I have been spending a lot of time around wrestlers recently. After years of training in martial arts, my eldest has joined the high school wrestling team and is loving every moment of it. It is the perfect sport for him to be quite frank. His individual performance directly helps a team goal. All he has to do is be better than the person on the mat opposing him. Take care of your business and the team benefits. Where my son is the center of my attention, some of the other wrestlers really captured me.
Autistic, Down Syndrome, Dwarfism, underdeveloped legs and partially function arms
Those are just a few of the challenges I have seen kids walk on to the mat with. Kids who live their lives at a ‘disadvantage’ to all of those ‘regular’ kids, stepping on to a foam covered battle field to see who can best who over the next 6 minutes. The kid on the right above could not straighten his left arm or expand his left hand but he battled every step of the way. And you know what??
More times than not, I have seen them win!!
I absolutely love it. These boys becoming men adapt their wrestling style to make the most of what they have rather than what they don’t. In just the last 7 days, I watched a sophomore who was born with Dwarfism perform ankle picks to perfection. His lack of height was his advantage because no one could get low enough to stop his shot.
I have watched in awe as a boy whose knees were nearly locked in place immediately drop to his hands and move with the agility and quickness of a spider monkey. Then once he was able to get his opponent to the mat, completely smother them with his upper body strength. You see, his legs have very little muscle tone but his upper body is ripped. Once he got you down, he kept you down.
I have witnessed autistic teens who struggled to sit in the stands before their next match walk onto the mat and not only win the match but win the whole tournament (see below).
You could literally see the switch turn on in his head as his feet hit the mat. This was familiar ground. In his mind, this was where he wanted and was meant to be. And it was beautiful to watch.
Just as powerful as watching these young men compete was watching those around them.
Their Teammates – All of these boys were from different schools but all of their teammates supported them unconditionally. When they walked on the mat, their entire teams stopped whatever they were doing an paid attention. It was must watch viewing and everyone was centered. These boys were more than a ‘part’ of the team, they were the center of it.
The Spectators – It did not take long for the spectators to notice (heck, I obviously did). When you have 7-14 mats running all at one time, it is easy to lose track of who is where. When these young men were on the mat, everyone knew and everyone cheered and clapped. Regardless of the match outcome.
The Opponents – There was no taking it easy on these guys. They were there to win and expected their opponent to show up to do the same. The boys they faced gave them everything they could handle. Just what they deserved
But this shouldn’t be a surprise!!
Wrestling has always supported being your best. The training is grueling to put it mildly. Bodies are broken and rebuilt and those who are the best wrestlers are the ones who are the strongest mentally, not necessarily physically. So what can we take from these boy’s example?
- Focus on what you do have not what you don’t.
- It is not about what the other guy can do, it is about what you can do.
- Believe it and you can do it.
- If someone is willing to put themselves out there, support them unconditionally.
These boys focused on their strengths and capabilities, not their limitations. The people around them supported them unconditionally and they proved successful. More on all of those points later but I want to leave you with the following video. It is the NCAA Wrestling championship round from 2011 at 125 lbs. Pay particular attention to Anthony Robles, the wrestler from Arizona State then ask yourself where you may be getting in your own way. Remember, it is never about what you can’t do and always about what you CAN do.
See you on the road!