What Makes You an Athlete?

School. Practice. Dinner. Play outside.

That was my daily routine as a kid. It was either volleyball, basketball, or tennis practice. Then it was jump rope, kick ball, four square, or climbing trees.  A love for sports & movement was ingrained in my soul at a very young age. My summers were spent at tennis practice every day, while winters were filled with 6AM weight training sessions. Spring and fall were the best times of year – tennis and volleyball season –and sports quickly became my identity.

The generic identity of an ‘athlete’ has considerable saliency in many social settings, high school hallways being one of them. Such an identity for me was transformative. Identifying as an athlete growing up taught me passion and dedication. It also helped me develop self-esteem and gave me leadership skills.

Most importantly, participating in high school sports and identifying as an athlete taught me that teamwork is the key to success. My teammates quickly became my best friends and many of them still are today.

My senior year of high school, I looked at colleges all around the country to play tennis. I loved the sport, loved competing, and I loved being on a team. Thus, I thought I wanted to keep going. However, after a lot of contemplation, I decided to attend the University of Nebraska instead. When I decided to stop playing sports, I felt like I lost a massive part of my identity. Being an ‘athlete’ was my thing for so many years.

After growing up on various sports teams, joining Fly in college became an important continuation of everything I loved about being athlete on a court.

  1. Fly taught me even though I don’t play sports anymore, I’m still an athlete.

Right after I stopped playing sports, I stopped saying I was an athlete. I looked around at people on my college campus that actually were on teams  and competing and I felt back of the pack. The term ‘athlete’ is confusing and loaded with stereotypes, reinforced by those high school hallways. However, Fly taught me those stereotypes don’t hold true. University of Oregon track and field coach and Nike co-founder says, ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete’.  The instructors and people at Fly push this same principle. An athlete can be a top competitor – or an average joe.

I started calling myself an athlete again after about a year at Fly and it played an important role in not only how I see myself, but also how I perform. Fly taught me the term ‘athlete’ is not reserved for people who get a paycheck or scholarship. A true athlete is anybody who chooses to be one.

I still often think ‘What am I doing here?’ or ‘Who am I to be telling everyone else how to exercise?’ after becoming an instructor at Fly, but here’s the thing – there’s a sense of pride one gets from identifying as an athlete. I’m proud of getting up every morning, putting my shoes on, and trying to get better and encouraging others to do that with me. Because of that we are athletes.

  1. Fly is a team

Like I said, my best friends were my teammates growing up and when I first came to college, I was afraid of not having that team. I had no built-in group of friends I saw at practice every day to connect with. I consider myself extremely fortunate because I found a new team shortly after beginning college – Fly.

The positive, welcoming, community-centric approach to fitness at Fly immediately put the people there in the same category as the best teammates I’ve ever had. I first started coming to Fly every day simply because I wanted to surround myself with these people.

Some of my biggest role models were (and are) the Fly instructors – Wendy, Sarah, Jenni, Kim, Jess, Anne, and SO many others. The way they make everyone around them feel is second to none. The instructors at Fly spread positive energy, push people to try new things, and make everyone who steps foot in the studio feel valued. I became an instructor because I wanted to do the same thing.

The decision to become an instructor kind of felt like when a member of a team works for 3 years to finally become its captain… difficult and scary, but exhilarating. Becoming an instructor was of course nerve wracking, but it was something I knew I wanted to do and it’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done. Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday I get to lead my team.

Fly is a team – a team anyone can join – and I’m pretty lucky to be a part of it.

Fly defied the stereotype I held of the word ‘athlete’ and convinced me even though I don’t play sports anymore, I am still an athlete. Fly gave me a team and a network of incredible people. Fly teaches me every day work hard, take risks, and be bold.  Fly has taught me I can do anything, and for that, I am forever grateful.

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Redefining fitness–to empower you to reach your strongest self. Redefining fitness–to empower you to reach your strongest self.
Redefining fitness–to empower you to reach your strongest self. Redefining fitness–to empower you to reach your strongest self.