athletic career– whether in college or high school– can be a tough transition.                 

For Matt Wiscomb, who ended his 15-year soccer career after graduating high school, he has transitioned to finding a new passion amongst feelings of depression and loneliness. 

“I always knew I wanted to complete a church mission, so soccer was pushed to the side,” said Wiscomb. “But I always felt left out because my friends were being recruited.” 

With Wiscomb’s future plans, college soccer wasn’t an option. But while most athletes work to be recruited until the final months leading up to college, Wiscomb knew exactly when his last game would be. 

“As much as it was a feeling like “wow, that’s it’, I was also excited to figure out what I wanted to do next,” said Wiscomb. “It was still tough to come to terms with the fact that I was done at 18.” 

No matter the level, saying goodbye to the sport an athlete has played for years is always difficult. For Wiscomb, it was time to face his future without athletics. 

“Not playing a sport has given me a lot of time to work and find a new passion,” said Wiscomb. “I’ve gotten into Bouldering which has helped me out of a dark place.” 

Wiscomb references his struggles after high school graduation and how alone he felt without the supportive community soccer once provided. 

“I felt really alone for a long time,” said Wiscomb. “To make friends in a big school, you have to be on a sports team, club, or fraternity, and I wasn’t in any of those.” 

Making new friends at a new school is always challenging, but starting at the University of Utah  during the pandemic is even worse. 

“My college experience started online, so I didn’t have a social life,” said Wiscomb. “I started looking for different things to do to stay healthy and hopefully make friends.” 

He turned to bouldering (indoor rock climbing) when his older brother asked him to give it a shot with him. But trying something new after being a master of one’s sport is a daunting task. 

“At first, there was a huge strength gap, and I felt pretty intimidated all the time,” said Wiscomb. “But, I had support from my brother, and I got more and more comfortable going.” 

Bouldering is known to have an incredibly supportive community where climbers encourage other climbers, even if they’re strangers. 

For Wiscomb, climbing began to fill the void where soccer used to be. 

“It’s a very gratifying experience to have people you don’t know cheer you on,” said Wiscomb. “It fills a void of accomplishment and really boosted my confidence.”

He went from feeling alone after his sport ended to finding a new community he could call home. 

In hopes of offering advice to other athletes in a similar situation, Wiscomb reflects on his struggles and how he combatted them.

“Be open to being uncomfortable,” said Wiscomb. “I’ve done a lot of uncomfortable things in my life and look back at them with gratitude.” 

Moving on from sports is tough, no matter the level an athlete competed at. Transitions to a life post-athletics is filled with uncomfortable moments. But, if one keeps an open mind,  the possibilities are endless. 

Discovering a new passion might just help combat the struggles.

To learn more about Matt’s journey, click the link to his YouTube Zoom series episode.


About the author

Anya Olson is a senior mass communications student in her final semester. For her capstone she has created a Zoom series titled “After the Play Ends: Hanging the Cleats up”. Every week Anya interviews retired athletes and discusses the struggles they’ve faced after their sport ends. “After the Play Ends” is intended to be used as a resource for current athletes who may be struggling with similar topics. For full Zoom series episodes visit this link. For more information on Anya’s capstone check out her capstone Instagram @anyamariemedia