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You, an Athlete?

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.