Dan Gable once said “After wrestling, everything else is easy.”
So, if it’s so hard, then why should a child choose to wrestle? Or, perhaps more pointedly, why would you want to encourage your son (or daughter) to wrestle?
For the same reasons that people of all ages and backgrounds choose to challenge themselves – be it through marathons, or CrossFit, or adventure sports -- to build self-confidence and to answer that one burning question: What am I really made of?
With wrestling, it’s not just about endurance or outwitting an opponent, it’s also about developing speed, strength, flexibility, and balance. . . along with quick, strategic thinking and most importantly, mental toughness. How’s that for challenging?
Success demands preparation which involves sacrifice. For example, it takes incredible self-discipline to eat healthy foods that provide the right fuel for training and competitions. “Wrestling shape” is an elite level of mental strength and cardio conditioning requiring months of intense preparation for minutes of match time. With wrestling, there are no short cuts. Sacrifice, discipline, and work ethic are every bit as important as athletic ability.
So, no doubt, wrestling is demanding. But the sport can also deliver immeasurable benefits to young people – traits and qualities built to last a lifetime.
Certainly, at first glance, the notion of recognition stands out. It feels great for any wrestler to win a hard fought victory against a worthy opponent, with a crowd watching. And there’s an undeniable comradery between teammates; a bond that is not easily explained or understood, unless or until you’ve experienced it firsthand.
Yet it goes far beyond recognition and comradery. Like building a muscle, all of a wrestler’s hard work, discipline and sacrifice quietly strengthens the mind. With a strong mind, comes the foundation of courage, confidence and a belief in one’s self -- those critical yet elusive traits that lead to better self-image and success.
That is perhaps the greatest pay-off from wrestling: that a young person will discover what it means and how it feels to be their best self – strong, capable, disciplined, resilient and focused. Values that help to drive success. And isn’t that what we all want for ourselves and, especially, for our children? We all want to feel confident about who we are. When we feel good about ourselves, then we are able to turn our attention to help others.
Yes, all of these life lessons and revelations which are slowly discovered on the mat and in the wrestling room can last a lifetime -- long after your wrestler’s final match.