I left the LPGA Tour in 2009 exhausted. I hated golf, and all I wanted to do was hide away from people and the grind and living on the road. But it wasn’t easy walking away from professional golf. It was my livelihood and I didn’t know what I would do next. I felt lost and afraid, but I also felt a huge sense of relief.
Shortly after my last event, I started working with a neuropsychologist. Dr. Tim Royer provided brain assessments and neurofeedback training. Back in my days as a Human Performance major at San Jose State University, I enjoyed learning about the body and the autonomic nervous system. In the process of engaging in my own neurofeedback training, I started to recognize how empty my heart and spirit was at the time. I needed help.
You see, when I was a new Christian in college, I was traumatized and didn’t even know it. I found spiritual help with a campus ministry, but my story remained hidden under the need to pray, seek forgiveness, and press forward. I needed someone to help me dig into my story for understanding and healing. Doing a Bible study was important, but it didn’t help me name the truth about my shame and pain. Spending 15 years connecting my self-worth to how I finished at each tournament on the LPGA tour further entrenched my grief and emptiness.
In God’s perfect timing, two women came into my life who pursued my heart in a way I had never known throughout my career. My work with Dr. Royer helped me open my heart (and nervous system) for help. And it was these two women who helped start me on the path to healing.
One of these women first used the words, “sexual abuse” to describe a long-ago relationship I opened up about. Over the next 18-months, her words settled into my heart and I started to realize that it was true. At the same time, the second woman asked if I wanted to do a Bible study.
Near the end of our study in the book of Romans, my friend knew I needed more care. She introduced me to a woman who became the guide into my story of shame-based performance and sexual abuse. I was scared to death to go to counseling, it was excruciatingly hard, but it has been the kindest decision I have ever made for myself.
As I began to experience healing from my pain and shame, I created The Tracy Hanson Initiative to provide safe opportunities for elite athletes to talk about their stories of trauma. I also provide training to those who serve them. It is my desire to help empower elite athletes through individual mentoring, counseling, and small group retreats to live and play free from the effects of trauma experienced in sports. I also train coaches, sports chaplains, and other leaders in the sports world to better understand their athletes emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
I don’t know if the results of my career would have been different If I had received trauma care as a young college player and professional, but I do believe I would have enjoyed it much more. In my gut, I feel I never reached my full potential because of the shame-based performance ethic and hidden abuse I carried with me every day.
This is my why. This is the hope I can offer other elite athletes – for their trauma stories to be heard and believed, and for them to be loved. Trauma can be the result of many different situations, from sexual abuse to grief of losing a loved one to a career ending injury. We all carry wounds of some kind; we all need someone to bear witness to our stories.
Currently, I have been making myself available to the Symetra Tour Professionals, the developmental circuit that leads to the LPGA Tour. Funds raised through The Initiative allow me to travel and offer my time and services free of charge to these players who are chasing their dreams. I am a member of the Faith and Sport Institute’s Advisory Board and excited to collaborate with others who are bringing sport, theology, and emotional and mental wellness to the sports culture. Speaking opportunities allow me to share my story and expand awareness of the impact of trauma in sports. And I will press on to bring God’s healing and wholeness to all athletes.