Thursday, December 12, 2013

Am I An Athlete? You Decide.

I recently had someone I care about tell me that I am not an athlete. Since I don't win races on a regular basis and haven't signed a contract as a professional, I can't consider myself an athlete. In an effort to protect this person, who I really do care about, I will not say their name. I admit that this really hurt me. I train every day for life. I work hard to keep myself fit and continue challenging myself to beat my own personal best's at races. No - I may not run a 2:30 marathon, but I am in a battle with my own times to become a better version of myself. 

I have always loved Nike's mission statement - "If you have a body, you're an athlete." As a company, if they chose only to market their products to elite athletes they wouldn't be the global powerhouse they are today. They know that everyone has the power to make themselves better than yesterday. Perhaps this is why I have connected with them as a brand. They seem to get athletes of all types - both the professional and amateur.

I will admit that I have struggled my whole life because I have wanted to be a better athlete than I am. I would give anything to become an Olympian, to be the best at something. I have come to realize that I won't have that opportunity, but that doesn't mean that I am not an athlete. 

In high school I was cut from the varsity basketball team during tryouts my sophomore year. I wanted to be on the team so badly that I was in the gym everyday for 2-3 hours working on my shot and playing intramurals with the guys. Before the season was up I had been moved up as a swing player from the JV team to play on the varsity team. The following two years I was starting center and captain of the team. I wasn't naturally gifted at basketball, but I worked my tail off to become the best I could be and it paid off. 

I went on to play on the team for Walla Walla University and was named captain and MVP my junior and senior years. It wasn't a Division 1 school - but basketball at any college is not an easy game. I had a goal to play in college sports and I did. I'm not sure about you - but I would call anyone who played a college sport an athlete.  

After college I took up tennis and took lessons so I could better my game. I joined a Tae Kwon Do studio at the age of 23 and two years later I became a Black Belt. I was chosen by Nike Women in 2012 to be an ambassador for the Nike Women's Marathon and have run a total of three marathons to date. I also applied and was chosen as the sponsored athlete (yes-athlete is in the title) of the Roseville, CA Athleta store. I lead a weekly run club that met at the Athleta store until I moved to Ukiah this past year. I have devoted my blog and social media accounts to advancing women in sports and I am always willing to try new things. I still play on an intramural basketball league in town and am one of two women who play and I have the respect of those on my team. I am an ambassador for the San Francisco Marathon, the See Jane Run Half-Marathon, the Esprit de She race series, a FitFluential and Sweat Pink ambassador and a Pretty Muddy Women's Mud Run race ambassador. I'm not listing my achievements to say "look at me, look what I've done," instead I am listing them to prove a point. Would you consider me to be an athlete? 

I have gotten most of the ambassadorships I have because I am seen as an athlete and as someone who is an inspiring and motivating force in the community. I consider myself an athlete but I have to admit that it hurts when someone close to me doesn't believe in me or have faith in my athleticism. Criticism hurts and I don't believe anyone deserves to be told they aren't an athlete because they haven't won a Gold Medal. 

I am a pretty self confident person and I don't let a lot get me down. Their comment hurt me, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am simply sharing mine here. I'm not sure if any of you have gone through a similar situation or have someone who doesn't believe in you, but if you do, just know that I believe in you. Don't let anyone ever bring you down or change who you are and what you want to become.