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What Does it Mean to be Athletic? (Ep. 5 Transcript and Show Notes)

Strong Athletic Podcast Episode 5: What Does it Mean to be Athletic?


Hey, y’all. A quick disclaimer before the show. In this show we talked about athleticism in playing sport, and your ability to do so. And I didn't mention this during the podcast, but this does rely heavily on factors such as what your body is capable of doing, where you’re living, if you're able to play sport in the country where you are, if you have control over your own time. So with that being said, I hope that you enjoy today’s podcast.

(Music by the Little Bicycles)


Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Strong Athletic Podcast. This is your host, Nadia Kean. I am so stoked to be here with you all. It's been a minute since I made the last Strong Athletic Podcast. And I have so many concepts that I want to share with you all. If this is your first time joining me, first I want to say welcome. I'm super stoked that you’ve joined us.

The Strong Athletic Podcast is put on by my t-shirt company, Strong Athletic. And Strong Athletic is basically a company that really understands the power of sport. We understand what sport can do for humans in the world when nothing else can do that for them. We understand how sport can bring people together when otherwise they have massive amounts of differences. And we just love sport.

As one of my friends, Jumpy Mickey, recently said to me, sport transcends language. And it's totally true. You can pick up a ball, or put on a pair of roller skates, or go play capoeira, or go swimming with people that you don't speak the same language with. But yet through the act of doing your sport, you can communicate. And I think that is so powerful.

Oftentimes, sports are joked about because the goal is arbitrary. You know? It's to win a game or to be the best at something. And ultimately it’s not about life or death. But here’s the thing. In the world there are so many things that we put too much focus on and they really don't have any meaning. And so, why not put a lot of focus towards sport? I don't know about you, but when I am playing sport and I'm in the zone and I'm super focused on the sport and the outcome of what I'm doing, I don't think about anything else. And in a way that's meditative. It's quite beautiful. So, sport. I love it.


So today’s knowledge to be passed on is about this concept that I hear about. It’s when people talk about a person's athleticism. Now my company is called Strong Athletic. And many times, I think that the word ‘athletic’ in my company's name is actually a barrier to people identifying with my brand. ‘Athletic’ is basically to be of a sport, to be an athlete. And to be an athlete is to be anything that is involved with the sport. And when I think of the word ‘athletic,’ I think that we use the word too narrowly. And right now there's a lot of humans that are doing a lot of damage for people that could potentially use that word, ‘athlete.’ And they're making it seem like it's this elite concept. We can look on to the word ‘athletic’ and we can look on to athletes, but we will not ourselves be that because we haven't achieved what others have achieved. I think that this use of the word ‘athletic’ is hurtful to people. I think that it's damaging. And I think that it really has the propensity to push people away from sport and athletics.

So we're going to talk about the word ‘athletic’ and ‘athlete.’ And we're going to talk about how it's used incorrectly by people in sport, particularly coaches and athletes, and how we want to see if we can resolve this problem because it has the potential to keep people from sport or to keep people from feeling that pure happiness that they get from playing sport.

So when I started the Strong Athletic Podcast, one of the reasons I started it was because I didn't have a resource like this for myself. And because I couldn’t find that resource, I decided to establish it for others. And the resource is a product or a book or a podcast or radio show or something where I could learn how to coach people better and people can learn how to get coached better. And I think that it's becoming more common to learn how to coach humans, but I think it's still less common to learn how to be coached.

So a friend of mine, Liz Record, she's a PT in Austin and she's also a former rowing coach. She's totally brilliant. One of the best coaches I've ever had. She gave me a handful of books that she must have gotten early on in college. And the photos in these books are amazing. They look like they're from the 80s, but apparently the book was published in 2005, so I'm not really sure why there's like a 10 year gap in all of the photos. But she gave me some books on coaching. And so, apparently I wasn't looking hard enough. There are books on coaching. aAnd I was flipping through the different coaches’ chapters and what these different various coaches had to say. And then I stopped at something. This coach was talking about looking at the people that she coached and finding the true athletes.


And so what I want to ask is, “What is a true athlete?” And this is where coaching and laziness come together. So a true athlete, I think for many coaches, is somebody that they don't have to coach. You know? What is a true student? What is a true singer? What is a true musician? What is a true engineer? Like, what? That word ‘true’ in front, I think that that is an abbreviation for, “This person is already intuitively good at this. I don't have to work so hard to coach them.” So think about it. If you're a coach listening to this podcast today, first, hey y’all. How's it going? Thanks for listening. And second, coaching is complicated. Period.

I was in capoeira last night. And my instructor, such a good coach, but I even watched him get a little flustered in the moment because some of us weren't picking up what we needed to fast enough. And there wasn't a ton of time for him to slow down the process and teach us. And this is this very experienced trainer who's been coaching for years. And I even watched him get slightly frustrated because we weren't learning at the rate in which he needed us to to carry on at the speed he needed us to. I've watched countless coaches get frustrated when the athlete, AKA also known as the learner, isn't learning as quickly as they need.

Most sports are complicated. When we're looking at them from the outside perspective, they seem super simple, super easy. But they're actually complex. They're hard. That means that teaching that sport is also complex and hard to do. And so when I hear people say that somebody is a true athlete, I question what they mean by that. Why don't you hit ‘pause’ for a second. And why don't you take a moment to think about the concept of true athlete, if you were to ever to say that about somebody. And then let's discuss it.


So, there's so many different ways to be a true athlete like, one, your physiology. Do you put on muscle mass easily? Do you find it easy to, I don't know. run for miles and not get exhausted? Do you find it easy to jump higher? Do you find it easy to lift more weights faster? You know? Is that what you're talking about for true athlete? Or is it somebody walks into a new sport and they, say it's like softball, and they pick up a bat, and immediately they're hitting the ball. They don't seem to need much batting practice to hit the ball, just something that happens naturally for them. But then if that same human went and put on a pair of roller skates and went to a skatepark, would they be able to drop into a bowl just as easily? Or would their true athleticism be something that was just applied to softball but not to ramp skating? I think that true athlete… Does that mean that you're somebody that's more interested in athletics? And because you're more interested in athletics, you’re easier to work with or it seems like you adapt faster?

I've coached a couple of sports. And the two that I coach, you need to have good balance. These sports are rowing and they’re roller derby. In rowing, I can count on one hand the three people that I ever taught to row in 30 minutes. Period. And all of those people had great balance. So, one was a gymnast and two were roller derby skaters. In roller derby, I remember once I showed my Pilates instructor a little bit about roller derby as part of her teaching me. And she did fantastically for her only time trying the sport. And she had fantastic balance. She was also a dancer. So, if I'm talking about a true athlete and those two sports and I compliment people, it's typically I compliment them on their balance. But then that balance isn’t just something that they walked in off the street with. It's just that they usually had done another sport that then gave them balance that they could apply to my sport.

Today's podcast is really a cautionary tale. It’s this. Coaches, a lot of times we're looking for that quote-unquote true athlete. And I think that this is just lazy coaching. I think that every human, most humans, have the ability to be coached into being a good athlete. That is essentially your job. And if you don't want to do your job, or you don't have the means to do your job, you don't have the bandwidth to do your job, the time, the resources, then that's one thing. But if you have all of that and you simply just do not want to do your job, and you want athletes to show up already good at their sport, then I'm just going to say it. I think that you need to re-approach what you're doing because your job is essentially to make people better at what they do. Period. And so if you only want to work with people that are already good at what they do, then that means that either you're only ever going to work with elite athletes or you are basically not doing half of your job.


Now athletes, let's talk about the concept of being athletic, and “you're either athletic or you're not.” So, I think that this is not true. Athleticism is trained. People have to train hard to be athletes. It's something that you can gain and you can also lose. There's a concept of athleticism from the perspective of your brain and how your brain thinks about sport. And then there's a concept of athleticism from your body and your ability to do the sport. If you watch somebody lifting weights and they're lifting super, super heavy, that person didn't just walk up to the bar, throw 45s on, and then pick it up and lift it because they're athletic. They walked up to the bar, they threw 45s on, and they lifted it because they trained to do that. People in basketball. Every single time they make that shot and the ball actually goes through the hoop. Again, that’s not luck. That is training. To just say, “I'm not athletic,” is almost like saying, “I'm not a guitar player,” and then the reason you're not a guitar player is ‘cuz you’ve never touched a guitar.

Athleticism luckily isn't something that you’re either born with or you're not. It's something that you train for. There might be a stopping point for your athleticism in what you can achieve in comparison to other athletes. Meaning maybe you'll never run as fast as the person that we watch in the Olympics. But your propensity to train like that and get to that point isn't any different from somebody else’s.

So, I want you to hit ‘pause’ and just think about what I've told you today, what you think I've told you today. If you were to talk about this podcast with somebody later on, what would you tell them this podcast was about? And then let's come back together and conclude.


So I’ve thought about this for a long time, but I think that there's two reasons that this was projected to the front of my brain. One is because I was reading that book. And like I said, I just stopped when the coach said, you know, somebody an athlete. And then also recently somebody approached me to see if I can make a shirt that said, “Strong Un-athletic Something.” And initially I told him no. Strong Athletic wasn't going to make that. And then I thought about it and I was like, “Well. You know, not being athletic is not a bad thing. So being un-athletic, not being an athlete, that's actually fine." That's also like saying, “I'm not musical.” There's nothing wrong with that. That's just a personal choice in life. It's only when people think that they can't be athletic, or a coach looks at an athlete and they’re like, “No. That person doesn't have the ability. They don’t have a propensity for that.” It's only then when I start to call people out and tell them that what they believe to be as true is false.

Athleticism is not something that you either have or you don't have. It’s trained. It's worked for. It’s sought-after. And if you choose not to be an athlete, there's really nothing wrong with that. But if you do want to be an athlete but you think you're not good enough, you're not great enough, you're not powerful enough, you're not fast enough, you're not smart enough, you’re not strategic enough, I just want to tell you that that's on your shoulders. That can be trained. And later you might need to look at things such as what are your goals and what are you expecting of yourself if you never actually ever achieve any of your goals. Maybe your expectations are too high. And that's a different podcast episode.

For coaches, I just want to tell you that when you look at somebody and you say, “That person is un-athletic,” or “That person is not a natural athlete.” That is fine. However, if you refuse to coach them because of that, I personally just think that you're being a lazy coach. No disrespect. But my job as a coach is to help make people into the athletes that they want to be. It's not to pick and choose who I want to work with based off of their current ability. And some of you coaches will coach at a super elite level. And you can do that. You can pick and choose who you want to work with based off of where they are right then. But I just want to tell you that you might lose a lot of potential talent because you are ignoring people where they are because you don't have the ability and imagination to see what they can become later.

So, what should you do about this? Well if you're a coach, I want you to keep yourself in check. And when there is an athlete that you don't think is capable, I just want you to ask the simple question, “Is it them, or is it me?” The question being, is the athlete really not capable of doing what I'm asking them to do? Or are they capable of it, I'm just going to have to coach them a little bit more or try harder to get them to achieve it?

For athletes if you're stuck on the question of if you are athletic or if you are not, I want you to analytically look at what you're doing to achieve your athletic goals. And if you think that you are thinking about it and hoping for it more than you're actually training, then good news. It looks like there's a good likelihood that you are athletic, or you have the capacity to be. You just need to approach athleticism a little bit differently.

So, y’all. This brings us to the end of Episode 5. I'm so happy to be back doing episodes with you all. I do enjoy making them. I hope that you enjoy listening to what I have to say, and kind of contemplating the concepts and thinking about them, and talking about them to others, and passing these on. If you are not in athletics, remember this also can just be applied towards life in general. A coach is simply a teacher that's on a field. So if you're a teacher or you're a student, then these concepts can just be applied towards knowledge rather than athleticism.

I love putting on these podcasts for y’all. I really, really appreciate everyone who has been asking when we're going to release the next one. And so obviously, it's now. It's today. I just hope that whatever you do for the rest of the day, and whenever you go back to your sport, and you go and play your sport or you coach your sport, I just hope that it's more meaningful to you than the last time.


So, you'll never believe it but this is bringing us to the end of Episode 5. Now before we conclude, I have a couple of things that I want to tell you about. So, the first thing I want to tell you about, especially if you play roller derby, is that at this year's WFTDA Championships, there is going to be a borderless derby game with two teams that are not WFTDA. They are teams that represent borderless nations in the world. So, the two teams that will be playing are Team Indigenous Rising and also Jewish Roller Derby. And so, these two groups are coming together. They’re going to play a game at Championships. And I just think it's phenomenal. The game is called “We Are Nation.” Strong Athletic has agreed to help support both of these teams in getting there by selling a t-shirt. And the t-shirt is called the “We Are Nation'' t-shirt. And it's a combination of both teams’ logos. So this is a really rad logo that brings together the imagery from the Team Indigenous logo and the Jewish Roller Derby logo. This is a small batch of shirts. And $10 from every shirt, essentially about 80% of the profits from each shirt, is going to the team. And we've already raised $2,000. Fundraising efforts are going super well and we are putting the first batch of t-shirts in the mail today. But we want to raise more money, so we’re going to sell a hundred more of these shirts. And again, $10 from every shirt is going to go directly to those teams. And you can find them at And just search for the “We Are Nation” shirts. We are also releasing the Team Indigenous Rising logo shirt. And so if you missed out on all of the batches of those shirts, well good news. You can also pre-order one on Strong Athletic. And that money is going to go to Team Indigenous.

Now, if you enjoyed today's podcast, I’m really happy. You are really, essentially the only reason I make this is because I want you to become a better coach, or I want you to be an athlete who is essentially easier to coach, or you learn how to communicate with your coach better. Now I am participating in something called the Derby Stands Online Coaching Summit, November 22nd through 24th. And this is put on by Rule 56. And they are a company based in the UK. And my friend Maha puts this summit on. And it is for people like yourself, coaches or athletes who want to learn how to coach better. There are all these amazing coaches from all over the world who are going to be guests on the coaching summit. And I'm also going to be one of the guests. So, I'll be leading a workshop to help coaches understand if their coaching is actually working. And then there's going to be so many other different workshops that you can sit in on and participate on. And you don't even have to go to the UK. You can do it right from your living room or wherever your computer is. So I want you to go check them out.

And finally, if you liked today’s show, will you tell your friends about it? Because I do this for y’all and I also want to do it for your friends. And so I want more coaches and athletes to know about this resource so that they can in turn make their coaching program stronger and make their experiences as an athlete more meaningful. So y’all, it's been awhile. I missed you guys. And I will see you on episode number six. All right. Take care.

(Music by the Little Bicycles)

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