There’s a saying that goes something like this: “Adversity introduces you to yourself.” There’s profound truth in that, but in order to truly find out who you are by facing adversity, one must be faced with it repeatedly. The unique thing about wrestling is that it gives an ever-present dose of adversity. Every practice, every match, every new drill, every new skill, and every workout outside of the practice room introduces a kid to adversity in a way few other sports can. The physical and mental demand of the sport is endless, and it may be a reason why the sport will never be the most popular. Hard things are never the most popular, but hard things are always the most rewarding.
Nothing teaches you how to lose better than going up “mano a mano” with another human in a physical battle where there will always be one winner, and one loser, and at the end of the competition you shake hands and the winner’s hand is raised while yours isn’t. Oh, and this is all done in front of family, friends, and fans. There’s no escaping of the lesson of humility in the sport of wrestling. There’s no escaping blending in with the team or playing a good game while your team still loses and you get to feel like you still won because you still played good. No-no, in wrestling when you lose, you lose good, and that’s an important lesson to learn, and any good coach worth his/her salt will foster an environment where losing is a great environment for learning.
In a day in age where well intending parents tend to snowplow away all the difficult stuff of growing up so their kids have a well manicured trail to follow, this doesn’t provide enough opportunities, and yes they are opportunities, to rely on themselves to resolve conflict, problem solve, and to get a bloody nose and a fat lip and learn to keep on trucking. When’s the last time you thought to yourself, “man, life sure is easy!” You’ve probably never said that, and that’s because life isn’t easy, but kids will never learn to take a blow of adversity and respond favorably to it if the opportunities to learn that early in life don’t present themselves. Well guess what, wrestling gives that lesson in hyperdoses.
You may be thinking to yourself, especially if you’re a fan of a different winter sport, “my sport does this too.” I would likely be inclined to agree, with one caveat: but to what extent are these values taught/learned in that sport? (Keep in mind, all sports are great, this is just to highlight the uniqueness of wrestling)
Can you push yourself hard in hockey? Absolutely. Can you push yourself hard in basketball? Absolutely. Can you push yourself hard in winter baseball? Probably not LOL, and that’s coming from a former college baseball player and professional baseball strength coach. Few things push the human’s physical spirit to the max like the 6 minutes, or even the 3 minutes (when you’re really young) of a wrestling match. It’s nearly impossible to reproduce such a taxing sensation other than by doing it. I’m a pretty fit guy and have pushed myself to my limits on several occasions outside of the sport of wrestling, and it’s a walk in the park comparatively. I’ve been in the best shape of my life and walked back into the wrestling room to wrestle live with a partner or opponent in an old man’s tourney and my fitness got humbled real fast. There’s nothing quite like being absolutely jelly-legged, lungs gasping for air, eyes blurry, nostrils plugged with a blood soaked cotton swab, and on the verge of hurling knowing you still have another 2 minutes to battle. The thing is, your opponent likely feels the same way. Now you get introduced to yourself once again. How hard are you willing to push yourself?
Anyone who has ever wrestled or who had a kid who wrestled probably appreciates this now more than ever. Look, every parent is partial to their own kid and that’s natural. We should all, as parents, aim to be less biased, but the biases will still always be there. In all team sports, kids are subjectively judged on their talent, among other things, to win a spot on the team. This is inherently a good thing, until the politics of parents in sports gets involved. This is where youth and high school sports have truly gotten ugly in the last couple decades. It’s become all about winning and succeeding and if you aren’t on the field of play and getting your entitled playing time, then the immature rants begin. Back just 20 years ago, kids would participate in a sport despite not getting much, if any, playing on varsity, and get this…..they would participate in that sport all the way through high school still! Why? Because they loved the sport and just wanted to be part of it!
Here’s where wrestling really shines. In wrestling, there’s “wrestle-offs.” One wrestler challenges the other wrestler for the starting spot in the line-up. And this can be done repeatedly throughout the season. This encourages hard work, dedication, and commitment to the process, and of course, rids the sport of disgusting politics that are tarnishing other sports.
Let’s face it, some sports have a tendency towards a certain body type to be successful. Of course there are always exceptions, but you also know this to be true. Wrestling provides the opportunity for all sizes the opportunity to compete, but to also succeed. The tall and skinny kids can tie the muscular kids into knots, and the kid with the softer physique with good hips can put a humbling lesson on the muscle head. It’s a beautiful thing. Additionally, the weight class nature of the sport allows for smaller kids to compete at the highest of levels as well as the larger framed athletes. It always pains me to see a smaller framed kid that rides the pine in another sport that could be benefiting in a big way in the sport of wrestling.
If you’re a wrestler, you’re going to compete and you’re going to get tested at nearly every competition. There’s no “riding the pine” because coach has the best starting five on the court or ice in a big game. Whether you’re youth, JV, or Varsity, you’re going to line up against another opponent and get a chance to show what you’ve got.
Some may argue that wrestling isn’t a combat sport, but anyone who says so obviously hasn’t wrestled before. Wrestling doesn’t involve striking with fists and kicks; however, it fully involves the skill of combative moves and holds that subdue your opponent in a very physical, yet safe manner. It’s no wonder why the best fighters in the world in the UFC nearly always have a foundation of wrestling in their backgrounds. If you’re a parent, this may make you cringe, thinking to yourself, “I don’t want my kid to be a fighter.” Really? You don’t? Why is that? You mean to tell me that if your kid was faced with a physical altercation outside of sport that you wouldn’t want them to be able to defend themselves and perhaps even handle the situation? You wouldn’t want them to have the wherewithal to step into a situation where someone else was being bullied and they could come to someone else’s aid? Very few people will ever want to mess around with a wrestler, and that is a very good thing.
Look, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the reasons why your kid should wrestle. The above 8 reasons could also be titled the 8 intangible reasons your kid should wrestle, because that’s all we really touched on. Go ahead and ask any coach, who’s been around awhile, that if he/she could have a team full of kids who had a wrestler’s work ethic and mentality if they thought they could build a successful team.
That answer will tell you more about the sport than this article ever will.