There's one thing in the world of amateur sports that many athletes can't seem to truly understand. One thing that, in my opinion, holds back many athletes from reaching their potential and becoming champions. It's not a physical ailment, and has nothing to do with skill or having "freak-genetics". It's a mindset, and it is how you should approach your athletic career - if you're serious about it.
Athletes are ATHLETES. Amateur, professional, recreational, WHATEVER - if you participate in sport at a high level and are driven by a desire to win or achieve your goals - then you are an athlete. So start calling yourself one.
When someone asks a lawyer what they do for a living, they tell them "I'm a lawyer" - so why aren't you doing the same as an athlete?
Being an athlete doesn't mean throwing everything else away. In fact, part of an athletes lifestyle is making sure that all the different areas of their life (social, physical, mental, economical etc.) are in order so that their only concern is to PERFORM. Despite the common belief, being an elite level athlete also doesn't mean training ALL the time. The science has caught up to sport performance now that proper recovery practices are considered just as vital to performance as the training itself.
You can only truly LIVE the athlete lifestyle once you recognize that YOU ARE AN ATHLETE
Once you consider yourself an athlete, and start referring to yourself as one, your mindset changes and you begin to take on the identity of an athlete. With this comes the fierce drive to train and compete, and to become the best that you possibly can - because its WHO YOU ARE, and that is what an athlete does. You should probably just carry around a badge that says "I'm an athlete", because then everyone will understand those constant bumps, bruises, and bags under your eyes and why you're "always training". Because that is what athletes do.
It's the same in business. If you want to become known for something, you give yourself a title that portrays your service or expertise. That way, people know what to expect and know what you do. Certain distinctions require the appropriate certification, but an athlete's only requirement is to be a student of their sport, love to train, and a desire to be better (than themselves, or their opponents). After that, its just implementing an athletic lifestyle that is conducive to success and optimal performance.
Calling yourself an athlete means you have a JOB, and that job is to be the very best at your sport and to compete at the highest level with full intention of success.
So when people ask you what you do, tell them. Let them know that you are an athlete that trains to compete at the highest level. Tell people your goals. Tell them your success and (most importantly) your struggles. Because that is what it takes to be an athlete. Even if you don't fully believe it, just START calling yourself an athlete, and gradually you will take on the role. Don't believe me? Just try it. Begin referring to yourself as an athlete and what the changes that take place in your life. I know this because I have seen it time-and-time again. Once people start to say it, eventually they start to BELIEVE it. And that's where the real fun begins.
Thanks for reading,
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Kalan is a Human Performance Expert & PhD. Candidate who aims to optimize YOUR performance for both sport and every day life. He is recognized as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), and has obtained his MSc. Kinesiology degree at the University of Victoria. Through his masters thesis research, Kalan has established and implemented the KFit Test Battery for Combat Sport Athletes which is used by both Karate BC & Karate Canada as their standard fitness test for athletes across the country. Additionally, Kalan is an exercise physiology lab instructor at the University of Victoria, and trains individuals (including athletes) every day to help meet their fitness needs and goals. He has many years of experience both as an elite athlete and high performance coach and is knowledgeable in the many fields surrounding fitness and training for sports performance.