February 12, 2010 by David Gillaspie
You paid your dues? You finished your project? Now comes the reward. Or do you start over with new dues?
Rewards come for the businessman or the union guy, but not for the wrestler. A football player hangs up his gear at the end of the year. The basketball team finishes weak or strong and moves on. Not the wrestler. Not the kid or coach with an open-ended schedule.
When is wrestling season over? Districts? Regionals? State? Nationals? Junior World or World? A national team? Olympic Training Center? Then it starts over again?
Tough schedule for a tough sport. Who does this?
Youth wrestlers are as important as anyone, maybe more, but look at a first year high school wrestler. If he or she finishes the season in one piece, they’ve paid their dues. They’ve paid extra if they asked for challenge matches each week. They may deserve a refund if they asked a coach or a frontline teammate to stay after practice for extra work.
First year guy had his arm barred and his nelson halfed like everyone else, but for him it’s the first time. He was shocked to learn his body could stretch so far in so many ways. The muscle aches and joint pain he lived with make him wonder if the season was worth it.
Listen kid, look at the guys in your school who make the paper each week, the football star, the basketball wonder. Look at them and know they couldn’t go through what you did all season long. If they could, they would. They can’t, so they make fun of wrestling. They make fun because they know their limits, and wrestling is way beyond their comfort zone.
How can you tell? Because wrestling doesn’t have a comfort zone. There’s no huddle for a breather, no substitution, no dropping back on defense or remaining disengaged while a play runs on the opposite side of the field or court. They only break wrestlers get is blood time, and you pay dues for that.
If you didn’t make the district team you still paid your dues. If you did made the team, then you’ll notice the heat turned up. Find guys who look like they’re on a mission. Watch them during matches, but watch them carefully in between. See how they prepare, how they warm up and warm down. Learn tricks from the guys who know them and use them yourself.
If you wrestle in a district with a powerhouse team, watch any of their guys. They are a powerhouse because their coaches have laid the foundation, also called youth wrestling.
A district title is a wonderful thing. Enjoy your time on the podium because you know before climbing up there that it’s not good enough yet. You are state meet material. That’s another podium you want to step up to. How do you get there if you’re the only one from your school to qualify? The same as anyone else, you wrestle.
You’ve paid your dues, now go make a difference. Your teammates watch to see what they can learn. If you are the only one from your school at state, your coaches may have issues. Big meets are reunions for coaches who don’t see one another regularly. They deserve some fun. But you’re not there for a reunion; you’re there to make a difference. You’ve paid the dues so far and you see more to pay.
Don’t take your eye off your next match. Don’t eat huge meals after weigh-ins if you don’t know your match schedule. Make sure a few people know your transportation needs in case your coach isn’t handy when you need to go home, or back to the motel, or just take a breather.
Give your opponents the best match you’ve got to give. That’s why you’re there.
The outcome of your season may depend on seeding, which end of the bracket you’re on, upsets, or you wrestling the tournament of a lifetime. Don’t look at anything beyond your control. It’s not about what happens after your next match, it’s about your next match. It’s about the guy who thinks they’ve paid their dues to face you.
You’ve paid all season. Your dislocated thumb paid, so you tape both hands. Your twisted knee paid, so you sleeve them both. You don’t think you’ve paid dues, you know it, and you’ve got the receipts. Make your next match stand for the reason you wrestle at all.
Now go collect your rewards. Make some memories. Wrestling sticks around because wrestlers always surprise themselves. They don’t know the dues they pay until they look around, and it’s not at the numbers on a scoreboard; it’s the faces of family and friends and teammates looking back in wonder that one of their own paid the dues of greatness.
So be that guy; be great.