I love driving my son to wrestling practice. The drive provides about 10 minutes of coaching. Often the same topics are covered, today was different.
I asked Alec, “What are we going to do today in practice?” Alec’s response was automatic: Listen and Pay Attention. Listening and paying attention are his two biggest goals for each day at school. It is really hard to get into trouble, especially at school, when this is your focus. As our conversation continues, we also cover the following topics:
- Do the work
- Keep your head up
- Have a good attitude
- Have fun
Listen and Pay Attention
Obviously this applies to the coach. How else are you going to learn, but from your coach/mentor/teacher? As I attend these practices, I am amazed at the patience of the coaches. They are trying to turn these kids, from 5-11 years old, into wrestlers. Very few of the children have the ability to sit and listen to the instruction. Very few have the ability to just sit still. The ones listening are able to take in so much more of the content. At this stage, it just might make the difference in each child’s success.
You need to listen and pay attention to your opponent, as well. This means using more than just your ears. You need to read him. How is he standing? Does he have patterns that can be recognized and exploited? What is his body language? Is he having a good day or even a good attitude? Is he cautious or careless? Does he listen and pay attention?
This is a lot of information for a five year old to grasp. But these lessons are not just for wrestling, they are lessons he can utilize throughout his life. He will not be five forever.
Do the Work
When it comes to the drills and the exercises, we have to do the work. What Alec is lacking in experience, he is making up through hard work. It is not easy. The attention span and work ethic of these youngsters is sporadic at best. Trying to keep them drilling the whole time is a chore. Continuing to do push-ups, when the others are not. is a task easily accomplished.
There is a deep principle here, one of fortitude and determination. How do you keep going, even when you are the only one? How do you keep pushing, even when you do not feel like it? Discipline. It is not something that is inherited. It is forged when no one else is looking. It is developed when you keep working despite your feelings. This is discipline. This is doing the work. Consistent behaviors equal consistent results.
Keep Your Head Up
Drop your head in wrestling, and you give your opponent an advantage. You will not be able to see what is happening. You won’t be able to react to what your opponent is doing. Drop your head, and you allow yourself to be controlled by another.
This is another lesson we have been working on with Alec. He has a tendency to drop his head when he hears something he doesn’t want to hear. He drops his head when he doesn’t get his way. It used to be a minor annoyance. In time, my wife and I would get frustrated with this small act. Now, it is a lesson.You will never get what you truly desire by dropping your head. You cannot continue to fight from this submissive position. You cannot maintain control when your head is down.
This is something I started working on several years ago and continue to work on today. When I shake hands with another, I ensure I am making eye contact. I view it as a matter of respect. By looking away with eyes averted, I feel like I am not giving the respect due to the other person.
I do this also when I am running. I used to wave at motorists in my neighborhood but not make eye contact. In my mind I was thinking, “ Yeah I’m running. It’s tough. I can’t focus on you. I gotta keep my eyes straight ahead.” Maybe it is something the Army taught me. Eyes forward. This is not a joy run. We are out here doing work. This might be why it took me another 15 years after the Army to enjoy running. Now when a car passes by, I wave and try to keep eye contact. Maybe I am trying to send a message, “I am out here getting after it, and I am enjoying it. Why don’t you join me next time?”
Have a Good Attitude
When Alec’s attitude changes, it is very noticeable. This goes along with keeping his head up. Even more so when it comes to doing the work. On occasion, there are mini challenges where the winner will watch the loser do push-ups. In the beginning, he would get upset because he got rolled over and as result would be the one pushing. He would want to get up, but he knew he had to do the work. Now that he is winning more challenges, he is doing the push-ups with the boy he just beat.
I love to watch people who genuinely have a good attitude. It is truly hard to hold a grudge against them. Their attitude is infectious. Their attitude inspires me to do better. Adversity is coming for all us. Our ability to handle it will determine the outcome. I’m reminded of the quote, “Was it a bad day, or was it a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?” – unknown. I know I have been guilty of it. One little insignificant thing, that won’t make a difference in the long run, can set me off in the wrong direction. If I am not self-aware, my day can be ruined. And for what? Whatever it was, probably wasn’t important.
When I asked Alec what else we need to do, he responded with, “have fun.” It might be something I tend to forget, but the concept is not lost with him. We are trying to accomplish many things with wrestling. But what it is all worth, if we are not having fun? I’m so happy that Alec did not lose sight of this fact. He is not being forced to wrestle. He is doing it, because he wants to. If it is not fun, then there is very little value in doing it.
There are many ways to have fun wrestling. He can go out there and play around. Several kids are doing that at every practice. Those behaviors have consequences. Don’t do the work, and you struggle. Don’t do the drills, and another kid is going to wipe the mat with you.
To really have fun wrestling, you have to be competitive. You have to win. In order to win, you have to do the work. Some are naturally talented and can have some success solely on talent. The rest of us close the gap through hard work. In the event, you are naturally talented and put in the work, you will be nearly unstoppable. Elite.