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The Hilarious Difference between being an Athlete and being Athletic

I already know that this will piss some people off. 

Let me be clear, I have the utmost respect for sports participants of any kind, regardless of their shapes, sizes, skill levels, and the games they play. I love sports and I love competition, and god knows the world will always need these two pillars to keep us all sane. That’s why athletes are so crucial in society, as they not only make up a large population of us; so many more of us aspire to be one. Whether it takes hard work or not, I believe anyone who is good at his or her sport of choice is an athlete

Here it comes.

Being athletic, however, is an entirely different story. Handing out the prestigious title of calling someone athletic is not something I take lightly, as there is a MONUMENTAL difference between being an athlete and being athletic. If you think I’m full of shit, then chances are… you’re just pissed and I’m probably right.

Alright, so you’re probably asking yourself, “What in the definitive FUCK is he talking about? If you are an athlete, you are BY DEFINITION athletic. Right?”

Well, no. You’re not. Tah tah.

While the two words sound so similar, they actually aren’t interchangeable. You can most certainly be one without being the other. Throughout this piece, I’m going to use two schools of thought to prove my point: dictionary based definitions and common sense. Don’t worry, common sense has way more weight than the definitions do, I just wanted you to know that I’m not a lunatic speaking out of my ass who’s also trying to single handedly reconstruct the english language.

Throughout my research, I’ve seen countless iterations of how to define an athlete, with some more outrageous than the others; I decided to sum up all my findings into one single fair and unbiased sentence:

 An athlete is someone who is proficient in his or her sport(s). 

Like I said, anyone can be an athlete, all it takes is being proficient in your sport. Yes, I know I just glazed over the countless hours of practice and work put into being an athlete for your sport. I never said it was easy, I’m just saying anyone can physically do it. This includes basketball players, runners, golfers, swimmers, water polo players, horse racers, rowers, olympic fencers, snowboarders, surfers, archers, the list goes on; if you are proficient at your sport, then you are an athlete. You don’t have to be great at your sport, you just have to be good, or better than most. Simple as that.

Okay you are probably looking at one word and you’re losing your shit. You saw “sport(s)” and you can’t stop thinking about the “(s)”. You’re probably assuming that being athletic means that you are good at multiple sports, therefore all multi-sport athletes are athletic. 

No. 

I haven’t even defined the word athletic yet. I will, but not yet. 

Let me enlighten you with a classic example why you can be good at multiple sports without necessarily being deemed athletic. Water polo players are gonna hate me for this one. Great water polo players are almost always great swimmers. Swimming and Water Polo are two separate sports. Hell, maybe they grew up in the water and are great divers too. That’s three sports that they are at least good at, thus they are great athletes. No one will ever take that away from them. Yet they aren’t always a shoe-in for being called athletic. 

Watch a water polo player throw a football or shoot a basketball. Or better yet, ask them to run. Jesus Christ, sometimes it’s like watching someone have an aneurysm. You aren’t sure at first if you should nervously laugh or call 9-1-1. Either way, their motions on land can be comically unnatural and can expose their devastating lack of coordination

Now, if a renowned water polo player picks up a basketball, walks up to a basketball court, and DUNKS on a ten foot rim with ease, then this water polo player is not only a great athlete, but he or she is also very fucking athletic.  

“Why, Henry, wHy? wHo ArE yOu To DeCiDe wHaT iT tAkEs tO bE AtHLeTic???” 

That’s probably what you would ask me if we were having this conversation in person. You would be foaming from the mouth, thirsty for answers because your ego is likely taking a massive hit right now. 

I’m now going to present the internet’s/society’s definitions of what it means to be athletic, and then I will relay to you why this is ALL WRONG, and why I should be in charge. 

“In charge of what?” You may ask. 

Everything. I want it all.

According to the dictionary, being athletic means that one is good at sports or athletics. This definition, however, is rather vague, as I proved that you could be amazing at some sports while looking quite pitiful and almost inoperable while playing other sports. In addition, there are also so many sports out there that one can be poorly judged simply by the lack of knowledge of how to play it. 

So that definition is a wash.

Another athletic definition I saw revolved around being physically active and strong. While this one definitely makes a better attempt of being specific, it also can be refuted quickly.

Bodybuilders are VERY physically active and strong. 

But holy shit, you would never call a bodybuilder athletic. Watch them run or throw a football. It’s comedy. It’s like they don’t know how to use their limbs. They really can’t do anything other than lift weights without moving awkwardly or looking foolish. 

Yet they are proficient in weight lifting. They can lift tremendous amounts of weight, more weight than most human beings on the entire planet will ever be able to lift. Therefore, bodybuilders are athletes… but not athletic. 

The same goes for people who look like they are in great shape. Just because they got a six pack doesn’t make them athletic. They may be on some special workout plan and could be great runners or weight lifters themselves… but they may not be athletic. Tom Cruise might be able to pull off crazy fight scenes and jump out of buildings and SURVIVE… but the dude can’t run. He cannot fucking run. It makes you question his overall athleticism.

Now you might say, “Alright Henry, you arrogant schmuck, define what it takes to be ATHLETIC!”

Here’s what I got: Being athletic means that one has naturally proficient levels of coordination as well as an advanced use of physical skills or capabilities. 

There’s some important key terms in there. Allow me to dissect them for you.

For starters, athleticism is built off of coordination. You can’t be athletic without being decently coordinated. And that should make sense too. Someone who is athletic may not be the best at any one particular sport, perhaps not even great, but this person’s natural movements are smooth, efficient, and skilled, allowing this person to fit right in with the other players, regardless of the sport. 

Not all athletes are coordinated. Even great athletes lack simple levels of coordination. Some amazing track runners have trouble kicking a soccer ball or catching a tennis ball thrown at them. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. 

Another pillar of athleticism is the element of genetics. Being an athlete doesn’t always come naturally, whereas athleticism is indeed natural. Being proficient in a certain sport often requires years of game knowledge and countless hours of hard work. Some athletes, however, rely on pure athleticism alone. We see this all the time in high school and in college sports, where advanced skills and supreme levels of coordination come naturally. You might have heard the phrase “God-Given-Talent.” That’s athleticism in a nutshell.

In addition, non-athletes also reveal hidden athleticism all the time. You see this at the dining hall, at home, or even at the office when someone with little-to-no sports background makes a play that needs to be on the Sportscenter Top 10. It could be an unbelievable catch or an unreal juke or maneuver made purely out of instinct.

My favorite is when the hidden athleticism comes out in family sporting events, like a Thanksgiving football game or a backyard Christmas basketball shootout. One of the cousins, who never really had much of a sports career at all, comes right off the couch and goes out there and makes an absolute fool out of someone. Maybe he juked his All-State uncle out of his socks like it was nothing. Like it came naturally. 

My sisters are athletic as hell. They are always the steals of the Thanksgiving family football drafts. They stopped playing organized sports a long time ago and they weren’t necessarily outstanding athletes, but man, they still make incredible plays in their civilian lives today. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them drop a set of thrown car keys in my life. They don’t drop their iPhones; they catch other people’s. Every so often, their Julio Jones hands and hidden natural athleticism reveal themselves.

The craziest part is that athleticism doesn’t discriminate between the different human physiques. Being athletic and being physically fit aren’t necessarily correlated. One could argue that most athletes are in the best shape that their sport requires them to be in, but you could be in mid-season beer die shape and be still incredibly athletic. The television remote could be the heaviest thing you ever lift and you could still be athletic. Think of being an athlete as something you have to work for in order to buy, and being athletic as a free gift you receive

Now, you can of course be both an athlete and athletic. 

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to qualify for being both athletic and an athlete. You just need to be better than most at a single sport while displaying advanced physical skills and strong levels of coordination. The two concepts are not interchangeable as they mean two different things… but it’s not uncommon for one to be both.

There. It’s done. You don’t have to agree with me, although I will say that any resistance to my words could prove my point that some egos are at risk for injury. Not everyone is gonna take the news that they aren’t actually athletic with grace. 

Don’t hate me.

Hate your dad for “settling” when it came time to find a mate. 

What do you think?

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Written by Henry Marken

I lost my pinky finger at age 4, but then found it again at a soup kitchen when I was 15. Survivor of a wild turkey attack (2008). I went to the University of Phoenix before it was cool to do college online. Currently in a lawsuit with Crayola after a devastating purple crayon incident.

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