Defining what it means to be athletic |

Defining what it means to be athletic

Growing up, when I would go over to B.B.’s house to play basketball with her brother, Preston, and cousins, Rufus and Leon, the word humiliation took on a whole new meaning. I did not have to worry about being picked last; I was never picked at all. The assumption was made early that I would be on Preston’s team. One day a new guy showed up to play. I should say new to me; everyone else seemed to know him. Isaiah stood about 6-foot-4 and weighed at least 225. He was on the opposing team.My main job was not to touch the basketball and to set screens so Corky McCool could shoot. I set a perfect screen on Isaiah; he went through it like I never existed. Play was momentarily stopped while I withered around on the ground.No one knew first aid, though it was obvious I needed oxygen. Corky stood over me encouraging to shake it off like a man. Corky looked at Preston and said, “Hey man, does he look whiter then normal? Listen to the funny sounds he’s making.”Preston gave Corky a funny look and said, “No man, he’s always that white.”Preston then walked over to Isaiah, looked up at him and said: “We don’t treat the white boy like that.”Isaiah looked down at Preston and with a somewhat confused expression said, “Why?””Because the white boy is B.B.’s boyfriend,” Preston patiently explained.”No man, your foocking with me,” Isaiah exclaimed.I should mention at this point that B.B. stood 5-foot-9, was a cheerleader, held the high school state record in the 660, and was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. B.B. also had a six pack. Some men cherish certain female anatomical parts. I cherish abs – everything begins with the body core.”Man, I’ve heard everything. Hey, is it true what they say about white guys?” Isaiah asked.”Just by asking such a question you’re promoting age-old stereotypical myths that affect racial harmony and I don’t appreciate it,” Preston replied as he moved in closer to Isaiah.Everyone on the court started moving away from Preston. Preston gave up 5 inches and 30 pounds to Isaiah and everyone knew Isaiah was in more trouble than he could possibly handle.I was lying at their feet, making a rasping sound as air started to get back into my lungs. As I was lying there, I was thinking about how I would never be an athlete like the large gentlemen surrounding me. These guys were real athletes; the cousins went on to play college football at Iowa State, and some of the others played basketball at junior colleges in the Midwest.Admittedly, there is confusion about what makes a great athlete. Often, when someone has good cardiovascular conditioning, they’re referred to as very athletic. That type of conditioning is truly just one component. Having the ability to put your body in knots in yoga class is just another important component.An example of good cardio training – and strength – would be hiking and skiing Highland Bowl nine times, the current record. Aspen Highlands’ ski patroller Brian Johnson should be proud of that accomplishment. I imagine he will do it 10 times one day.Another incredible athlete, in the truest sense of the word, is Mike Kloser from the Vail Valley. During the ’80s and early ’90s he was a regular contestant in mogul competitions. In the summer he participated in mountain bike races and won a world championship. In the last few years he has become a top adventure racer and has been on the winning team of the Grand Traverse race. He’s also won America’s Uphill. I’m still impressed, despite his amazing cardiovascular capacity, that Mike was a world-class mogul skier. The latter takes incredible strength and balance.Truly, cross training is the key to improving and becoming a good athlete. Hiking up Smuggler is great, and it’s even better if you play with your tempo. But to see an improvement in your time and overall fitness, add other sports that take strength, flexibility, and balance.The fellows I used to play basketball with did numerous sports: football, wrestling, baseball, as well as some who did spring track. It was amazing seeing all of that muscle running the 880. They understood something intrinsically that took me some time to learn: To become a better athlete, you need cross-training.Ron is adding surfing and snowboarding to his cross-training regimen. He can be reached at

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