The Athlete

Writing Prompt: The Athlete

Think of an athlete, coach or other sporting type you’ve met before. Using this person as a springboard, identify the following qualities about them and then incorporate them into a character in a story.

  • Physical body type
  • Style of walking
  • Usual outfit
  • Reaction under stress
  • Non-athletic or non-sports-related passion

Post your response in 500 words or fewer in the comments below.

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27 thoughts on “The Athlete

  1. Pete

    Outside the tomb of concrete and steel, heavy equipment beeped and snarled and pushed out of positon. A crowd must have shown up as well, buzzing and cheering and so lively that it almost reminded Mason of the good old days.

    Almost.

    Until he remembered how they were probably snapping pictures and engulfed in their palms, taking selfies of what was soon to be dust and rubble. They only wanted to feast on the destruction.

    Mason Timbers took a look around the old locker room, stripped to the studs and swept clean of any memorabilia or jockstrap that could be auctioned or pillaged. The years of sweat and dirt and playoff misery still lingered in the corners, as much a part of the stadium as the brick and mortar.

    The reliever slid to a seat on the floor. He winced as his knees and back and creaky ankles exlaimed their displeasure. Twenty two years in the league. About the age of the new kids rolling into camp every summer.

    A peppy morning DJ shouted out the weather, prize giveaways, then proceeded to the countdown to demolition. Mason shook his head, one last lump of pride before he acknowledged the end.

    What a run, though. Especially through the eighties, when Bryant Stadium smelled of paint and gloss, shining like Mason and his 90mph fastball. A half smile as he recalled the all-star year in 89, before the torn UCL and rotator cuff. Before his shoulder began flaring up, burning like meteorite every time he was on the mound.

    And now, as the wrecking ball closed in, all Mason Timbers had was some antiquated loyalty to go along with the aches and pains. He was AM radio. A purist to a sport no longer cherished, to a team he no longer recognized. To an owner who’d died years ago, left everything to his kids, who’d cut him before the funeral.

    Twenty two years. It was just as well that he went like this. Into the sunset with the old cathedral. From what he’d heard the kids planned to hire a chef at the new place. Sushi and wine at ball games, maybe a latte for the press boxes. For a man who still penciled in stats, chewing peanuts and eyeing the calls, this was tantamount to sacrilege. It was why he’d come last night, cutting through the chain link, a bucket filled with ice and some beers, his old ball cap. One last night in the only home he’d ever had.

    A walkie talkie exchange. Let the detonators work. He repositioned his legs, rolled his shoulders and set off a quick warning of pain down his neck. His body was broken. Too many innings on the mound. He was done. He was ready.

    The sweep of a machine, the roar of the crowd that reminded him of the ’88 pennant race. He’d been on the mound, game 4, and things were crazy. An all clear beep and his heart picked up, did some things he thought it could no longer do. He tightened his jaw and felt it coming, a full count in extra innings. A rattle of earth in his bones. He closed his eyes as the countdown neared, caught a snippet of his childhood, a flash of men going to the moon, pretending to fly…

    “Good bye, old girl,” he said, and then—

  2. Seaside Susan

    Restored Tradition

    Jacob dashed across the street, his athletic bag bouncing as he made his way to the Chinese Tea Pavilion. As a collegiate endurance runner, he had to fit life around his training schedule and was usually found in running gear or warm ups and tennis shoes.

    Today was his final class in tea ceremony. Jacob had inherited his grandfather’s tea set when he was in high school and he had brought it to the master when he started the class so that it cold be properly cleaned and prepared. Today’s ceremony would be done using that set.

    As a young man, Jacob felt a bit awkward, but he did not let it show; this was his passion. He was proud of his heritage and wanted to keep it alive. If he was in his ancestral home in Northern China, he may have spent time as a monk, but in the hustle and bustle of his American life, that dream had no space to be realized.

    Jacob reached the pavilion with a few minutes to prepare. By showing humility and waiting for permission to enter, he was giving respect to his instructor and to his elders. It was something he had learned from his grandfather and it had helped him his whole life. You can be a child in the yard, running about and shouting with laughter, but when you are with your elders you must be calm and show respect.

    On the nod of the tea master, Jacob entered the room and folded his lithe runner’s frame to the floor in front of the table. He saw his grandfather’s tea set had been restored and was ready for use. He was looking forward to making tea for the first time in this precious treasure. According to the people at the pavilion it was not a particularly valuable set, monetarily, but they could tell it had been frequently used and well cared for. It should last a few more generations if Jacob kept it well.

    The tea master gave Jacob another nod and Jacob bowed in return. This was his test.

    Jacob inspected the tea leaves and checked the temperature of the water he was using. He wiped down each of his tools and then set about the many steps he had been taught. This ceremony was a meditation on tea. Each step laid out to give the tea leaves the respect they deserved. These leaves grew, were picked and handled with care, to simply dunk them in water would be a crime. There were hardier varieties for that.

    As Jacob poured out the cups of tea for he and his tea master he knew he had completed the test successfully. The delicate color and fragrance of the steaming tea soup was exactly what he had hoped for. The master nodded and smiled at Jacob.

    In that moment, Jacob saw himself teaching his grandchildren the art of tea.

  3. mayboy

    A man inclined the head down while walked along the street, avoiding curious faces of the people he met on the way to the Sports Center. He waved the hand repeatedly with the fingers half squeezed, and turned the thumb towards the chests, murmuring something to himself. His pale face under the cascades of fluffy hair over the brows expressed something odd, unpleasant.

    “What a freak!” A girl who passed by with a boyfriend caught a glimpse of the strangers look and felt a chilly cold to the bones.

    She turned the head. The man whose tight blue navy sweater bulged single muscle, walked away with giant steps. The tall, athletic figure, slighlty curved, melted with a crowd.

    The smell of chloride inside the swimming center didn’t bother the supporters. The swimmers stretched the muscles the last time before the competitive swimming in freestyle started. Some swimmers were putting on the goggles, others shook hands to relax before the turning point. Everyone was in the position.

    The starter announced, “Take your mark!” Then he pushed a button on the starting system.

    No one existed for the man with the number two, except the coach and the whistle of the horn. He jumped in a right angle, breaking the surface of the water with the tip of the fingers, and smoothly slipped through the whole with entire body, gliding, He became a whale, catching the pray with the technique he learned from the coach who stood there, waiting. It was the race against the time, the race determined with every push off and every turn in the pool. Numer two was not in the first position. His ultimate goal was to put all effort into the last third. It was the perfect flip; he pushed himself off the wall and reached the leading swimmer. The Competition for the first place between two rivals became fierce. His coach bit the lips, hoping for the best result. Hours of relentless training she put in, should paid off. People on tribune hold the breath, so did the number two and focused on one more swing to touch the edge of the wall. As he swung into the skin a week before. And the expression on her surprised face.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This piece really came alive in that last paragraph with details such as, He became a whale, catching the spray. . . I suspect you are a competive swimmer.

  4. ReathaThomasOakley

    “I,” Marcia took a sip of her second margarita, “am not going to,” another sip, “going to think about athletes any more.” She licked the salt from her lips. “What about you?”

    Teri lifted her martini glass and admired the shimmering ruby red of her cosmo before answering. “Can’t comment without more information.” She sipped. “We talking professional sports or what?”

    “All of them, preschool soccer players, high school rodeo cowboys, tennis players, Brett Farve, wrestlers, especially wrestlers, they sorta walk bow legged, some of them.” She drained her glass and looked for their waiter. “They all got that look, that walk,” Marcia paused. “Forget I said ‘walk’, different sports, different body types, different uniforms, so, different walks, but always a WALK. Right? But I’m not going to think about any of them.”

    “Uh, Marcia. . . .”

    “Yes?” She turned around in her chair. “You see him anyplace? I need another— oh, there he is. Yoo-hoo, Dexter, over here.”

    “I think his name is Devon. Marcia, I was trying to ask you—“

    “You need another? Dexter, another round, please.”

    “Marcia! What are you talking about? I thought you were going to tell me all about some new guy.”

    “What do you think I’m doing? Haven’t you been listening?”

    “I’m trying, really I am. Last I heard you’d discovered Studly Silver Singles or Gorgeous Gramps or something like that.” Teri ignored the giggles from the next table. “Guys guaranteed fit or fresh or fetching. That what you did? Went for an athlete?” Teri allowed herself a tiny burp.

    “That’s what I thought I was doing, what the site promised. After all, I didn’t lie about my athletic abilities.” Teri decided not to comment. “But time I saw him, walking, no, slouching into Stan’s, I knew Monday morning quarterbacking was the closest he’d ever got to football.” Teri tried not to laugh as Marcia continued. “No reflex action when I tossed him a roll, so no baseball or basketball. Started sweating like he couldn’t stand the pressure when I brought up the Thrilla in Manila. I’ll bet he wears golf shoes to the beach.” Marcia sighed.

    “Oh, Marcia, I’m so sorry this one didn’t work out.” Their drinks came. “Maybe next time—“

    “Nope, no more athletes. I’ve decided the older they all get, the better they all were.” She picked up her glass. “Maybe we should think about ordering some food.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Oh Reatha, how could you? Studly Silver Singles should have a copy right before tomorrow
      That wasn’t t the only pun, No reflex when I threw him a roll. A roll in what? Why of course the hay. Let me see how many more underlying sexual innuendo s you came up with. Golf shoes to the beach. Hnmmmm. Oh yeah he doesn’t want to get the balls of his feet wet. Think I better stop now. Before you come looking for with a fireplace poker

  5. MarieNicole

    The Runner’s Brain
    Am I good enough? Will I ever be good enough?

    thump-thump

    Why am I so scared? I’ve always been frightened. Oddly my family considers me the bravest. Do they even know me?

    thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump

    I feel alone. I’m stopped. I don’t dare. I simply just don’t dare do the things that I love to do. Why is that?

    thump-thump-thump

    I keep my dreams sheltered from my reality. They’re just dreams anyway. Nobody ever makes their dreams come true.

    thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump

    Am I? Good enough?

    thump-thump

    Who am I?

    thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump

    I am.

    thump

    Much more.

    thump-thump-thump

    Than my thoughts.

    thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump

    I can.

    thump-thump

    And will.

    thump

    Make my dreams a reality.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I believe with the positive messages, your dreams will become, or already are, a reality. I read the thumps both as footfalls and the beat of a strong heart. Well done.

  6. rlk67

    Art McCreary (his real name was not changed to protect privacy, nor would he want it to be) coached Junior High baseball for close to seven years. My best friend was on the team for two years, and never stopped talking about his mentor. “His motto was:’ If you can’t beat ’em, at least drive ’em crazy.’ He didn’t have much physical ability himself, but he was a whirlwind of a guy.”

    The written tests he gave were maddening. Terms had to be memorized and utilized correctly. And they had to be changed every year, of course. I remember some of the commands he used as my friend described some of his games afterward.

    “POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE!” he would scream at the center fielder. That meant throw home.

    “CAFE AU LAIT!” That meant slide into second.

    “MAGNA CARTA!” That meant throw a fast ball.

    “AWW…CRUMBS!” Translation: We’re losing again, and I want to punch the other coach.

    Art was good to his team. He promised them each a Mattel Electronic Football Game (circa 1977) if they knew all the terms. Everyone had one already, but they still studied hard.

    The players on the opposing teams hated Art and complained non-stop. “Coach, if that guy yells “TOODLES!” again, I’m gonna throw the ball at him!” Opposing coaches either cried, laughed, or let out deep sighs. Eventually, the complaints got to the higher-ups, and Art was summonsed.

    “Nowhere in the rules does it say…” Art insisted.

    “Please stop.”

    “NO.”

    And so life went on. One particular game went down to the wire. The winning run from his team was on second base.

    “CANARSIE STATION! 14TH STREET! 14TH STREET!” The opposing pitcher just glared and tried to crush the ball. Suddenly, the base-runner started to jump as if he were about to steal third. But ’14th street’, as everyone knew, meant a fake out. He quickly turned and ran back just as the pitcher threw to second. Distracted and a bit confused, the second baseman missed the ball and it went rolling to out in the field.

    Art went beserk and flailed wildly. “SALAMI ON RYE!! SALAMI ON RYE!! SALAMI ON RYYYYYYYEEEE!!!!” The baserunner took off and was making it home just as the ball was coming back in. Which would get there first?

    Art’s throat almost flew out of his mouth. “GIGGLEBERRY!!! GIGGLEBEEEEEEEERRRRYYYY!!!!!” The runner slid into home. It was close, but Art’s team won. The guys were ecstatic, and after putting Art on their shoulders, started chanting just about every term.

    “HAIRY-NOSED WOMBAT! OH, YEAH! TOCCATA IN D-MINOR! OH, YEAH! POTATO PEROGIE! OH, YEAH!”

    The other team ran off the field, grabbed, their stuff, and loaded their buses as fast as they could.

    True, Art didn’t make it to the championships, but he made the game much more interesting.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This was really funny for me because at work an eon ago I joined the company baseball team. At a party I made a mistake and grabbed a football from one of the guys. I motioned for him to run like the devil and I’d put the ball in hisr arrms..
      Forty yards later I threw it and it went some sixty yards and he couldn’t keep up with it

      God love it hey thought I was athletic and played some of the worst baseball they ever saw

      Lots of mumbling from me. This drew me back.and I really enjoyed it.

  7. Kerry Charlton

    WILLIAM [Bill } CHARLTON JR,

    There is no one I’d rather talk about then my older brother, Bill. Of course that means I’ve known him throughout my life and it was by no means a short time. About five years ago we were talking about old times together, especially our summers on the Jersey coast of Avalon. Suddenly he stopped dead in his track and looked at me with a puzzled look,

    “Why is it you always wanted to pick a fight with me?”

    “Me? It was you messing with me.”

    “Think about it Kerry?”

    “Okay, okay, I admit it. You wouldn’t take me with you all the time .”

    “Most of the time I did. You were a big stinker you know, weren’t you?”

    “I guess so, don’t tell anyone.”

    “You’re safe there, no one’s still alive, big stinker.”

    When Bill was around thirteen, we lived in Washington D.C. Dad worked for President Roosevelt, Bill started junior high and I was stuck in the third grade. Bill would start to fidget occasionally and rock back and forth and moan slightly. Dad kept yelling at him to stop but Bill was having small seizures and no one knew it. Dad took him to the best hospital in the city and after three days of exams, he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

    Bill’s form was called Petit-Mal or Small Sickness. Medications helped little and he’d have two or three attacks a day, lasting about two minutes. In school it was a nightmare of embarrassment. Doctors weren’t much help either, one saying they could operate on his brain and remove certain parts, they had reasoned was causing the sickness. We couldn’t fathom that at all, especially Bill.

    Flash forward three years, we had moved to Coral Gables, a small city next to Miami. By that time I was entering the sixth grade in school and Bill was a sophomore at Ponce de Leon High in Coral Gables. Luck seemed to turn a corner for my brother. He made friends easily, one of whom was already a member of the track team and a star runner of the low hurdles. The coach already knew about Bill’s epilepsy and was concerned about it until he researched the illness.

    Tom Pennycamp was the boy’s name and those of you who travel will probably know about a park called John Pennycamp State Park on Key Largo. Tom had established the park many years later and had it named for his father John. But back to my story. There was only one runner in south Florida besides Tom who was born to run hurdles. Bill ran almost as fast as Tom but not quite. It changed Bill drastically to run like the wind.

    They both went to state in Bill’s senior year. Well you probably guessed it by now. Tom finished first in state and my brother second. His epilepsy never left him alone for the next sixty years. He wasn’t supposed to have a driver’s license, and no one wanted to hire him, even with a degree in business. Bill joined my Father and they built many houses in Coral Gables and most of South Miami.

    To get a disease as unsocial as epilepsy at a young age was a real blow. There were times I’m sure an angel rode with him. Stopped at a light, he realized a seizure was upon him and tried to throw his keys out the window but wasn’t quick enough. The light turned green, he stepped on the gas and drove his car straight into the deep waterway in Coral Gables. The man driving behind him, stopped and dove in the deep water and pulled him out.

    Did he stop driving? He should have but didn’t. That was my brother for you. Just maybe he knows now, I wasn’t quite the stinker he thought I was.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, another lovely piece. One of your many writing strengths is the ability to capture a specific time and place. Then you draw the reader in to share that. This piece also gives me hope, maybe I can figure out how to write to this prompt.

      You know I always enjoy your mentions of South Florida places. The last time my father visited us we took him, and my mother, to Key Largo and the park. I was newly pregnant. He didn’t live to meet his first grandchild.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Teatha, it’s always a pleasure to read you and also all the comments you take the time to write. I will always miss South Florida as you do.

  8. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Hartman

    On the first day, no one knew what to expect of the giant man they’d only heard upperclassmen talk about, or had seen moving through the hallways with a jolly bounce in his step. Mr. Hartman was intimidating, if not because of his sheer size, then because of the volume of his voice. The nervous sophomores watched in awe as the man seemed to shout the syllabus for the Environmental Science class, pacing between tables.

    “Any questions?” he finally stopped and asked, taking off a pair of beat up, wire-frame glasses and throwing them a little too hard at his desk.

    One brave soul raised his hand carefully, as if a movement that was too quick might upset Mr. Hartman, like some kind of animal.

    “Yeah, big guy?” he asked, pointing a chubby finger at the student. As he did this, he tried to lean against the chalkboard, but underestimated how far away he was and almost fell on the ground. He quickly regained his balance and pretended nothing had happened. The class thought it best to also pretend nothing happened, but eventually, when watching this act for the thousandth time, they’d learn it was alright to laugh at.

    For a second the kid that raised his hand had to make sure he was who had actually been called on, since Hartman had already called three other students big guy in just the short amount of time the class had been going on.

    “Um. Why is it so cold in here? Isn’t it summer?” the kid asked. A few people chuckled at the question that was clearly not related to the class in the slightest.

    “Good question,” Hartman said happily, shutting up the few laughs, “I actually had a heat stroke in the middle of a class once, so they gave me the only air conditioner in the building. Good thing too,” he smiled and turned to show the back of his shirt, “because I’m a big dude and I sweat a lot.”

    No students dared to laugh at the sweat stains on Hartman’s back, even though he’d been the one that showed them off. He looked somewhat disappointed at this and pointed at another student with their hand raised.

    “What’s up big guy?”

    “Didn’t you coach the baseball team for Spring Hill Middle?”

    “Yes I did,” Hartman approached the student with a fake scowl on his face. You could tell it was fake because his constant smile still bled through as a tiny smirk, “are you wearing a Patriot sweater, do you play baseball for them?” Hartman was now far too close to the student. If there was really anything to be afraid of with Hartman, as students would eventually learn, it was that he had zero concept of personal space. When he talked to you, it would only take a slight movement to just be completely touching his face. It was bizarre more than anything, but this new student, unaware of that, was absolutely terrified.

    “Uh… yeah. I used to go to Patriot Middle School, and I played baseball for them,” he whimpered. A couple of students on the other side of the room couldn’t help but laugh.

    Hartman quickly stood straight up again and began walking away from the kid, his smile fully returning.

    “Well, then you get an F in my class. Might as well not even show up!”

    “R- really?” the kid with the Patriot sweater asked in disbelief. Hartman laughed a laugh that shook the entire room, some sort of call that erupted from his gut and magically was able to be even louder than the normal volume of his voice.

    “Why are you teaching an environmental class if you’re a physics teacher and a baseball coach?” some girl asked, quickly regretting the question.

    “Well, what’s that supposed to mean, sweetie?” The girl was as taken aback by the nickname as the boy’s were with big guy. Also like with big guy, every girl would be sweetie, or maybe even sweetheart, whether they wanted to be or not.

    “Guy like me can’t love the environment? Oh, that reminds me, we should probably get started with class.”

    This first day, like most classes, consisted of long lectures where Hartman talked a lot, and sadly, most of that talk was to himself, because students, once their initial fear of him subsided, would realize this was a good class to do homework for other classes, or play a game on your phone.

    But it would be some time until that initial fear really went away. Especially with how Hartman ended the first class, and spent the next.

    “Before you all run out of here, I just want to let you know, we’re going to be watching a documentary about global warming tomorrow, and I will definitely cry. A lot.”

    And sure enough, the next day, he did cry. A lot.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Very, very unusual to jerk me off my chair and throw me in the room with Big Guy. At my age I can’t afford to take many trips so don’t do it again. Seriously, this was hyp.notic

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