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I Am Not A Natural Athlete

I am fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different activities when I was younger. I was very involved in music, science, sports, etc. Music and science came naturally and I did well without a huge amount of effort. Sports were a different story. I did ok, but was in the lower 25% as far as “talent”. I did baseball, soccer and my brother and I spent a lot of time riding our bikes, doing jumps and the like in the hills around our house. In school games I was often one of the last picked to be on teams. A clear indicator of my lack of ability. It wasn’t that I didn’t practice or wasn’t exposed. My brother and I continuously played catch and played basketball using our own driveway court. I did get pretty good at long shots because that was about the only way I could score on my brother. Otherwise I was mediocre at best at most athletic pursuits.

I have had this discussion with several people at the gym and felt it was time to post about it. I am not a natural athlete. When I tell people this now, I generally get met with disbelief or scoffing. Yes, now I can pick up sports and perform pretty well even with little practice, though I am still not superb at learning new movements. I can fake it pretty well. Ask Russ sometime about how naturally coordinated I am. He’ll tell you I have trouble with things on a regular basis. When I was younger it took me a long time to learn new things and I had to work at any new sports a long time before I had any ability at all. I am pretty disciplined, but that may be a result of my lack of natural ability. If I wasn’t diligent I wouldn’t have gotten good at any physical pursuits.

The primary reason that I bring this up is that I now often get “accused” of being a natural athlete. This ability is a direct result of a lot of years of work. I attribute it entirely to having done gymnastics for the last couple of decades and forcing myself to work very difficult movements nearly every day. Drilling difficult movement patterns makes you better at learning new movements. This is all about developing your kinesthetic awareness. Learn how to move well and everything gets easier.

There is also a large strength component to being able to pick up and learn new sports quickly. Due to the strength I developed through gymnastics, and now have maintained and improved (in some areas) through CrossFit and continued gymnastics, it is easier for me to replicate movements that I see. Even if I can not mimic the movements perfectly and/or efficiently, I can often work it out through strength, or other familiar movement patterns.

This is not to say that being naturally gifted at sports is not an advantage, it certainly is. The point is that you can turn yourself into a “natural” athlete through work. Given the same training conditions and diligence a gifted athlete will still excell over someone that is not, however the athlete that puts in the time and work will generally prevail over the athlete that does not regardless of giftings.

Do the work to turn yourself into a natural athlete. The benefits are well worth the effort. Do not let anything convince you that you are simply unable to do anything. Keep working at it, and enjoy the process.

2 Responses to “I Am Not A Natural Athlete”

  1. Colleen Donaldson says:

    Thanks for that Roger. The Cave and crossfit has always given me hope that my uncoordinated, unatheletic self had some hope for improvement. I might not be picked first, but I probably wouldn’t be picked last anymore.

  2. Dan Taube says:

    Great post Rog. I think one of the reasons you’re such a remarkable coach and teacher is that it did not come easily to you. So you’ve had to break things down in a way that some folks who are naturals just can’t do. You understand it more, and differently, and can articulate movements in clearer ways. At least IMHO.

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