Definition of an athlete

By Justine Goode

My name is Justine, and I’m an athlete.

I still can’t type that sentence without finding it hilarious. I was always the one girl who didn’t play on an AYSO soccer team, who would have rather stayed in class than go to P.E., who dreaded the Presidential fitness tests. I’ve always been way more comfortable with the word “rehearsal” than “practice.” So I don’t even know what possessed me to join the track team in the first place and how I got through that grueling first training season. I guess I just had this vague feeling that it’s good for you to do something you don’t like every once in a while.

Maybe I should clarify — I’m not a good athlete. You will not see me at CIF or as Athlete of the Month. I had my butt kicked by a freshman long jumper at our first meet this season. You get the picture.

But something struck me the other day as I picked up my uniform for the fourth year in a row — I’m still here.

The thought genuinely shocked me. All the hundreds of times I’d thought about quitting, whether it was irrationally during a torturous 20-minute drill or seriously as I read through One Act monologues, I had never followed through. Why?

Eventually, I realized that I’ve stayed because being on track and being on a team has allowed me to forge a new, unexpected aspect of my identity. I didn’t have to radically change anything about myself, except for my belief that running is the devil. I could be a part of a community and feel camaraderie just by showing up to practice. And after four years, I actually know my events and the techniques, even if I will never take them to a state level like some of my teammates.

As a senior, it feels really good to be able to look back at the past three years and feel like I’ve actually grown, that I’ve gained new knowledge of areas that were once totally foreign to me. And I’m proud because I know I stuck it out longer than anyone ever expected — my parents, my friends, my coaches and especially myself. Now, I can give encouragement to nervous underclassmen as they prepare to compete in their first meets. Even though some of them will probably beat me, I have experience, and the advice I can give to them is actually credible. I am an athlete, even if I have to remind myself sometimes.