The answer to this question should be simple…right?

I recently read an article from a coach who spoke about how they train and program for their athletes. After training in multiple gyms and seeing coaches work with people, the question that rang in my head was:

What exactly does it mean to be an athlete?

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” Once I read the definition, I knew there was something missing. So I decided to ask around and see how other people who participate in sport and fitness define what it means to be an athlete.

Check out some of the responses below:

  • “An athlete is someone who has the ability to find their true potential within a sport that they like.”
  • “Someone who dedicates themselves in the pursuit of developing in a particular sport.”
  • “Well some people will say an athlete is somebody who is coordinated and for whom movement comes easy, and I don’t think that’s true. I think an athlete is someone who enjoys the process of dedicating themselves to something and getting better at it.'”
  • “An athlete is a person who just participates in a sport they like.”
  • “What’s crazy is I always thought an athlete was someone who was physically fit, you know the people you see on Instagram. It wasn’t until I visited different gyms and seen people do amazing things…and they weren’t the stereotypical ‘fit’ person you see on social media. So I guess an athlete is anyone who wants to be better in a sport regardless of appearance.”
  • “Someone who is very determined and disciplined in their sport, even on their bad days.”
  • “Someone who plays sports, regardless if it’s professionally or recreational.”
  • “An athlete is an individual who voluntarily places themselves in several journeys including body awareness, personal growth, as well as physical and mental health.”
  • “A person who is physically and mentally fit. They don’t have to be perfect but as long as they strive to be better in both aspects then you are an athlete.”
  • “Anyone who pushes the physical limits of the human body.”

After collecting all these responses, I realized I couldn’t pick one because they’re all accurate. I use to think that athletes were the people you only saw on television, but I was wrong. Throughout my research I realized that to be an athlete, the sport that you choose to compete in…is just the tip of the iceberg.

An athlete is someone who LOVES pushing the physical and mental limits of the human body.

Athletes strive to be better humans through sport because they absolutely LOVE it and they’re PASSIONATE about it. In fact without passion, the athlete dies.

Ben Bergeron, a successful CrossFit gym owner and coach, believes that passion and grit are key for any athlete. His competitive coaching is one of the most highly sought after programs in the CrossFit community. Bergeron has a massive following by gyms and athletes worldwide. In his book Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes, he states that every athlete has talent “but talent without grit is just potential. Talent plus grit is unstoppable.”

Being an athlete is not easy.

It can take years to master a sport, sometimes a lifetime. Being an athlete requires sacrificing the comfortable for the unknown, both physically and mentally. When Phil Handy, a former coach of NBA star LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, was asked what makes James an incredible athlete, he responded that “he wants to be challenged…and every day he strives to be better than the day before.” 

Athletes are driven, disciplined, and can often seem obsessed. Many times, they’re laughed at by the people around them who don’t understand their journey. I’ve always been a fan of the athlete because they’re living proof that human beings can go beyond the impossible.

Athletes are super-humans who show us that the body and the mind can be limitless, if you let it. They’ve probably touched your life whether you know it or not. We look at them in awe and celebrate their victories alongside them whether it’s in person, at a stadium, or through a TV screen. They shine a light on what WE as human beings are capable of.

They inspire us to do better, to be better, and to not settle for less; to always strive for greatness. We see their successes and realize that we can do this. And that’s what athletes do:

They inspire the uninspired.

So what do you think makes an athlete? Leave a comment down below and join the discussion. And if you know someone who might like this post or can relate to this read, please make sure that you share it with friends and fam!

Til next time homies,

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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