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UNF Spinnaker

What really makes an athlete

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an athlete is a “person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.”

People tend not to be surprised when they hear this description of an athlete. But how do athletes define themselves? In a country where we put athletes on a pedestal, sometimes athleticism loses its culture of dedication and work ethic and becomes commercialized.

Sports fans in America seem to see athletes as people who play a game and get paid millions to do it. One thing that is overlooked in today’s sports world is the perseverance it takes to become a legend.

In an average week, UNF tennis player Aline Berkenbrock puts in six days of practice while also devoting time to school. Berkenbrock doesn’t do it for money or the fame but instead for the love of the game.

In order to see athleticism from an inside perspective, we sat down with three athletes and let them voice their own opinion on what they think defines an athlete.

Trevor Cheatham, a UNF rugby player; Clement Ebri, a UNF wrestling club member; and Berkenbrock, a senior who has 14 years of tennis experience are all athletes but in different ways. Berkenbrock plays for a school-funded team, while Cheatham and Ebri participate in club sports.

Q: What gives you the drive to be an athlete?

Trevor Cheatham: The adrenaline, the fun and the camaraderie.

Clement Ebri: I like competition, and I like winning, and being able to say you’re the best wrestler in the country is better than even money.

Aline Berkenbrock: I guess the passion for the sport. I’ve been playing tennis for 14 years now, and you have that love-hate relationship, but if you have four days off, you just miss it so much. It’s just part of your routine that you couldn’t imagine being without.

Q: Who makes the best type of athlete?

Cheatham: Anyone who has the heart to go out there and give it every last drop.

Ebri: The best type of athlete is someone with tremendous heart and humbleness and unrivaled work ethic.

Berkenbrock: You need to love what you do. You need to have a lot of passion, and you need to be serious about it. I could give you characteristics, but I think the most important thing is loving what you do. And that’s not only in sports, that’s in everything.

Q: What makes an athlete good?

Cheatham: Practice. The training on the field is key to any good athlete. Without practice, the sport would be called a hobby.

Ebri: I believe an athlete can be good even if they don’t get a win. But in sports like wrestling, wins will be necessary to be considered good, regardless of how close the matches you lost were.

Berkenbrock: Dedication, always being on time. You have to dedicate all your time to it. That’s what makes it so hard in college. You have to study while you’re still playing.

Q: What is the one word you would use to describe who an athlete is and why?

Cheatham: Dedicated. You have to put in the practice and hard work and must sacrifice other things in order to play and be good.

Ebri: Dedicated. I use the word dedicated because athletes have an obligation to school, and they’re also dedicated to their sport, such as making practices, training and competing.

Berkenbrock: Passion. You have to be very dedicated to be an athlete. There are plenty of times when I just want to quit, but you have to go through that bad phase and stick with it.

Q: Do you think natural talent is necessary to be an athlete?

Cheatham: It is not necessary. If you put in the extra time on the practice field, you can overcome any “natural” ability the opponent has.

Ebri: Natural talent isn’t necessary to be an athlete. Heart is necessary. For example, [Tim] Tebow is in the NFL despite his bad throwing mechanics and the plethora of critics speaking out against him, but his heart allows him to do whatever it takes to get the win.

Berkenbrock: Of course, but I don’t think it’s what is most important. I believe more in hard work than in talent.

Jackson Gardner
, Contributing Writer

Email Jackson at [email protected]
Follow @spinnakersports

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