How to be an Athlete

The dictionary defines an athlete as “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.” Let’s break down a couple of key points about this word. The person is trained or gifted at things requiring physical skill. Well, lets be honest, not everyone can be gifted with physical skill. You have to really train for it sometimes. And even if you’re “gifted” with physical skill, you can always be surpassed by someone who trains harder than you. Really, I think the thing to take from this definition is the fact that athletes train to be who they are. Training is an amazing thing we humans have developed. You can take someone with little or minimal facility or capability and get them to a point where they can achieve so much more. Training takes on a whole different mindset and requires a certain amount of maturity though. Not to mention, there are a lot of different aspects to it and not everyone can do it right.

An athlete needs to be comfortable with failure and uncomfortable with success. Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Look at it a little closer. Every athlete will be faced with challenges. Without challenge you can never grow. And the thing about challenges is that there is always a chance for failure. Success just means that you need to raise the bar a little higher. Therefore, in order to continue growth an athlete needs to always look for challenges. Every single one of the world’s fastest runners or best dancers or strongest lifters started at a place where someone else was better. Overcoming that first challenge was the way they got started. After surpassing those around them, they did not become complacent. They looked for bigger challenges, they trained harder to beat the best-of-the-best from elsewhere. Many times the only training partner that you have to achieve these goals is yourself.

It’s been said that a dancer is their own worst critic. This is true if they’re a good dancer. It is part of the discomfort with success. They know that there is always something to be improved upon. The minute you let everyone know you’re awesome is the minute you stop pushing as hard as the person who wants it more. Those natural gifts of physical skill can only last you so long if you really believe you’re as good as you think. Keeping these things in mind helps keep an athlete on top in two ways. Comfort with failure keeps you hungry for more and discomfort with success keeps you humble.

The important thing about being humble is that people are able to stand you. No one wants to be belittled about their own abilities, no matter how good an athlete really is. The fact also remains that there is something to be learned from everyone regardless of their skill-level. It is a lot easier to find these lessons from others if they can stand talking to you. Listening to these lessons is also a lot easier if you’re not so obsessed with building up your own self esteem by talking about how cool you are all the time. This is what is known as avoiding loudness. People can be loud in a number of ways and it doesn’t necessarily have to involve sound. You could be that guy at the gym yelling and slamming weights or you could be the guy who dances his solo everytime there’s a ton of people leaving class. You could talk loudly about your training exploits hoping someone will listen to you or you could shamelessly show off your skills at even the most inappropriate times. What these actions have in common is that they illicit the same cringing response in other people that loud noises make. These are the type of people that other people avoid. They are loud.

The biggest thing to remember about being an athlete is that it is not easy. It is really hard to live the good life when you’re sweaty and working hard all the time. That is just a reality. If you find yourself getting too worried about how your hair looks when you run, you might not be cut out for that life. If you don’t want to push yourself to the next level because you’re too comfortable impressing everyone with the easy stuff you can do, you might not be cut out for that life. If you can’t push through an injury because you love milking it for attention, you should look for a different profession. Being an athlete is about doing work. You have to be able to be mature enough to do it for yourself and forget about what other people think. The irony of this is that the attention and admiration that an athlete truly deserves only comes to the ones that never needed it in the first place.

Just to end things off on a funny note- just be glad you weren’t trying to be an athlete like this guy.

Maybe one more preparation would’ve done it….