Like any young female soccer fanatic, Olivia Justus grew up idolizing the U.S. women’s soccer team. She fell in love with the game and soon began playing it. Soccer gave Justus, a senior mass communications major at Piedmont University, an outlet to relieve anger.
“If I had a bad day or I was mad at something, I would just go out there and play and take my anger out of the field,” Justus said.
Justus grew up dreaming of playing for the U.S. women’s soccer team. While playing soccer, Justus showed signs of promise. She started playing at Habersham Central High School and attracted interest from colleges. But that interest would not last long as she suffered a meniscus injury that would sideline her for the rest of her senior season. While working back from her surgery to hopefully play for her senior night, Justus reached out to Piedmont College’s head women’s soccer coach Timmy McCormack to see if she could walk on.
“It was a humbling feeling to be able to walk on,” Justus said. “I went to a [recruiting] camp for Piedmont a week after I was cleared. I was ecstatic.”
Three years after joining the Piedmont women’s soccer team, Justus had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life. Trying to balance soccer, school and work started to seem impossible. She was working six days a week and taking 18 credit hours. When she noticed her grades were starting to fall, Justus knew she needed to make a change. Over winter break she quit soccer, ending her playing career.
“I was devastated, but I knew it was what was best for me in the long run,” Justus said.
She saw her grades start to improve, and had more free time to do what she wanted. She even started a new job that paid more, but without the daily grind of soccer, something was off.
She found herself slipping once again. She left her job to focus strictly on school and herself, and found time for the gym.
“Mental health is important,” Justus said. “Nothing should ever compromise self-love and self-care.”
Justus has been doing things that she now enjoys. She gets to spend more time with her dog, Goose. She can watch her boyfriend play baseball, get back into shape and laugh a lot more. Justus has found herself able to focus on the future with graduation coming up soon
“I can’t wait to start a new chapter in life,” she said, adding that she has found peace with knowing soccer is no longer part of her life. “I hope to either pursue television or land in a great public relations job.”