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For the young Wrestler

FEATURE: Perspective for the Young Wrestler
12/7/2004
Ted Witulski/USA Wrestling

It’s wrestling season. For some young people, they already know about the feelings and the sounds of the sport. For others, it is their first time trying to make the commitment on the mat. Regardless if they are kids that have been there and done it before, or if they are kids who are just learning the ropes, they all have the possibility of failure in front of them.

Why risk it? And, how can either one avoid being defined by failure?

Every wrestler, regardless of experience, must recognize their reason for participating in the sport.

To ask young people why they wrestle, they’ll shower a coach with various reasons. Some truly love the sport. Others are being pushed along by proud parents. Others have friends that have convinced them to give it a try. Still, others have been cut by the basketball coach. Others are looking for a way in, to be part of a team.

It really doesn’t matter how a young person became a member of this team. What is important is that this season offers these young people meaning.

Beyond the coaches’ control initially is the reality that many of these young wrestlers will experience failure — failure that is narrowly defined. They will take to the mat in practice or competition and get savaged by an opponent. They will leave practice or the match with their head hung low, and their opponent feeling good. Essentially, they will allow their defeat to define themselves.

Too often, a young wrestler takes the loss to heart and rather than focusing on a distant light of deeper meaning where greatness is experienced only after surviving the pressure cooker of adversity. They call it quits.

Imagine, they’ve taken the hardest steps, where they said they were going to go out for the sport in the first place. And early in a season of what could be a young career, they have chosen to only see the six inches in front of their face — their early loss, their early adversity.

Young wrestlers that leave the team after experiencing failure in the beginning makes the ultimate mistake. They have allowed themselves to be defined only by failure.

They come to the sport for various reasons, but the biggest goal of a young person on a wrestling team should be to grab a greater meaning from the experience.

A lack of success quickly becomes an excuse for a young person.

“I’m no good at wrestling,” they’ll tell their coach as they hand in the gear.

While winning and losing is one way of defining yourself in the sport of wrestling, there is a litany of other more revealing characteristics about the sport that a young person must face.

“Am I really lacking the ability to commit?” should be the first question a young wrestler asks himself when they want to checkout early.

“Will I fold the next time adversity comes my way?” is another question a young wrestler on the brink should examine.

“Have I truly made the sacrifices necessary to judge whether or not I can succeed in the sport of wrestling?” is another question.

Very often, a young person finds it easier to ignore the deeper meaning in the sport of wrestling. They will quickly become enamored by the false meanings that other pursuits offer.

Just hanging out with friends or mastering another video game may seem like they have meaning to a young person. But do they really?

Young wrestlers this season, at some point will question their choice to take to the mats. And when the disappointment of loss eclipses the deeper meaning of self that the sport of wrestling is meant to reveal, then a young person will likely make the wrong choice.

The coach will teach you techniques. He’ll push your muscles and mind to its limit. But don’t make the mistake of quickly defining yourself by failure. A deeper meaning is out on the mats for any young wrestler to find. Hopefully they will ask themselves the right questions along the way so the start of their first season is just the point in a long and enlightening career.