What Wrestling Has Taught Me - Volume 1
Some who view the following may scratch their heads at certain parts. That’s ok, everyone’s journey shows different signs on the road.
What Wrestling Has Taught Me – (Volume 1)
If this was to be a truly honest assessment, a simple prose-laden essay wouldn’t quite cover it. No, this subject area would actually require an entire dissertation, if not a novel. But in the wake of witnessing this year’s Olympic Trials, I feel somewhat inspired to at least give a compressed list of what exactly the sport of wrestling has taught (and still teaches) me.
You will be put on your back
That is ok. What is not, however, is enjoying the view of the lights on the ceiling. It doesn’t matter how good you feel you are at something, anything, you will be disappointed. This disappointment can arise from various circumstances. Think of any cliché list that first pops into your head. But when you find yourself seemingly down, you have to know that is just part of the flow. There will definitely be an opportunity for you to turn things around, but you have to be willing to fight for it, which brings me to the next point…
Nothing is easy
And if it comes too easily, you will eventually lose your grasp of what is important. The part of wrestling that makes it so special is the forced learning of “how to fight for something.” It makes little difference what the actual “goal” is, because no matter what it is, you will have to earn it. There are not many “gimmes” or hand-outs in wrestling, and even fewer in everyday life. If you want something, be ready to work towards it. Alex Steibling, a former wrestler and MMA fighter from Indiana, once told me “the struggle is glory.” I have yet to find other words as appropriate or accurate.
Discipline is the backbone to participation
In wrestling, grueling workouts, weight-cutting, and constant, if not perpetual practice are virtually obligatory. This means sacrifice. Sacrificing time others spend in different ways in order just so you can participate adequately. Some might substitute the word participate with compete, but I purposely don’t. Competition, in its most basic form, implies to battle for the sole purpose of serving the ego. Participation, on the other hand, encompasses the entire spectrum, as one who participates clearly does so with the intention of enjoying the experience. While wrestling, at any level, is perhaps the most competitive sport you will find, I find that many athletes fool themselves into thinking they are doing it for glory that fades rather than for the true love of “just being there”, as if that wasn’t enough. But indeed it is, because if it weren’t, most would not subject themselves to the very sacrifices the sport encourages.
Discipline comes in as the source of focus. Understanding why and what you are in this for. Ignoring distractions. Nothing positive comes from diverting your attention away from what matters to you. Make no mistake about it – you can find distractions everywhere, just like how you can find a million excuses not to do something.
Pain is temporary
Physical pain is temporary, and emotional scars over interpreted defeats are even more so. How, you ask, when there are matches you’ve lost you wish you could have back? Because you have to move on; there will always be another match. It might not take place on a mat, but you will have them, plenty of them, in fact. Life is training. You needn’t worry about how to “learn to deal with defeat”, because you will have plenty of chances to do so. So you lost in the finals of a tournament that meant a lot to you? Yeah, it sucks. But you were there.
I love how these supposed hardened athletes feel that there is “no such thing as second place.” In a way, they’re right – there isn’t. What you see is at best, a muddled yet illusory way of thinking. These standards exist from expectation, and expectation comes from ego. You can let these things pass once you understand they are not a definition. Trust me, people might remember what you have accomplished, but they will adore who you actually are. And if that fails to currently satisfy you, I wouldn’t fret – you will have another match to learn it all over again. And again. Life, if anything, is a series of matches that never ends.
Passion is the fire that burns brightest
Anyone who knows me, at least from an athletic standpoint, is perhaps tired of hearing (or reading) me use the word “passion.” But I will not relent, as it is the single-most important component you will find in anything worth engaging in. Because without it, you are only “half-there.” You witness this best in wrestling whenever you catch two former competitors sweating it out on an empty mat in an even emptier room. Why are they there? Is it just because wrestling is the ultimate form of physical fitness? Maybe. But they are also there because it is what they love to do, and it doesn’t matter where and with whom they are wrestling with.
When you have true, honest-to-goodness passion for something, you will always find success. It is as inevitable as the sunrise. You may think you love something this way, but first ask yourself an important question: is there somewhere else you’d rather be? Because if your answer is anything but “yes”, this is not passion, it is something else. If you feel you have to put in extra hours just to be ahead of the next guy, that is an ego problem we all deal with, but it isn’t passion. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve, but once you find that there are extenuating reasons for you doing so, this activity of yours will wind up being a temporary part of your life.