Early Praise and Enthusiasm for
Always An Athlete book

Athletes, Coaches & Executives

Bill Walton

UCLA and NBA Legend

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Jenné Blackburn perfectly outlines the many positive benefits that riding a bike can have on all of us,

cycling is a most inclusive activity, it’s good for me, it’s good for you, it’s good for everyone, and it’s good for our planet,

I love my bike, and the community it creates. The bike is a wonderful tool for your mental as well as physical health.

It encourages you to get up, get outside and get going—in the game of life—always forward, and further,

like the song, FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, ride for fun, your bike will take you places that you can’t possibly get to by yourself,

your bike will show you things about yourself, and the world in general, that you have no idea even exists,

here we go, enjoy the ride, roll on forever, I thank Jenne Blackburn, and my bike, for my life

Julie Foudy

Former captain of USA Women’s Soccer Team
2x Olympic Gold Medalist
2x World Cup Champion Analyst
Reporter with ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery

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Always an Athlete by Jenne Blackburn is a must read for all athletes and coaches, because Jenne has done a fantastic job of breaking down the anxiety surrounding that transition from active athlete to retirement and how to better equip ourselves for this moment. Here is the thing… as athletes, we know retirement is eventually coming. We worry about a loss of identity, yet, we don’t often know how to deal with that loss of identity and community.

Teammates feel like family, and Always an Athlete helps you build a parallel community that also inspires confidence and courage. Most important, Jenne offers fabulous guidance and strategies for athletes and coaches alike, so that BEFORE we hit our “cliff moment” of transitioning out of our sport, the apprehension is replaced by action, knowing sports has given us a platform to soar.

Sue Enquist

Former UCLA Softball Coach 27 yrs
11-Time National Champion

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For over 50 yrs. I have witnessed firsthand athletes’ transition out of their sport. This experience is a massively complicated challenge for many athletes. A whirlwind of change all at once, where mental health, physical health, and athlete identity are disrupted. In Jenne Blackburn’s book, the reader will relive the athlete’s journey “up the mountain” (youth to professional sports) to the inevitable “cliff” (retirement).

Jenne highlights the drivers that impact mental health, physical health, and athletes’ loss of identity. More importantly, she provides us with greater awareness AND solutions to better prepare them for the end of their career. This book is an excellent blueprint for athletes, sports parents, coaches, administrators, and communities to align education and events around athlete identity, mental health, and physical health. In completing this read, you will gain insight, the urgency to act, and articulated solutions for your retiring athletes.

Always an Athlete® will provide impactful research insight, education curriculum, and community-building activities, better preparing athletes for life after sport. Jenne inspires all of us to do more in preparing athletes for a thriving and celebratory experience in sports and beyond. Her book gives us the roadmap, the tools to traverse the mountain of challenges, and a mindset to leap off that cliff of retirement with a parachute of solutions for a thriving life after sport.

Billie Jean King

Sports Icon and Equality Champion

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This book is a must read for anyone who loves sports and is serious about helping athletes make a successful transition from the field of play to the next phase of your journey.

Tama Miyashiro

USA Volleyball Womens Asst Coach
2021 Gold Medalist Coach
2012 Silver Medalist Athlete
2005 National Champion

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I have been friends with Jenné for over a decade. When she first started talking about this topic to me I was still playing competitively with Team USA Volleyball. Today I am the Assistant Coach. In the years between my two roles, my understanding has grown around the importance of this topic of the athlete transition out of sport, because I now have personally lived it - alongside of my teammates. Now I get it, transitioning out of sport is hard. We don’t always get to choose when we step away. Sometimes it is by choice but for others we don’t know when the last day will be.

What I have noticed is that we can all do a better job of looking ahead past our playing days while still competing. For many, it can be a rude awakening when it is time to step away from the court and the next phase of life hits. The community piece around this topic that Jenne is working to build is huge. It is so important to discuss how people no longer have the structure they once had to connect with others. Finding people going through the same transition season out of sport can really help, especially with mental health struggles.

What I hope for all athletes is that they don’t hesitate to reach out to others who have gone through or will go through this phase of transition. Thankfully I did some work around my other roles and identities in life before I retired from playing so I feel like I could step away and have some peace of mind. What I was able to tackle head on is that – sport was what I did - and it had been a huge part of life – but it wasn't the only thing. Right now, I am taking the lessons learned as a competitive athlete and transitioning those learnings into this next season of my career as a coach.

What we accomplish in life as an athlete does not define us. No matter what level we achieve, we get to be an athlete and move our body for the rest of our lives. There is a community out there waiting to embrace us all when it is time to step away from our competitive days and encourage us to keep pushing on and to keep moving. Let's lean on each other. Some of my teammates are some of my best cheerleaders to this day and sometimes it's the simple things... like after a fun bike ride together… I become encouraged that I am not alone in this journey.

Chamique Holdsclaw

Mental Health Advocate
2x Naismith Award Winner
3 NCAA Championships, University of Tennessee
4x All American Drafted #1 in the WNBA
6x WNBA All Star

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Weekly Therapy, Staying on Medications, Mediating and Physical Exercise Like a competitive team has structure, the above is my personal protocol. In order to be a better daughter, partner and friend I need to follow my protocol. I want to use my platform as an athlete and my voice to make a difference. I want to help others, I don’t want to see others go through the suffering that I had gone through— suffering in silence. So many people struggle with this illness. Many people have a support system but choose not to use it because we can get stuck in our own heads not wanting to be a burden.

If you are feeling sad or lonely, know that there is help. Reach out to experts to talk. It may not be easy, it was not for me, but it is important to take care of yourself. I have spoken to dozens of groups about dealing with mental illness, hoping sharing my story will help others. My mission is to change the conversation. It’s ok to say, I need support. If I could impart any advice is that your illness or disorder does not have to define you. You can still live a healthy lifestyle. I appreciate that this book digs into the real Mental Health struggles that athletes deal with as they transition out of sport. Speaking about something that people do not normally talk about— brings the conversation of mental health to the front. Mental Health is just as important as physical well being —and they are deeply connected.

As athletes we need to keep moving our bodies when we no longer have the game and structure of a community. Movement of our bodies helps our mental health. I look forward to the resources and stories that Always An Athlete is gathering to help other athletes, at every level, in their personal lifelong athletic journey toward a healthy future.

Rebecca Rusch

Ultra endurance professional athlete
Seven-time World Champion
2x Cycling Hall of Famer
Emmy Award Winner, and Motivational Speaker

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Always An Athlete resonates with me as a professional athlete but also for humanity as a whole. There is plenty of science, and Jenné shares it, around the positive impacts of getting involved with and staying involved in sports for life. Research shows that athletics are so beneficial and formative in our young years, but what happens when we stop competing and our identity as an athlete seems to fade away?

Jenné uses her personal story and at the same time amplifies the experience of millions of athletes who feel a little lost when transitioning from their competitive sport into their next athletic chapter. She reinforces why humans must never retire from sports, but instead shift from competition to exploration and play. This shift in focus comes with all the mental, physical, social benefits of sport and none of the stress and pressure.

The best tool to be an athlete for life? A bicycle! She makes a strong case for the bike as a great tool to help in the evolution from competitive lifestyle into wellness lifestyle. As a multi-sport elite athlete I found cycling in my mid 30s and immediately gravitated towards the bike as a way to go places and see things. An unexpected gift from cycling I discovered was the vast community of people to tap into for casual rides, competition, family outings, adventure travel and training. Bottom line, the joy, friendship and benefit we got from the bike as kids is still there for us now as adults, so what are you waiting for? Let’s go ride bikes!

Michele Smith

Analyst, ESPN
Elected to NJSIAA Hall of Fame, 2000
NCAA All-American at Oklahoma State University
Member of three-time U.S. National Team World Championship team
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist with U.S. Team: 1996, 2000

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One of the things that has brought me a lot of joy over the years is riding my bike. I’ve always been an outdoors-type person- at all points in my life...my bike gets me outside and now as a retired professional and Olympic athlete…I’m back into my training athlete mindset where I can just click in and ride for miles. Some of my rides are over 60 miles long. I love the way the breeze gently blows on my face, my arms… it sets me free! What I love about the bike-- is the community that it creates.

I love meeting new friends and building relationships. It is very similar to my years in softball in creating new moments or milestones that I am training for- like triathlons or other long century charity rides. I have been lucky that I have been able to stay so ingrained in the softball culture after my time as a competitive athlete moving into the role of analyst for ESPN. Riding my bike has been a great way for me not only to stay in shape and has definitely helped with my mental health.

Rides when my mind just relaxes and the stress of the world disappears as the gentle breezes flow around my body and engulf me as I ride. In this book, Always An Athlete, Jenne makes the call for greater community and resources for athletes as they transition out of competitive sport. She uniquely does not only want to start the conversation— she wants to tie it in with action and support. Community wide bike rides alongside our sport culture at stadiums... How fun?! I'm in and hope you are as well!

Dr Kate Ackerman

Former US National Team Lightweight Rower, Current USRowing Medical Commission and Team Doctor
Associate Professor of Medicine - Harvard Medical School Chair
Medical Director of The Wu Tsai Female Athlete Program
Division of Sports Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital National Leadership Council- Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance
Founder and Director of the Female Athlete Conference

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As a sports medicine physician and former national team rower, I am an advocate for the importance of physical activity and the benefits of being a lifelong athlete. In “Always An Athlete,” Jenné Blackburn creates an easy-to-follow, but effective roadmap to help former athletes translate their years of athletic hard work and mindset into their next chapter. So many of the skills we develop as athletes are valuable tools for future life happiness and success. She also details important strategies for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and constructing support systems and communities beyond the competition stage. This is a great read for athletes navigating life after they’ve reached their perceived competitive peak, reminding them that there is life after the climb.

Kathy DeBoer

Former Athlete, Coach & Executive Director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association
Author of Gender & Competition: How Men and Women Compete at Work and Play Differently

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In Always An Athlete Jenne Blackburn analyzes the challenges of transitioning from elite competitive sport to a healthy lifestyle. What most consider a counterintuitive concept for body-focused athletes, Blackburn correctly identifies the very real struggles that face accomplished performers upon retirement from competition. Read any biography of a college or professional athlete and you will find a story filled with years of focused training: most were introduced to their sport when there were in elementary school and started specializing in middle school; most bore the weight of a family that was equally committed to their success in sport; and, most made their college and career choices based primarily on the institution’s reputation for excelling in their sport.

Blackburn details how this twenty-year, single-minded focus inevitably leads to a loss of personal identity once the scoreboard goes dark. She also provides pragmatic strategies for transitioning to new ways of being an athlete and developing healthy life habits.

Tom Farrey

Founder and Executive Director of Aspen Institute Sports and Society
Author, Game On: The All American Race to Make Champions of Our Children

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College and professional athletes are among the greatest assets that we have in our society to build a better sport ecosystem. They have experience, credibility, and lessons to share to help the next generation develop their full potential as athletes and human beings. But we need to give them to more tools to help them make the transition from performing on the field to performing in life. Jenne Blackburn begins to carve a pathway in her terrific book – bravo!

Chris Voelz

Former Collegiate athlete, coach and administrator
Executive Director, Collegiate Women Sports Awards
Athletics Director Emerita University of Minnesota
Women’s Sports Foundation steward & ambassador

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A former collegiate athlete with an insight into the journey of elite performance takes the reader on the journey that follows. It is a journey which provides guardrails and strategies to make the next phase as enjoyable and successful as the past athletic one. This book should be helpful to the athletes in transition as well as parents and those leaders and organizations who wish to bring the best of the athlete into the best of society.

The pillars provide new goals and tools for the next journey where the athlete transitions. The bike serves as an example of a kick start to this next journey - one which might occur on a surfboard or in open water swims or kayaking but in all cases continues with movement and using one’s life lessons gained from athletic performance and participation.

Dr Nicole LaVoi

Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport
NCAA D-III National Team Champion
2x Academic All-American in tennis

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Blackburn weaves in landscape analogies to bring the reader through the athletic journey of multidimensional triumphs, tribulations and transitions, for all sport stakeholders, but especially the athletes, who love or have been impacted by sports. The book ends with a surprising but simple solution for coping with the loss of athletic identity and one I have embraced successfully!

Sarah Robb O'Hagan

Corporate Executive EXOS, Flywheel, Equinox, Gatorade, Nike, Virgin and more
Activist and Entrepreneur
Founder of Extreme You

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I have long believed that some of the best employees are those that have had a formative experience with sports - due to the lessons learned of winning, losing and playing well on a team. In this great new book, Jenne Blackburn has created a clear blueprint for athletes of all levels wanting to translate the great skills they learned on the field to be a competitive advantage in life. A must read for any former competitive athlete looking for ways to parlay their experiences into a big fulfilling future!

Dr Jen Welter

First Female Coach in NFL
Sport Psychologist
PHD Sports Psychology Author and Motivational Speaker

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Jenné felt her own environment and support system change and struggled after retiring— and with a simple bike ride she identified that there was more - not only for her life but for all athletes in sport. We talk about being ready with personal work ethic and hustle when the lights and cameras turn on- but what happens when they turn off?

This book outlines the long climb that athletes face at every level of their journey. It identifies that there are real struggles that come after the game ends - no matter what level athletes achieve. More people need to be talking about mental health in sports. During and after. More people need to discuss the real challenges that athletes face when they are no longer in an environment that fosters community and belonging. Let’s not only talk about this problem but create solutions and systems to support athletes…like a fun bike ride!

Kathryn Bertine

Author Activist Filmmaker
CEO Homestretch Foundation
Former professional cyclist, former professional figure skater and professional triathlete.

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The bicycle is a wonderful tool for building community. When you plug into the cycling community, you will find yourself surrounded by like minded people who—like you—are excited to move their body and make new friends. A community bike ride is a wonderful event to kickstart this important conversation around athletes transitioning out of sport into the next phase of their life.

Riding your bike helps you build new relationships and make lifelong friends. Relationships and community are essential for mental health, and a bike ride is a great bridge to creating a sense of belonging…similar to what an athlete may have felt when they were competing in team sport environments. Riding a bike helps your brain and your mental wellbeing. It takes us outside of our normal schedule, gets us outside and helps us gain perspective.

Cycling helps us get into a routine and create new rhythms to keep our physical health a priority. The bike provides us balance and consistency as life changes. Jenne is excited to see people come together around community bike rides and I am thrilled she is bringing this idea and message to the larger sports community. No matter what type of athlete you are, I encourage you to get out and ride!

Nancy Lieberman

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer
Founder Nancy Lieberman Charities

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The power of the bike will always have a place in my heart. I loved biking before, but during COVID i fell in LOVE. My son TJ, myself and other people in our community biked everyday. We created time together biking, and we were able to have incredible memories and moments.

Natasha Warley

2x Softball Olympian
Philanthropist and Entrepreneur

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As an athlete, your competing days have an expiration date. When you actually do have to hang up the “cleats” (equipment) it is one of the hardest things to go through. In Jenne Blackburn’s book, Always An Athlete, her depiction of an athlete’s journey of climbing up “the mountain” in their peak of their careers to describing that there will be an inevitable fall off “the cliff” after they retire is spot on.

Her “three pillars of the cliff” offer a roadmap for all athletes in their transition to life away from the playing field. Jenne provides a roadmap that athletes & coaches can have open conversations on what life after playing can look like. Having these open conversations during an athletes career will better equip them to take on the world after playing.

Andrea Hudy

Collegiate Basketball Sports Performance Coach, 9-Time National Championship Teams
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Impact Award 2017
NSCA Coach of the Year 2012

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Transitioning out of a sport is a challenging time for competitive athletes. The scaffolds and resources that have been present to assist the competitive athlete during their athletic careers are no longer there. Many struggle with where to start. I believe that people can change their mindset or identity from competitive sport athlete to an athlete who has a healthy lifestyle. Always an Athlete is a great resource for a community of people who have done it. It shares intimate stories and insights from the Always an Athlete community that can help others in their journey into the next chapter of their lives.

Always An Athlete can help with the transition by helping people understand that focusing on long-term health is important. In many instances, athletes leave their competitive careers having had injuries or suffer from the wear and tear that comes with the constant repetitive movements that were a part of their sport. Undoing what has been done for years and correcting old injuries can be accomplished by participating in more fitness-based cardiovascular exercises, resistance training, and focusing on sleep and nutrition.

Athletes should focus on movement alternatives that are the opposite of the movements that they were constantly exposed to in their athletic careers. Doing so will support long-term joint health. As a coach, when athletes would come back to campus to visit, inevitably, we would end up going on bike rides to reconnect and relax. Sometimes these rides became a race (if they wanted) which would satisfy our craving for competition.