here is the Merriam-Webster definition of “athlete”: a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength.
While this definition includes a good number of people beyond those competing in the Olympics, it does not define the inclination and abilities of everybody.
As trainers, we should meet people where they are and guide them to where they want to go. For some, that can be athletic training for the Merriam-Webster definition of an athlete, for others is can be training for the inner athlete who wants to enhance their physical well-being through movement.
You have to define “athlete” and by define I mean by your clients goals and physical capabilities.
You have take into account specific motor abilities. What is your client able and not able to do?
Train your clients smart and performing functional exercises that will enhance their performance or draw them closer to their goals.
I believe everyone should train like an athlete to their own ability. As everyone needs to move and continue to be active. This doesn’t mean that their training program will look anything like a true athlete but it will be more functional and prepare their body for activity.
Humans from the dawn of their existence on this planet were designed to be athletes. Evading predators, hunting for food, war and migration are part of our DNA. Our bodies are machines designed to withstand the cruelty of mother nature and the challenges this planet has to offer. Despite what we have become (more lazy and overweight), all humans have the ability to train like athletes. So, to answer your question, yes. Not everyone needs to be trained at the same level as an elite athlete, but their training must be designed according to their fitness and health goals, so they can be more functional and efficient at what they do.