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It’s Not About You

It’s not about you. That’s right, this sport is not about you. For the vast majority of competitors who have committed to the sport of wrestling, there will always be someone better or someone who has simply accomplished more. There will always be phenoms on the rise, other wrestlers who obtain the focus and attention of spectators around the country. However, the fact that it’s not about you is not a suggestion to forgo wrestling glory. It’s not a plea to stifle your passion and drive for greatness. If anything, it’s meant to release you. For once your mind is freed from the belief that wrestling is about you, that it’s merely a resource for your own grandeur and self-fulfillment, only then can you really appreciate what it is you are engaging.

I can’t begin to tell you how often I have heard of wrestling legends coming home after obtaining the pinnacles of our sport, and discovering that the accomplishment and subsequent fulfillment is fleeting.  Rather than experiencing lasting contentment, they desire more. And this is different than the desire to compete, bolstered by a growing passion for the sport. It’s instead more in tune with initiating another campaign of self-fulfillment. It becomes a mission to feed their self-worth. Just the other day I read a piece by our current wrestling star, Jordan Burroughs, in which he describes his own “coming home” following his achievement of Olympic gold. He hung up his Olympic gold medal, and thought, There’s got to be more than this. But instead of allowing the passing satisfaction to cause him to begin another pursuit of gold medals via a campaign of self-fulfillment, Burroughs used the experience as a catalyst enabling him to take more seriously his spiritual convictions and gain a new perspective on the sport. As a result, he is still chasing gold medals and striving to be the best, but he does so with the understanding that wrestling is not about him. Of course one’s spirituality is not necessarily the only avenue. There are obviously other avenues that can be taken. Truth be told, it’s a simple reorientation of the mind as it regards one’s involvement in the sport. You are not the center of the universe.

So if wrestling is not about you, then who is it about? Or better yet, what is it? The answer is simple. Wrestling is a gift. Wrestling is something to grow in. It’s something which provides the opportunity to experience real, tangible struggle, to test your body and push it to the limits. It encourages goal-setting and dedication to the task. It offers the ability to grasp what it feels like to succeed as well as fail – both of which are important in terms of developing as a person of wisdom and character. But most of all, wrestling is something to enjoy! That’s right. Wrestling is something to embrace with joy and passion. It was never meant to serve as a measuring stick of self-worth or a resource to obtain lifelong pleasure. Have many people gained considerable pleasure from what they’ve accomplished in the sport? Absolutely! But wrestling is bigger than them and their accomplishments. It doesn’t begin and end with Dan Gable or John Smith or Jordan Burroughs. Wrestling is a gift which offers an unparalleled journey. Quite frankly, to wrestle is to be human. Struggle is a part of the human predicament in all its varying degrees and faces. And in the midst of struggle, we can experience overcoming it and enjoy moments of triumph.

So instead of approaching the sport with the simple mindset of what you can gain in terms of accolades, perhaps a better approach would be…what can you gain in terms of the journey in striving for such accolades? The truth is that there will come a time when you can no longer strap on a pair of wrestling shoes for competition. Time passes, opportunities fade, and bodies decline; and once you’ve reached the end, you can’t go back. Set aside your pride and simply enjoy each moment along the way. Because I promise you, when your time training and competing has reached a close, you’ll wish you could do it all over again. As much as you may have hated the pain and fatigue your body experienced in those long practices, you’ll wish you could transport yourself back into that wrestling room – tired, sweating, body aching, and legs and arms burning. I know this because I’m a part of the group of former wrestlers who, while competing, never saw the sport for what it is. I thought it was simply about me and what I could do. As a result, I never enjoyed the gift. I learned from it, for sure; but in the midst of competing, and with myself on the pedestal, I merely tried to extract whatever I could from the sport. When I succeeded, I drained whatever I could out of the fleeting satisfaction available. And when I failed, I grew hatred for the sport I had dedicated my life to.

Wrestling is not about you. Life is short; and a wrestling career even shorter. Enjoy it while you can.

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