I mostly agree with this article, but I don’t think it’s the term ‘athlete’ is part of the identity of most non-athletes that participate in a recreational sport.
I am not an athlete. When I rank myself for league, I put myself down as a 1 (below average athleticism). I never willingly played a sport before ultimate and I used to make fun of runners. Why run if you’re not being chased? Generally, I’d rather be indoors, reading, writing, watching movies. I am not an athlete.
But I am an ultimate frisbee player. I’m not the fastest, quickest, or best handler, but I’ll do my damnedest with what I’ve got. Why did I, a non-athlete, end up playing a fairly physical game like ultimate? Tangible victories and improvements. When I started out, I could throw an okay backhand on the side line and couldn’t run for shit. But, I could occasionally get open, occasionally get the disc, occasionally manage a catchable throw to a teammate. All those things are victories when you’re new on the field.
The problem comes when those small victories stop being enough. About a year and a half in, I wasn’t too much better of a player. That’s probably what made me unhappy at that time. If I would have been more aware, I would have known to start defining goals for improvement. I kept playing while unhappy, because it was keeping my weight down. Within my third or fourth year of playing, I started practicing more. I worked on making my throws longer, learned to curve the disc. I set goals like making three solid passes per game, throwing solid inside out forehands on the sidelines. More little victories made me a much happier disc player. That’s about when I really put on that mantle of being a frisbee player too.
Currently, I also run (though I don’t consider myself a runner). I run because it’s good for my back, good for my heart. It keeps my weight down. I find it pretty cool that I can slowly run four miles and not die. Without being chased, mind you. So far, there’s been continuous improvement, from running one mile to four, from a 10 min/mile to a 9 min/mile. Eventually, if I don’t strive to improve, I probably will get tired of the activity. I kind of balk at putting more effort into running, but I do like having it as an activity. Therefore, I’ll have to put more effort in at some point. Going along as I am, will only last so long.
Of course the real question is: Is it the same for writing? The need for little victories is there, but feedback after improvement is sketchy… It’s hard to know when you’re doing well.