The Viking Magazine : The Great Debate: Are Athletes Born or Made
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The Viking Magazine

The Great Debate: Are Athletes Born or Made

Sam Greene, Copy-Editor

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Sam M: Born or Made?

Sam G: Listen close my man, when it comes down to it, you know as well as I do that a striker, quarterback, point-guard, ballerina or what have you, all need to put in the hours to make it to the top. Figure this, you could be born a skinny 6’5″ fool with the lanky arms and natural talent to put away three-pointers but that just won’t cut it when you’re trying to rise to your athletic potential.

Are you describing me or debating? I agree that some work is necessary for athletes to reach the professional ranks, but is there any question that Shaquille O’Neal had an easier time becoming an NBA superstar than a 6 foot nothing like Allen Iverson? And why? Becuase he was born to be the giant he is today.

You know what, it’s all gravy that he was towering everyone from day one, but how can you just say it was easier from the outset to play basketball than to play a true sport simply because of that and nothing else? No doubt Shaq’s size naturally allows him to swat balls, but how about the other aspects to basketball? Shooting, driving, dribbling. When it comes down to the slightest step, everything is consequence to hours and passion.

While I’m sure that hours of blood, sweat and tears do pay off, answer me this: In a 2007-2008 NBA survey the average height of all the players in the league was calculated to be 6’7″ tall. Conversely, the average height for adult males in the US is 5’10”, which only six players in the league measure up at or below. Given that our nation’s population is 304,059,724, and there are less than 500 players in the NBA, how can you say that everyone can make it by gaining an extra step?

Gaining an extra step? Everyone’s got potential in one way or another. Basketball, by the nature of the sport, shapes its athletes to be a number of things, one of them being tall. You can’t train someone to be tall, but you sure as hell can train them to be quick, agile, explosive, relentless… the attributes are endless! Figure it this way, just because you’re tall doesn’t make you an athlete. Just because you’re an athlete doesn’t make you tall!

So it’s not a completely commutative statement, but it does pertain to more sports than just basketball. As a soccer player yourself, I am surprised that you would argue otherwise. How many times have you competed against someone who was just flat out better than everyone else on the field? Let’s be honest, we can’t all be Usain Bolt, no matter how hard we train. Some just have it, others don’t.

Every time I step out onto the field, I don’t give hoot about how tall, big or fast any of these other football’n goons are. At the highest level of soccer, you need dedication to the weight-room, a die-hard passion, and a vision of perfection in each shot, tackle and step. How many people in the world do you think play soccer? Now, how many of them are athletes?

I would think that the majority of people who play soccer would consider themselves athletes and, technically speaking, everyone of them is. But they are all at different levels of athleticism. Why is that statistic relevant?

Let’s move on to technicalities: What is an athlete? And don’t give me some Merriam-Webster junk.

Personally, I would define an athlete as someone, who [gasp] takes part in athletic contests such as soccer, baseball, etc. Anyways, the point is that athletes are not made equally; having small hands or bigger feet will make the difference in some cases, and we need to acknowledge the fact that the gene pool is less kind to some of us. Ever heard a football player maxing out their body’s potential for strength?

Are you trying to tell me that just because you have some physical attribute, it makes you naturally more or less of an athlete? And for your football player, I’ve never heard of such a thing, there’s always room to grow, if not physically, then mentally. And that’s why it’s a business. If companies like Coca Cola GM and ATT didn’t invest in college athletics, then no one would see the games, and the athletes wouldn’t get any exposure.

No, I am simply saying that these attributes will, and do, have a great deal of impact on a person’s interest in pursuing certain sports, as well as their initial ability to succeed at them. They do not directly make a person less of an athlete, but they factor into the skill and desire that a person has to excel in certain sports. I’m tall, pretty skinny, and lost arm-wrestling matches to my mom until eighth grade. Don’t judge me. Given this, do you really think that I am fit to be a power lifter?

Those natural physical attributes basically differentiate athletes through their youth and teens and do allow them, initially, to succeed. But that’s only because no one has truly found a way to advantageously combine their own natural athletic ability with the skills and techniques that they acquire over time. If everyone dwelled on the fact that they didn’t run a four second forty, how would anyone grow to become those very athletes they admire?

But that’s my point. Despite the fact that we shouldn’t, I know for a fact that many athletes discontinue their endeavors in certain areas due to their epic fails, and even though some of them succeed elsewhere after thinking they aren’t cut out for one sport (i.e-baseball rejects fleeing to the lacrosse field.) Others continue to fail, despite a good work ethic.

It just seems like you’re defining what it means to be a weak, unmotivated athlete. I’m not talking about those fools. I’m talking about 5’5 Joe Shmoe who gets high off football everytime he steps out onto the field, and uses that high to fuel him to improve and perfect his game, while using his “disadvantages” to his advantage.

Sounds to me like you’re talking about the movie Rudy, man. F.Y.I, it’s the real-life story of a 5’5″ guy who worked his @$$ off his entire life just to be a mere BACKUP on the Notre Dame, football team.

And you know what? I bet my man Rudy loved it, worked on it, and became great at it, no?

To an extent, yes. He did become happy and achieved his goal, but that still doesn’t mean he was able to realistically compete at even the collegiate level of sports.

I don’t know about you, but any backup line backer for Notre Dame is an athlete in my book. And all thanks to what? Hours. Passion. Discipline. If you don’t have those three, you don’t have what it takes to be an athlete. I don’t care who your daddy is.

I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t mind having Lebron James or Usain Bolt as my papa.

Pshh! I don’t need the blood of an athlete! I need the attitude, and that’s something you aren’t born with.

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Palo Alto High School's sports news site
The Great Debate: Are Athletes Born or Made