Life after basketball | Giorgia Sottana
It seems just like yesterday: I was just a kid that wanted to realize her dreams. I wanted to play basketball and make a living out of it.
I wanted to win championships, trophies, and I wanted to play for my national team.
Since I was a youngster, all I cared about was playing basketball. It wasn't just a passion, it was also my vision, my mission, my biggest love.
When you are into your career, you never really sit down and think that at some point, this will end. You don't think about this when you are 18 or 19, and you have to decide what to do about your studies.
Since I was a youngster, all I cared about was to play basketball: it wasn’t just a passion, it was also my vision, my mission, my biggest love.
You don't think about this when you're already making a decent amount of money that gives you the chance to be independent and able to live on your own. You somehow think that this life will never end because the vision of the finish line is so far away that it's normal not to see it.
At least, this is what happened to me.
Life after basketball scares me. A lot. It scares me because no one really talks about it. Even with my teammates, retirement is a topic that most likely no one has the courage to bring up.
So, it scares me even more.
For those that have no idea about who I am as a player, here's a quick recap: I am Italian, I've been playing pro since I was 15 years old, and I have won a decent amount of games and accolades.
Giorgia Sottana and Beretta Famila Schio teammate Kim Mestdagh in 2021
I've been playing for the best teams in Italy and done so for most of my career. I've also played in France and been lucky to experience the Turkish league with Fenerbahce.
I have more than 140 appearances with the Italian national team. I've been the captain, even if it was for just a short period. But this is another story.
I don't like to talk about myself, or what I have done through my years, but I can look back and say that I did plenty.
And still... life after basketball scares me.
It started to get in my head a few years ago when facing a struggle with the love for the game. I had to rediscover who I was. And guess what? It was both the hardest and the best time of my life. Finally, after 33 years of living and more than 20 years playing, I looked in the mirror and saw a person. I saw the reflection of myself that I was totally ignoring for most of my life because all I thought about was Giorgia the athlete, Giorgia the basketball player.
Life after basketball sends a shiver down the spine for many of us because we think all that we are connected to is the ball. We confuse our identity with what we do, and this is extremely tricky. We are not "just" athletes. We are humans with passions, interests, with a deeper meaning. And we are lucky because sports has had the ability to teach us things that normal workers can't learn.
Finally, after 33 years of living and more than 20 years playing, I looked into the mirror and saw a person. I saw the reflection of myself that I was totally ignoring for most of my life because all I thought about was Giorgia the athlete, Giorgia the basketball player.
There are nights I can't fall asleep because I want to figure out what my next steps will be. I want to have all under control and then go to sleep knowing already what my future holds. But that is foolish because it is impossible - for anyone - to know.
So, this is what I do: I think that the most important thing to behold is to know who I am. To know what my values are; to know my priorities; to know how my inner self feels. I think about all the important lessons I've learned during my career. I see clearly how they shaped me to become the person I am now.
During your career, you will have plenty of time to dig deeper into who you are.
Don't wait until the very last minute to figure it out. Give yourself time to explore, learn, and listen to yourself. We are athletes. But we are not JUST that, and your abilities go beyond the talent you have for your sport.
I know it is hard, and I know it is scary. Even if I think I have a clear image of who I am, it is still hard sometimes to think, "What will it be my next chapter?"
I don't know. But I know I will figure it out.
How do I know? Yeah, that's a good question.
I know it because during my life I've built relationships. Not many, but the right ones, the real ones. And I know I am not alone.
I know it because I've been facing a lot of struggles during my career - from bad injuries to burnout - and I still managed to make it through.
I know it because since I was just a kid I've sacrificed way too much to follow my dreams, and still did it without complaints. Eventually, I reached most of them.
I know it because basketball has taught me that, "If it doesn't scare you, maybe it is not that worthy."
Even if life after basketball has the power to scare the living bejesus of out me, and out of all of us, there's also this beautiful side to staring at one's own mortality as a basketball player, the part where we will discover something new. I have given so many years of my life to basketball and soon it will be time to give as much time to something else. Hopefully, something that I will love to do.
So, instead of being scared, let's be curious to see how things will turn out; curious to see how we develop; curious to also learn a lot more about ourselves.
Still, as I am writing this piece, I don't have a plan for my "next life." I am no one to teach the what or how. But there is one thing that I am convinced of. I want those that find themselves in the same situation to remember: We the athletes too often forget that, yes, we are athletes, but we will always be so much more than that. Don't ever forget: you are so much more than just an athlete.
Life is waiting for us.
Let's go get it.
Hailing from the northern Italian town of Treviso, Giorgia Sottana has brought an undeniable style and passion to Azzurri basketball. From Turkey to France to Italy, the national team point guard has played professionally across Europe. In addition to the court, you can also often find Giorgia on the playground as she's the co-founder of @playgroundbasketballcamp.