When JT took up the sport of wrestling in the 8th grade, I had some misgivings. My associations with the sport were largely stereotypical, and, like most stereotypes, these weren’t positive. I thought of wrestlers as grunting beasts. I wasn’t interested in that path for my son.
But I indulged JT’s 8th grade choice to try the sport because our school’s wrestling coach is one of the finest human beings I know, a strong man with a kind heart, incredible patience for kids, and a terrific sense of humor. JT could do worse than learn some lessons from Coach L, and so I supported his choice to wrestle.
Two years later, he’s begun his third season of wrestling under the care of Coach L. I’ve had to acknowledge that my stereotypical view of the sport was wrong. There is still some grunting, of course, but the sport is far more than that for my son and his teammates. It’s a lesson in strength, perseverance, and preparation. Despite the fact that an individual wrestler is alone on the mat for the contest, the team element of preparation for those matches is incredibly powerful. The boys work hard together and are proud of one another for facing the challenges of the sport. Last season, JT’s proudest moment wasn’t a victory of his own, it was the victory of a teammate who started the season barely able to complete 10 push ups. That’s not a bad way for a 15 year old to see the world.
Wrestling has taught JT many things. He’s learned the power of a team to support an individual venture. He’s learned that preparation and resolve are skills that pay off in a myriad of ways when it comes time to persevere. He’s become both physically stronger and more emotionally durable, thanks to a sense of self that he’s learned as he prepares to face a match on the mat. When I watch him wrestle, I can see from his face that he’s up to the challenge. So I haven’t yet screamed, “get off my son,” while he’s engaged in a match, a victory of my own.
We’ll have to hope that I can continue to demonstrate this self-restraint as the 2015-2016 season unfolds. As for the boy, well, he’s learned some important lessons about strength and endurance, about being a teammate. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season’s lessons.