July 4, 2011 by David Gillaspie
A staffer in the middle school office asked the wrestling coach if he had a minute.
“There’s a boy who could use some kind words.”
The coach listened, then asked, “What’s the problem?”
“I can’t say due to confidentiality, but if you’d say a few things it might help.”
The coach listened and said, “Sure.”
“I’ll get him out of class.”
“What will we be talking about?”
“Confidentiality prohibits any disclosure, but he could use your help.”
Maybe you’re thinking a volunteer wrestling coach shouldn’t be talking to troubled youth, that they have school counselor’s for such occasions, and you’d be right.
Except the office lady was a wrestling mom and she knew the coach, knew the coach’s sons. Wrestling would cover the bases. She also told the school counselor what she was doing.
An eighth grader walked into the office. The wrestling mom introduced him to the coach. Before she could finish, he smiled and finished what she was saying for her.
“Let’s step outside,” the coach told the kid.
Since all the groundwork and backstory was laid, the conversation could start.
The assistant wrestling coach was part of the three people standing near the office before the last bell rang.
“You a wrestler?” the coach asked.
“I’ve wrestled some,” the kid said.
“School or club?”
“How’d it go?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you wrestling in high school? You going out for the team next year?”
The kid looked like he wanted to say more.
“You and wrestling. You’re going to wrestle in high school. That’s what you just said. You will wrestle in high school. I’ve heard a lot of kids say that and not wrestle in high school. I know what that sounds like. When you said it, it sounded like you meant it.”
“So, you’re going to wrestle in high school next year.”
The kid gave a look like he’s surrounded by idiots and started slow talking.
“Yes, I am going to wrestle in high school.”
The coaches smiled.
“Okay, kid, here’s the deal. Now we all know what we’re talking about, right? You’re going to wrestle in high school. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting your time. Now you’re going to wrestle in high school. What’s that called? Let’s call it a focus.”
“A focus,” said the assistant coach.
“Focus,” the kid said.
“To focus on something takes concentration, okay? And when you concentrate, you get distractions. We still all together on this? Good. There’s two things that distract kids from doing sports they’re good at, and just from the looks of you, you don’t look like a wimp. You’re not a wimp, are you?”
The school bell rang.
“Not a wimp.”
“What are the two biggest distractions for kids who want to do sports in high school, especially a sport as hard as wrestling? Do you know?”
The kid had the look of flight, like there’s a bus to catch, and there probably was.
“I don’t know.”
“Two thing take you down, kid. One is grades. If you don’t go to school and pull decent grades, you don’t get to wrestle. If you do something to get yourself kicked out of school, you don’t get to wrestle. That’s the second thing, behavior. You know what behavior is, right?”
The coach cut him off, “It’s when you do something that’s not about wrestling that keeps you from wrestling. Wrestling sets a high bar, son. You’ve got to reach for it. The better you get, the higher it gets. It’s a high standard. Do you know what high standards are?”
“Like getting an A.”
“Just like getting an A. It’s hard to be a lowlife and reach for high standards. You know what a lowlife is?”
“Isn’t it when…”
“It’s not you, that’s all you need to know, wrestler. Don’t think about it too hard. Try for good grades, and behave yourself at home and here in school. Can you do that? If you can, then you’ll get to wrestle, then you’ll see how high your own standards are.”
“That’s what I want to do.”
“Start, then. Start now. Do your homework and treat others right. Do someone a favor. Make a difference for someone else. Can you do that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you can make a difference to someone else. Now you know.”
By David Gillaspie