Aug 12, 2016


By Josh Hunt

Growing up I never really watched professional sports. Frankly I was uninterested. The concept of watching people who got paid to play a game was lost on me. At the time I would think to myself why would anyone watch a sport when they can go outside and play it themselves? I thought about this idea a great deal. It made more sense to me to spend time in a fantasy world controlling Simon Belmont as he killed vampires and made his way though Dracula’s castle than connecting with a professional athlete. I mean if you are going to spend time being entertained or fantasizing about something, you might as well make it about something that does not exist in real life. Why spend time watching others perform? This thought process continued through high school and college. Then about ten years ago I started to understand the beauty of athletics and the allegory competition had for real life. I started rooting for the Arizona Cardinals. Later on I warmed up to the National Hockey League (NHL) and began attending St. Louis Blues games. I found myself watching more and more professional sports, and being interested in the level at which the athletes competed (except for baseball, what a boring game that is. Plus, St. Louis has really made me dislike the game even more with the smug and entitled Cardinals fans that live here). I am putting my relationship with professional sports out there because I think it may have shaped the way I look at the concept of athletics in ways that lifelong fans might not think about. Lately, I have really been thinking about what it is to be a competitive athlete. The question that keeps floating around my head; is there a difference between the people who get paid to play a sport and dedicate their beings to that sport and the athletes who paid to compete? And, the answer that keeps coming to my mind is yes.


I don’t want to take anything away from the professional athletes out there, because they are the best there is at what they do. Most of them have a work ethic that is unparalleled and gobs of god given talents. But, how would they perform if they were like the athletes I know personally? Could Aaron Rogers (NFL Quarterback) perform that the same level if he had a nine to five and had make time for his own training? What would Brian Elloitt’s (NHL goalie) career look like if he had to pay for every game he decided to compete in? I ask these questions because I know a great many athletes from marathon runners, to fighters, to powerlifters (of course) and many of them are high level and celebrated athletes. When you think about it there are hundreds if not thousands of athletes that not only have a real life outside of the game, but they have to pay to compete. There are tons of athletes out there that are the best at what they do, and they do more than just compete in athletic endeavors.


I often get asked how large is the purse for the winner of a powerlifting meet. To the shock of those that ask, I tell them that not only is there no money in this sport, but I paid to compete. Then I watch their face as I tell them that I pay for my equipment, gym membership, supplementation, travel, lodging, and whatever other expenses arise when I train/compete. I cannot think of a single time when those that ask are not at least surprised at the answer given. One of my best friends has completed an Iron Man with his wife, and just finished the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, and runs into the same issues that I have raised. Conversations with him have re-enforced that question in my head about what it means to be a competitive athlete, especially when there is no money to be paid to athletes from a governing body or sponsors. To that end, does it mean that those of us who compete at a ‘non-professional level’ are in a way more hardcore than those who are getting paid millions of dollars to engage in their athletic endeavors? Think about it. An athlete like you are I has a job that we need in order to put food on the table and pay for our addiction. We have to make time for our training session. We have to pay for everything that goes into our training. We have to develop our own training templates and supplementation stacks or pay someone to do this for us. It is on our shoulders to make sure we get enough rest, eat right, and get the house clean. Most of us live a fragmented life where there is the professional person, the social person, and the athletic person with responsibilities to ourselves, our friends, our families, our households, and our gyms. This is juxtaposed to a ‘professional athlete.’ These multimillionaire only have to worry about performing. Their teams and support staffs develop programming and nutrition templates for them. They are supposed to operate at elite levels at the one job they have. I find this funny because we the other athletes have to perform at our best levels at the competition with the stress of everyday life on our minds.


I raise this concept because as athletes who choose to do what we do, we need to give each other and ourselves the proper amount of credit and really consider whom it is you are competing with and against. There is an elegant beauty in the ‘non-professional athlete’; we do what we do because we are impelled to do so. We want to be competitive, just because. When you consider a ‘professional athlete’s’ motivations there is a tainted aspect in their form of competition. They want to be great not only because greatness calls, but because endorsements, fame, and riches come with each victory. We the lowly athletes who choose to excel in ‘obscure sports’ like powerifting, marathoning, body building and so on need to celebrate our achievements and put them in context. I personally believe that there is not one Major League Baseball player that can lift as much weight as I can. I am not saying this to be cocky or egotistical, I am saying this because there are plenty of better powerlifters out there that should be taking a second to consider all the accomplishments they have achieved in their life. There is a special something in what it is that we as ‘non-professional athletes’ do, and we should celebrate each other’s accomplishments. If you get the chance to meet greats like: Jeff Snyder, Dave Doan, Nick Weite, or Jona Leo (USAPL powerhouses) take the time to consider what they have done and what you have done in order to have to privilege to compete.


There is something to be said about all athletes. We do what we can to achieve greatness in whatever sport calls our names at the local, state, national, and international level. But, keep in mind that there are many things that affect a ‘non-professional athlete’ that a ‘professional athlete’ will not have to deal with. If you compete, legitimacy compete (non of this fun run or unsanctioned meet crap) you are doing great things. You are competing at levels that others will not or cannot do. Remember you pay to do this, while others get paid to compete. You live your life and do what normal people do to get by and then some. Take a second and think about it. Hold yourself up to a level that you might a professional athlete and remember you’re doing this because you want to, not because you get paid. Make sure to support others who compete in whatever legitimate sport they choose. We the ‘non-professional athletes’ help make up the network of athletes who choose to take on the additional duty of competition on top of life. It is an honor to be able to do what we do and help support other athletes. An athlete is an athlete whether they get paid twenty-four million dollars for a two-year contract, or they can’t find sponsorship because there really is none out there. Keep your nose to the grand stone and remember each one of us is choosing a difficult path. Celebrate every personal record that you or a competitor or a competently different athlete achieves, because we don’t have ESPN talking about us and we don’t have Gatorade paying our bills. Support one another and be as proud of yourself and other competitors as any other athlete professional or not is entitled to be.


Sport = Sport.


– This world is a stage and everyone seems to have his or her opinion.
Stick around, stay for a while
I am chocking on someone else’s blood and the fingertips of God.- The Chariot


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