For many years, I have searched for the true definition of being an athlete. When I worked with Special Olympics of Maryland I would watch the athletes try to run around the track, roll a bocce ball or shoot a lay-up. The athletes never had the athleticism or ability, but they were persistent and awarded medals for their determination.
A few years ago, I read the book, We Are All Athletes: Bringing Courage, Confidence, and Performance into our Everyday Lives, by Mariah Burton Nelson and thought to myself how could regular people be deemed athletes? I thought the definition of competing in a sport meant you had a certain level of athleticism and you had to win. A person competing in a sport was called an athlete, not the fan cheering in the bleachers.
Looking back I can see I was blinded by what athletics stood for and the analogy it plays in our lives. This I believe we are all athletes because athletics is about living life and how we approach life. I watched my former internship boss at ABC News plan production schedules and try to get the best packages delivered to the bureau’s affiliate stations. We are striving to be the best at something, running the race of perfection, shooting the hook-shot for prosperity, batting for a home run to success and swimming a breaststroke of resiliency. Sometimes we cover ourselves with pass protection from a blitz coming our way trying to derail us from our goals. We assist in the alley-oop to see others reach their path.
Of course being an athlete is tedious. It takes mental preparation, determination, dedication and courage to succeed or fail. One of my track coaches once told me that athlete’s rise an fall, but a true athlete gets back up and never complains about falling. There are four different classifications of athletes. You have the amateur athlete that is trying to seek perfection at his or her craft and the professional athlete that has risen to the path of excellence and obtained their goal, but still looking to perfect their skill. Then there is the mediocre athlete, who is trying to get to were the amateur and professional is, but still has to learn the craft of the game. Therefore, the grandest athlete of them all is the Olympian. This person is the grand master of all sports and has reached a level that rarely few have. This athlete might be considered the Dalai Lama of athletes, because they are mature and prudent about the way of life.
As an athlete, I understood what it meant to be one, but only from the viewpoint of being an athlete. Two years ago, I suffered from a hamstring tendon injury in which the rehabilitation process took two and a half years to fully recover and start racing again. During this whirlwind, I began to understand what the author was talking about. Nelson was not referring to athletes in a sense that we all have athletic ability to part take in a sport or that we were the number one draft pick or college recruit in our hometown. She was simply stating that we all participate in the game of life and approach it similar to an athlete.
It took me some time to realize this but we all compete in the game of life differently. Some of us might run a 5,000 meter race or race-walk to a path of success, while others are impatient needing to reach their destination when they want it. They are the sprinters, die-hard X-Gamers, motor cross, race-car drivers and skiers in life. Then you have the sluggers that always want to hit a homer. The slugger is constantly ready to bat with eyes glancing at their dreams beyond center field, but the pitcher is the obstacle and wants to throw a shut-out, strike or ball the slugger’s way. I like would to think of myself as a slugger in the game of life. I am always hit with obstacles and for ever and a day trying to hit the home runs and never run around the bases.