My Signature: Jackie Schaefer on Medically Retiring
South Carolina sophomore defender Jackie Schaefer didn’t know that a regular season match at LSU on October 21 would be the last of her career. After sustaining a concussion during a match, Schaefer came face to face with the reality that playing careers ultimately end, even if it’s sooner than expected. Schaefer provides her perspective on having to medically retire from college athletics.
People always say that college changes their life, and I really did not understand what that meant until I got injured.
This experience in college has taught me how to be more flexible and accepting to change. It has taught me to not worry so much about the future or what the unknown is because you are just missing out on the present.
As disappointed as I am about not getting to have the soccer career at South Carolina like many had hoped, I am still excited to grow as an individual in my last two years here and leave the soccer program and University as a changed person, who can go out into the world and make a positive difference.
One of the reasons I decided to medically retire is because after each concussion I’ve had, the symptoms kept getting worse.
I’ve had multiple concussions in my soccer career. When I had a concussion last year, I passed all the protocols in about three weeks. This time it was a lot worse and more drastic. I had been seeing doctors all throughout November. After all the doctors’ appointments, they all told me the same thing.
“I’ve accepted that this is the new way for me.”
– Jackie Schaefer
It became real to me when I talked to the coaches about it. I was very emotional, and they were so supportive. That was the first time I told anyone that I was going to be medically retiring, other than telling my parents. That’s when it hit me; that it was going to be over.
My mom had blown out both of her knees playing basketball in college. She always told me to pick a school that if you get hurt and could never play again, you’d still want to go there. I used to laugh that off. I’d think, ‘that’s not going to happen to me.’
(Associate head coach) Jamie (Smith) and (head coach) Shelley (Smith) were so great. I love them so much as people, more than just being my coaches. This is where I wanted to come even if soccer wasn’t going to be in the picture. They’re like our parents away from home. They still want me to be involved with the team as much as possible, and they told me that the most important thing was my overall health.
A few days later I let my team know, and that was hard as well. One of my roommates, Kailey Mattison, is also medically retired (knee). She helped me figure out how to talk to people about it. After I spoke to the coaches, I met with Grace (Fisk), our captain, and told her what happened. I asked her to call a team meeting, so I could tell them.
I told them that sometimes you think it really stinks having to wake up and go workout super early. I would be really stressed when I had to miss classes (for soccer). I wanted to do well at both. My message to them is enjoy every moment because you don’t know when you’re not going to be able to play anymore. My last moment, I was carted off the field in an ambulance. Also, know that you’re more than just an athlete. We have school, soccer and service, so don’t focus all of your energy on one thing because you never know when one of those is going to go in a way that you don’t want it to go.
I’m still with the team. I’ll be in charge of their community service. I’ve accepted that this is the new way for me.
I’m at peace with it right now. We’re in the offseason, so I imagine that next fall will be more difficult for me. I am a religious person, and I believe God has a plan for everything.
For two years I was very stressed about doing soccer and nursing because both require a huge time commitment. So, in a way it’s OK that one chapter has closed, and one opened right afterwards. I’m focusing all of my energy on that.
My dad often told me that there are always people that have it worse than you do, so be grateful for what you do have. It’s unfortunate, and it’s tough to take, but I’m still able to see and to walk and function completely normal. Reflecting on that has really helped bring me peace.
From a mental and physical standpoint, I’m all good right now.