Monday, January 7, 2013

Grappling and growing

My oldest son was not an athletic child.  Growing up in Manhattan, he was an urban street kid and possessed a dexterous rather than physical prowess.  This manifested itself in highly individualist forms: yo-yoing, card tricks and magic.  Brains over brawn stuff.

When we moved to "the country," these unique skills gained him instant visibility with his new peers and helped him to forge new connections.  They didn't alter the reality, however, that his new friends were much more interested in sports than sleight-of-hand.  He had a decision to make.

So he chose to wrestle.  Not an easy sport to jump into, given that many of his teammates (and competitors) had been in programs (who knew?) since grade school. He spent his first year getting beaten pretty badly, which for him was a singular and disorienting experience; he had no prior experience on which to mitigate the helplessness he felt.  It was not just the losing, he said, but more so being unable to figure out how to stop losing. He couldn't just think his way out of it and was frustrated about not being able to apply what he was learning in actual competition.

Fast forward a year:  he has as many wins as losses; placed 2nd in a 12-team tournament over the holiday, and last week pinned a more experienced opponent in less than a minute on what his coach called, "a beautifully executed move."

He prevailed because had committed himself to improving.  He:
  • Made a decision and stuck with it.  He wanted to quit many times.  Losing was painful, both physically and psychically, but he wanted to improve, as well as prove, himself.
  • Actively sought out ways to improve.  He enrolled in a wrestling camp and studied the sport to build a better understanding of strategy and technique. He gained both knowledge and experience.
  • Listened to his coaches and practiced what he learned.  Several of his teammates, "just show up," to practice, he says.  They don't put in the work, or apply what they are being taught.  He sees that they are not progressing the way he is.  And that they stand apart from those who work at it.
  • Focused on his strengths.  He came to understand what would work for him and what would not, and how to leverage his skills and ability to increase his potential for success.
About his progress, he said:  "I go into a match knowing, rather than thinking.  I have some strategies already figured out and I look for the opportunity to use them, rather than reacting to what the other guy may be doing.  I feel much more in control, and even if I lose, I end up learning what I can do better next time."

Wise words for one so young, but as Seneca said: "No man was ever wise by chance."


Daniel G. Alcorn said...

Great words to start my week. It's inspiring to read of a young man becoming a wise man.

Gail said...

Great advice from a young man. And we're never too old to follow it!