While growing up I was a pretty good tomboy. I could climb trees, wear my brother’s and cousin’s hand me downs, I could even shoot a deer and cut the grass, but put me on a softball diamond at recess and I would break out in a cold sweat. I always wanted to run and hide from being picked for dodgeball at P.E. Throw a football? I am terrible! I still can’t get that spiral thing down. All during elementary and middle school I hated P.E. and recess because I was the awkward one who could never hit the ball with a bat and was scared to death if a ball came my way in the outfield. It didn’t help that one of my best friends was an incredible athlete and could win at any sport she tried. AND our parents were friends so I had to spend LOTS of time with her and always felt intimidated and awkward.
In highschool things got a little better. I was a cheerleader – and yes – they consider those folks athletes now – but not then. However, I could play tennis and discovered that I loved it. When I was in highschool girls did not have a lot of options for sports. Basically, there was basketball, cheerleading and tennis. Boy, how times have changed! During highschool I also discovered running – just for the fun of it. I could run by myself holding one of those outdated cassette players with headphones and not feel awkward or embarrassed. I felt fast and strong. I think that’s where things began to turn around for me. In my room at night I’d do some push ups, situps, jumping jacks and whatever goofy move I could come up with, anything to just keep moving. Somehow, I started to get some confidence in myself and in my own body and what it could do. I even started playing a little golf with my super athletic friend and wasn’t too bad. Or at least, she didn’t laugh right out loud in my face.
During college I kept up the running, joined a gym and stayed pretty active. (Well, that is after my freshman quarter of gaining the freshman 15 and realizing that not even the baggy Laura Ashley dresses could cover up the pounds!) In law school exercise saved me. It kept me from being lonely or going crazy, helped with stress and when I began teaching aerobics gave me a little spending money and a brand new love. From the moment I was asked to lead classes and became certified to teach, I was hooked on instructing and working out. I was finally comfortable in a gym. I could do the same things the guys could do, sometimes even better. It was a huge confidence boost and allowed me to try so many new things that I never would have.
The dictionary defines an athlete as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” I think I’m pretty proficient in other forms of exercise. I love physical activity. I used to play golf and hope to pick that back up when the boys outgrow needing me around. I love to swim and to play tennis and am not terrible. While I’ll never be good at basketball or football I don’t think that counts me out as an athlete. That makes me feel pretty good. I’ll bet there are lots of you out there who are athletes and just don’t know it. Tell yourself you are an athlete. Doesn’t it make you feel good? A little stronger? Did you sit up a little taller? What a confidence builder it is to feel strong and physical in something, regardless of what it is. I think it’s such a beautiful thing that young girls are now exposed to so many physical activities ranging from soccer, softball, karate, basketball, tennis, flag football, you name it. I hope these girls have that confidence I missed out on in my younger years.
After today, I will secretly call myself an athlete. Just don’t ask me to hit a baseball.
What’s your definition of an athlete? What type of athlete are you? Did you play sports as a kid? What activity do you do now that makes you feel like an athlete?
Hope you have some fun today!