Emperor’s Log #24: If Possible, You Can Do It

I know my son is only nine. And maybe he is a little too young for the lectures and consistent push to become better. But I take the responsibility as a father very serious. If I don’t push him now, who will? If he doesn’t learn these lessons early in life, will he be like me and learn them way too late? Looking back, I wish I had someone to push me when I was his age. I wish there was someone that explained to me the why’s and the reasoning. Mostly, I remember the “do this” and more often “don’t do that” commands. And though those rules helped, the logic behind them would have been of far greater benefit.

It was another sub-par wrestling practice. Alec went through the drills half-heartedly. He was distracted, emotionally uninvested, and lacking a positive energy. It was every coach’s frustration. When it came down to the actual wrestling at the end of the session, my bigger, stronger, and fitter son lost every time. EVERY TIME! He was frustrated and knew another lecture was coming. What did we talk about?

Everything Matters.

The drills, the practices, what one eats, drinks, reads, and watches matter. The little things that seem unimportant—they matter. How we do the little things in life will ultimately determine how we do the big things. When Alec tells me that he wants to be a professional soccer player when he grows up, he is basically telling me that he wants to be in the top .001% of soccer players in the world. Well, that is elite, and elite players don’t practice half-heartedly, regardless of the sport.

One sport helps the other.

Wrestling and soccer are on the opposite ends of the sporting spectrum. Since these are the two sports Alec plays, we need to find the commonality between them. How can one improve the performance of the other?

A great wrestler needs to be in peak physical condition. There needs to be mental toughness, strength, and the ability to adapt. With hundreds of possible moves that are only applicable in certain situations, we went over the need for practice. Practice goes beyond the actual scheduled days. We must be able to drill on our own. We must become students of the game. The discipline and attentiveness that we develop in wrestling will make us better soccer players.

Soccer, on the other hand, is a team sport that requires speed, endurance, and great communication skills. The great players are both followers and leaders. They can coach as well as play. These are also great skills for a wrestler.

As individual as a sport as wrestling is, it is still a team sport. The team is not only hoping for great individual performance, but they are also hoping for the team’s overall success. We are only as good as those around us. Our teammates elevate us to greatness, we elevate them.

The brains behind it all.

Success in both sports requires some serious mental processing power. Strategy, split-second decision making, and understanding all the little nuances is not a talent we are given at birth. It is developed. To become a master at anything, we must first become students. The more we read, study, and learn, the better prepared we are for whatever life throws at us whether on the soccer pitch, on the wrestling mat, or in the board room. What is between the ears is just as important as our bones and muscles.

Wanting to reach the elite level at anything is a huge endeavor. He wants it. Can he do it?

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

Marcus Aurelius

It is a tall order. Some would say it is impossible. But, if it is humanly possible, then yes, he can do it too.

And before someone thinks I am some evil tyrant of a father, let me explain. I am not trying to pursue my athletic dreams through him. Alec and I are in this together. If he wants to be out there, then all I want for him is to give his best. When he is no longer wanting to compete or no longer enjoying it, he can move on to other more enjoyable pursuits. I want him to be happy. I want him to have fun. But I also want to prepare him to meet the challenges of an uncertain future.

Obstacles in Life

There was a change in Thursday’s practice schedule. It was a little chaotic, and Alec didn’t have a chance to warm-up. This was my fault. I should have had him do it on his own or work a few minutes with the other class.

Right away, I could tell something was off. So far this season, Alec has had phenomenal practices. He has been attentive to the lectures and has given 100% in the drills. I have been happy with his progress. But at this practice, that wasn’t the case. He was distracted during the lectures which made his drill practice subpar. And then when it was time to wrestle, he had no confidence and was beaten by everyone he went against. What was going on?

After every practice, Alec and I have an After-Action Review (AAR). The one after this practice didn’t go well. I highlighted all the things he did wrong. Usually, I start with all the positives and then proceed to the areas he can work on. But in this case, it was all negative. As his athletic manager, I dropped the ball and didn’t consider the underlying factors. Later that night, we talked about what could have been better. We both agreed this was a one-off event, and we would do our best to learn from it and then move on. We also talked about why he was wrestling and its real-world applications.

The Obvious

The obvious application is how to handle a physical confrontation with another person. Wrestling is a great preventative measure against bullies. Bullies do not prefer to prey on a superior target. It does not enhance their reputations if they cannot defeat their opponent. Therefore, the bully looks to target a victim that is deemed mentally and/or physically weaker. A strong capable body and mind is one’s best defense against the bully.

In Relation to Math

As a part of our conversation, we discussed math. Mathematicians must be able to solve the problem in front of them. These problems range in complexity. Some problems are seen often. Once we understand the steps to solve them,  the problems become easier. But other problems are more complex and require more time and effort. Fortunately, most problems have a solution.

The wrestler’s problem is the opponent. The skillset, speed, and strength of the opponent determines the complexity. And like math, there is usually an available solution. The winner of the match is the one who discovers the solution the quickest.

In NOT Giving Up

Wrestling is one of the great sports that effectively taxes the mind and body. Enough pain and frustration will cause the faint of heart to throw in the towel. For the wrestler, the key to victory lies in overcoming the desire to give up. After all, the last one standing gets the crown.

Alec may not participate in the sport of wrestling his whole life. Yet, he will be wrestling throughout his lifetime. He is going to face situations where quitting will be an available option. Whether it is frustration with friends and family, co-workers and supervisors, or kings and countries, he will have to navigate seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What he does now will develop him to meet those future challenges head-on.

The real obstacles in life lie in the heart of man.

Bertrand Russell

The real beauty of wrestling is that it develops confidence and courage. To show hesitation is to show a lack of both. Currently, Alec has neither as a wrestler. He will get there, but he isn’t there yet. My job as his “manager” is to get him there. Of course, I want him to win, but winning at this stage is less important than his journey to excellence. Time under tension is one the best ways to develop muscles. Time under tension (experience) on the mat is going build both his confidence and courage. It is going to enable him to overcome the obstacles he is facing now and the future real obstacles he is going to face in life.

Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.

Epictetus

The Big 3 to Get the Gold

In the world of wrestling, Dan Gable is one of the most decorated athletes and coaches of all time. As a High School wrestler, his record was 64-0. On the collegiate level, his record was 117-1. And in the 1972 Olympics, he won a gold medal without even conceding one point. His coaching career wasn’t that bad either, leading his team to 15 National Team Titles.

Gold medals aren’t made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination and a hard-to-fine alloy called guts. –Dan Gable

To be a gold medalist in your life’s pursuits, take a close look at the above quote. How do you do it?

  1. Sweat it out. In other words, it takes a lot of work. Hard work. If you are not willing to do the hard work, then why are you even bothering?
  2. Dogged determination. Know where you want to go and don’t quit until you get there. If you are not willing to go the distance, maybe it is best if you do something else.
  3. You need the courage to keep going when it gets tough. You even need it when times get easy and you lose the drive to keep pressing forward into the unknown. You don’t get guts overnight. Like a muscle, you build it up.

Wrestling. A great metaphor for the individual wanting to push the boundaries on what is possible. The battle is being fought not only in the body, but in the mind and in the heart. To be a champion, to win the gold, you need to get out on the mat that life has put before you. Sweat. Determination. Guts. It is time to roll.