That Moment

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December 16, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Let’s say your team just won a close dual meet on the road.

The coach wants to talk to you all before you get back on the bus.

The assistants hustle to make sure everyone is in the locker room at once.

You feel good because you won and your team won.  This is a bunch of guys who know how to handle themselves on the mat.  You’re all getting better.  You’re all helping each other.

The coach knows you’re maybe a year or two out from championship form as a group and he wants to pick things up.

If he had read some of John Wooden’s basketball coaching books, he’d know all about ‘the sandwich’ where you say something nice, something harsh, then something nice.

For example, he might say, “Your single looked good tonight, Johnny.  Let’s try and keep it on the mat next time.  Your win made the difference tonight.”

Or he might single out a guy who lost a squeaker, then talked to his parents in the stands afterward.

“What did you say to your parents Nelson?  Did you tell them you lost?  They knew that.  Did you want to share your loss with them, Nelson?  Listen up kid, no one likes a loser.  Losers go looking for sympathy.  Is that what you wanted?  Winners don’t need sympathy.  If you wrestle hard and lose, you don’t need sympathy even if they want to give it.  Do yourself a favor, Nelson.  Win your match, or at least wrestle hard. 

“Ask yourself this Nelson:  why are you on this team?  I don’t know why you don’t just quit.  Do you know why you don’t quit?  Don’t look around.  I’m still talking to you.  Do you feel like crying?  There’s no crying in this locker room.  The only tears are tears of joy for winning when you have no chance.  You had a chance tonight Nelson.  You know it.  They know it.  Figure it out in your head.”

You’ll hear variations on this theme from other coaches, teachers, parents, drill sergeants, bosses, family, and friends. 

They call it caring.

You call it something else.

The only way to turn down that sort of noise is by pushing yourself.  Make yourself better by doing the little things.

You’ve heard the best way to learn is by teaching others?  Then spend some extra time showing someone your tricks.

You’ve heard that winners rule the third period?  Then make sure you get there with the most.  Run until you feel the conditioning kick in.  Lift weights so you’ll be the strongest when you’re the most tired.

Other sports have luck and fluke built into them. 

A deflected pass drops into a Franco Harris’ hands and it’s the Immaculate Reception for the Steelers.  Luck or fluke?

At the end of last night’s Knicks and Celtics game, the Knicks were down by two with .4 seconds left.  Amare Stoudemire catches and shoots from beyond the arc and it goes in.  The Garden goes wild.  Movie director Spike Lee flies onto the court like he did in his youth.  It’s happy times until the replay shows time ran out before Amare let it fly.  Luck or fluke?

A pitcher fires his fast ball in there and the batter whacks it right back at his head.  The pitcher flinches and throws his hands up for protection and catches the ball with his eyes closed.  Fluke or luck?

Wrestlers don’t count on flukes or luck.  They guard against it.  They train, drill, lift, and run to make luck. 

They listen to their coach like Nelson did and dig in harder so they won’t have to hear it again.

Athletes who feel sorry for themselves have a special name.  Quitters. 

Athletes who never quit have a special name, too. 

They’re called wrestlers.

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