YES Competitions are a way to separate athletes into groups-swiftest, highest, strongest-but we come to them as athletes and leave just the same, no matter the score. A true athlete is one that can find competition without another person in sight and strives to better their physical ability without the reward of fame or glory. - Jessica Fuller, Pisgah Forest, N.C. As the activities we enjoy become increasingly competitive, much of the camaraderie and friendship that exists within athletic communities is lost. Those participating in these activities that become overly competitive lose sight of the beauty, the grandeur, the sheer awe that drew us all to the outdoors. Those who choose to participate in any activity without competing are not only athletes, but role models many people could learn from. - Lee Eschenroeder, Lynchburg, Va. There are a great many athletic folks out there whose motivation is something more than the sustenance for the ego. There are also many athletic endeavors which are spoiled by competition. Surfing, rock climbing, kayaking, come to mind. If you are trying to set a speed record for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, you are missing the point. - Chet Naylor, Richmond Va. I'll be an athlete until the day I die as long as I'm trying to live a better life through exercise. Athleticism should be about doing the best one can against yourself, not placing first. - Ray Keys, Franklin County, Va. The true definition of ‘athlete’ is “a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports.” Anyone can be athletic and not have the competitive bug. - Joanna Lilly, Radford Va. The term athlete just describes a person who is strong enough and agile enough to play a particular sport. My little brother, Max, went to a five-week camp (Camp Mondamin) that was non-competitive in their philosophy. Max kayaked almost every river in North Carolina, climbed, and backpacked. The counselors and campers were all athletes because they were strong enough and agile enough to kayak, climb, and hike. - The Ovett Brothers - Sam age 15, Max age 12, Roswell, Ga. As a child, I was that lazy chubby kid who was always the last to be picked (and first to be knocked out) for dodgeball in gym class. I was constantly the focus of ridicule from my more competitive classmates. Then one day in high school I decided to go take a jog on the nature trail, and I was in heaven. There was no one to compete with but myself, no scowling referees or judges, and no awards but the satisfaction of being outside. I was hooked. Now I’m a devoted hiker, backpacker, trail runner, and mountain biker. Do I consider myself an athlete? Absolutely. Competitive? Heck no; I’ll leave that for those guys in gym class. -Wally Smith, Oakwood, Ga. NO Competition is a way to test yourself, to see how you compare with other competitors. You risk defeat, momentary pain and unhappiness, and you stand to gain a pat on the back, a trophy, a high ranking. Competition isn’t about winning. Winning comes as a result of your preparation, skill level, attitude, and a little luck. Competition is a beautiful, important, and critical element of our society. -Chaman, Roanoke, Va. Taking grandpa out of the retirement home and putting him in a chamois and a Phonak jersey does not make him an athlete. One can look like a great athlete on the outside, but have the competitive spirit of The Cowardly Lion. Strength, agility, and endurance are great physical traits, but to perform in a competitive context, one needs drive, determination, and a desire to succeed. One cannot be taken seriously if they do not push themselves to new levels every time they train for their sport. -Todd McClure, Bradenton, Fla. I believe I’m an athlete, because my body parts within compete with one another. I have a natural heartfelt desire to compete just to function against gravity. Competition is within my bones and all my body parts want in. I am my own team, and there are many players within. If I don’t compete, I’m probably six feet under. Are you an athlete if you don’t compete? No, you’re dead. -Adrian Henson, Charlottesville, Va. We all compete. Eery day there are numerous finish lines to cross, challenges to face, winners and losers. So let me wordsmith your question a bit - “You compete. Are you an athlete?” If you play, bend, move, push, pull, throw, kick, twist, hit, lift, run, walk, ride, sweat and hurt..you are an athlete. Athletes are better competitors because they go to bed each night knowing that they “have fought the good fight...finished the race and have kept the faith” (2Ti 4:7). You compete. Why aren’t you an athlete? -Tim McClung, Blacksburg, Va.