By Ben Bolton
Athens, Ga.— Lauren Mayo grew up in Chicago watching, playing, and loving sports. But in the span of two weeks, she lost her ability to play.
Mayo grew up in a sports-oriented household. Her dad played basketball and football in high school. Her mom played soccer. Her brother and sister both play basketball. In fact, her cousin, Solomon Hill plays for the Indiana Pacers.
“I felt like everyone should play a sport,” Mayo said. “Because everyone in my house played a sport.”
However, she wasn’t very good at basketball. Her family used to joke with her saying she had two left feet.
“I wanted to do something, and I wasn’t good at basketball. So, let me find something I am good at, and I was really good at track.”
Mayo began running track in 5th grade. She dreamed of a track career in college, becoming fond of the LSU track and field team. But during her sophomore year of high school, everything changed.
Mayo and her family moved from Illinois to Marietta, Georgia. She continued running track for Marietta High School. Then during one practice in March, it became difficult to breathe.
“I was having trouble breathing, and I thought it was because of my asthma.”
Mayo was diagnosed with asthma as a child. But Mayo and her mother felt this problem was different. Then, Lauren passed out.
Her mom took her to the doctor. After several test, they sent her to Emory Hospital in Atlanta for further examination. The diagnosis showed it wasn’t her asthma.
“I found out I had a heart murmur, plus asthma. Running is not a good combination, so I couldn’t really run anymore.”
Mayo’s connection to playing sports was gone. Her body just wouldn’t let her do it anymore. She even tried to run despite her doctor’s orders, but she couldn’t pass a physical examination test.
“I felt limited, that I really didn’t know what to do. I felt lost. It was depressing. It was like ‘What do I do now?’”
Mayo could no longer run. But one day in her literature class in high school, she became interested in a different area of sports.
“I remember the next year when I couldn’t run. I was in my literature class. We had to argue whether athletes were overpaid or not. Everybody, of course, said yes. Then, there were three people on my side who said no.”
She had to make the argument for paying players millions of dollars in her writing and through debate. The exercise continued throughout the class, and Mayo realized that she may want to become a sports agent or writer.
“It was a way for me to still enjoy sports. I guess if you can’t play sports, you can write about them.”
She took that passion into college. She is now a junior at the University of Georgia studying public relations, consumer economics, and sports journalism.
She plans to go into either sports marketing or to law school to become a sports agent. Mayo may not be able to run track anyone, but she still wants sports to be a part of her life.
“For me, it was the basis of my family structure,” Mayo said. “Everything we did surrounded sports. I feel like it’s embedded in me.”