12 great things about being an amateur athlete

Photo of Chip Conrad by Allyson Goble

12. It's only as expensive as you want it to be. We all whine about the price of everything from dues to shoes, but come on - you find the money for it because you prioritize it. If you didn't have control over this, you'd be out of the sport or out on the street in order to do it.

11. You do not have to worry about political and economic sanctions preventing you from advancing your sporting career. There will always be a local meet somewhere, even if you have to drive a few hours. And there will probably be pretty decent parking.

10. You set the schedule. Sure, it's not ideal. I know that, because no one in this world will tell you they have the ideal schedule for their training. Want to appreciate how much control you do have over it? Compare it to the control you have over your work schedule.

9. The training options available to you are almost limitless. You're at a smorgasbord with a platter in your hands. You can dabble in other sports besides your dedicated sport. You can pick and choose whatever you like - the deadlift from powerlifting, the neckroll from MMA, heavybag drills from boxing, sprints from track, bouldering from rock climbing, snatches from weightlifting, bicep curls from bodybuilding - you name it, you have the option. Pros do not have this luxury. They can't afford it. It detracts from their goal and exposes them to injury.

8. You need not live with the fear of the wrath of the masses. Sure, competing at the amateur level can be as nerve-wracking as your personality wants to make it, but that is a completely different beast from the knowledge that if your performance is off, a stadium or coliseum of crazed fans may boo, jeer, curse, throw things at you, and you may actually be in danger. You are not in a position to disgrace your countrymen on an off day.

7. When you are injured, you can take as long as you need to recover. Nothing obligates you to go make it worse by training or competing again before your body is ready. When you do resume training, you can go as gingerly as you like and change anything you need to in order to maintain your health.

6. You probably will not have to face the dilemmas of corruption which permeate professional sports. Bribes, fixes, harassment and worse - just count your blessings. Your biggest complaint in amateur competing is likely to be that a judge got it wrong - and that's just life.

5. Your development is not on a timetable. If it takes you months or even years to get good, if you spend your lifetime perfecting your technique, that's okay. There's no rush. Any deadlines are arbitrary. Try to remember that when you're in a funk about your progress.

4. The whole world is not going to see you fail. Sure, not making your numbers in a meet may seem like the biggest devastation you've had since your last cat died, but most people in your life will not know about it, not care and not begin to understand. If you compete, that in itself is usually enough to impress the folks you'll meet in your daily life, anyway.

3. You will never be too old for this. Take it up at 30, 40, or 50 years old - live and train right - and you can look forward to enjoying your sport at age 80, 90, as long as you can manage. There is no retirement at age 24 and floundering to make a living after. You are cleverly living a lifestyle that will support your amateur sport life all the way.

2. You do not have to be the best. You may choose to focus on becoming the best you can be at your chosen sport, or you may choose to be just okay enough to play on the weekends, or even be at peace with being pretty bad. Being the best in the county, state, country and world are not the goals that must make or break your career, your livelihood, your experience in the sport, or even your sanity. Even if you're not great at it, you are still allowed to do it if you want to.

And the #1 great thing about being an amateur athlete -

1. You can enjoy it. This sport can and should be a source of joy to you. This is not always the case with pros. When you are a pro, it is your job, and even on your best day, how much do you enjoy your job? This is what you do on your own time. You do this because you love it and you get a lot of benefits out of it. It makes your life better. It makes you better, so you can make the world better. And that's really the bottom line, isn't it?