What is a “good” athlete?

What is the definition of a good athlete? We often look at those who play varsity-level sports or at the college level. Are these “good” athletes? What makes an athlete suitable? Personally, I think it’s bigger than just the sport itself to be a good athlete.

I looked up to New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter when I was younger. He was the captain of his team and his leadership hooked me. I was younger, and his stats didn’t matter to me. Some guys always could hit more home runs, and plenty were all-around better than him. However, anyone can learn to become sufficient at their sport. Being a solid contact hitter, he always had great stats, but his leadership separated the captain from the rest of MLB. His symbol of leadership brought hope not only to his team but to the fans and the Bronx as a whole. This is the definition of a “good” athlete.

There are many good players at all levels of any sport; anyone can work for a spot on the roster. I have grown to admire and found out that leadership and accountability outside of the sport can’t be taught.

A high school could have a Division-I commit who excels in their sport, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good athlete. It is how they choose to act outside of the game and how they impact other people’s lives. Being a symbol for something affects the team as a whole; being good at your thing helps only you. Athletes are an image of their sport, and at the high-school level, they are reflections of the school. A good athlete has a good image and a hard work ethic to back it up.

Referring back to Jeter, he knew that life was more significant than just his sport. He represented the Yankees and many other players respected him for his sportsmanship and kindness in the real world. Jeter has donated and even began up to four charities and donated to 12 causes. 

Many athletes—at all levels—forget that playing their sport means they represent the sport and their team. It can get to their head and change and turn them into egocentric human beings.

With that being said, no athlete is perfect, and no human is perfect either. After retirement, Jeter bought the Miami Marlins, effectively butchered the team, and stepped away from team management. What makes Jeter a good athlete is acknowledging his wrongdoing and apologizing to the team in press conferences. 

Bring this type of topic to the high-school level, and there are athletes at every school who are not extraordinary human beings. Many athletes feel they can treat others however they want, even leading to abuse in some sense. These are not good athletes but simply good players. They play their sport well, but I don’t consider them athletes. An athlete is a symbol and a role model to younger generations. 

If somebody wants to be a good athlete, they must see life for more than their sport. They won’t be perfect; but, can be a decent human being who helps others. Derek Jeter makes mistakes, but he knows when he has done wrong. Sometimes life is more significant than your sport.