FEBRUARY 13, 2014 - FINAL THOUGHTS
Settled back into “The Other Life”. I’m celebrating today: Slept a full night, last night. Besides, that, I’m just feeling pretty lucky.
Every trip, it takes a few days to kind of sort out, categorize, and store away the significance of each experience. Being able to tell the stories really helps that process. I’m feeling lucky to be around 160 curious, young minds, every day. Every question becomes a trigger point that reminds me of another piece that really deserves to be remembered. I started that process, early Monday morning, on not much sleep.
Monday night, I presided over our local, High School Officials’ group meeting. More questions; more surfacing memories.
I got to have dinner with Sterling Tuesday. Sterling has been to New Delhi and Agra. He did a lot to coach me up for what the experiences had to offer. He found a sadistic comedy in my “Food Poisoning” story. Those of you who know Sterling will appreciate that.
Wednesday night, I drove the three hours to Las Vegas, New Mexico to referee a dual between NMHU and CSU-Pueblo. Some pretty good scraps produced a lopsided team score. Still fighting the sleep thing made it a long drive home.
Tonight, I’ll conduct the seeding for one of our District Championships. Tomorrow night, and Saturday, I’ll work that event. It’s true what they say about “Rest and the Wicked”.
Oh, but Sunday! I’ll get to sit and have coffee, and celebrate a late Valentine’s Day with my beautiful Eva. I’ll get to catch up with the delicacies of life, at home, while I was away. And, I’ll get to dig into the details of each experience India added to my life.
Lots of “Thank You’s” are due. Thanks to the Administrations of MESAC and the American Embassy Schools, for actively seeking out USA Wrestling to help them grow their base. Thanks to Les Gutches and his staff at USAW for having the good sense to respond, and for allowing me the privilege.
I spoke with each Coach, personally, but here’s my public appreciation for the work being done by all the coaches at the American Schools in Bombay, Cairo, Dubai and New Delhi. The work you do, offering our sport to kids of all nationalities inspires me.
Thanks to Dave and Joe Miller at All American Supply, who provided attractive wrist band and flip disc sets for all the coaches at the New Delhi clinic, and to our national sponsor ASICS, for providing each coach a nice polo. Thanks to Derek Sikora, at USAW, for gathering and assembling those packages.
Thanks to my students, for reminding me what education and passion can do for our lives. Thanks to Richard Immel, at USAW, for publishing my efforts. And, Thank You for playing along. If you’re not finding me a wealth of information, I hope I can, at least, give you a couple of chuckles.
This will close out the India Edition. I’m working on a pretty wide-ranging “Walk-About” for this summer. Stay tuned.
FEBRUARY 9, 2014 - THE WAY HOME
Back in Amsterdam, on the way home. We finished the AES Championship early yesterday evening (Saturday). After the awards ceremony our hosts transported everyone to a central craft market called Dili Hut, not Delhi, Dili. I picked up gifts for family and some show and tell pieces for my classroom.
The driver assigned to me did his usual magnificent job plowing through Delhi traffic. It is everything you’ve heard about. The basic rule is simple: Biggest Wins! So, from dog to pedestrian to bicycle to scooter all the way to transport truck each yields to whatever could take it out. This, of course, is except for the Sacred Cows, who trump everything.
The competition went smoothly. It was extremely well organized. I gained tremendous respect for what these coaches are doing. All three programs (New Delhi, Cairo, Dubai) are taking kids who have never wrestled, primarily but not totally Americans, and teaching the lifestyle.
Their student populations are mostly Embassy kids, meaning they are transient. For a coach to have a kid in his program for three years is rare. Being well travelled, at an early age, these kids could easily fall into that ‘hyper-academic’ stereotype that defines challenge as a ‘tight axle on a new Rubik’s Cube’. Instead, the coaches are offering kids the chance to seek adversity and conquer it, something we all brag about.
Like the kids, the coaches are predominantly American. The Cairo delegation is coached by two Egyptians, Coach Ahmed and a guy whose name I can’t pronounce. Dubai’s coaches are from the heartland. Both Coach Chris and Coach Sean are from Illinois. Coach Jordan is from Wisconsin. The host coach, from AES New Delhi, Coach Rick, is from Washington. The American School in Bombay has committed to starting a program. They sent their AD and Coach Nick to observe and help out.
I have to give a special “Hats Off” to AES New Delhi’s Athletic Director, Brent Hamilton. A Canadian with vast experience in the Embassy School system, Brent is a keeper! His commitment to growing wrestling is complete. The guy has made himself a student of the sport. He finds ways to do what it takes. I wish we had more like Brent in our public schools in the states!
I told you, a couple of days ago; I’ve always wanted to experience India. Lots of my friends have questioned this desire. Ironically, most of them have had the chance to experience India! Their tales of “Shock and Awe” sightings, and of the intestinal distress called “Delhi-Belly”, are consistent. Sterling prepared me best, with three initials: IWA. You can actually switch ‘em around, and they still work. IWA stands for India Wins Again. IAW is India Always Wins. Both are true.
Thursday night, a dear friend, a FILA referee from Delhi, took me out for dinner. We went to a pretty nice café in a very nice hotel. I had a sampler dish called Café Collection. The taste was great.
So, now that you’ve already guessed where this is going, Friday night was one of the worst in my life… and I’ve had my share! Fortunately, I made it through Friday’s competition fine. Towards the end, I started feeling a little sluggish, but blamed it on the time change. I got back to the hotel, grabbed a shower, Skyped Eva, and thought I’d take a nap. In the next two hours, I progressed from bloated to dizzy to writhing in agony. It was all I could do to crawl the few feet, from bed to bathroom, before the explosion.
I have little memory of the rest. I know I was successful locating and targeting the toilet. I know that my ribcage, abs and shoulders are still sore from the effort. I woke up, sometime around 2:30am, lying on the bathroom floor, having partially blanketed myself in two bath towels. IWA!
Saturday morning was definitely one of those “Walk the Walk” times. I had gotten myself at least close to the bed. After struggling to get up, I managed to rinse off, get downstairs for my ride, and put on my best fake smile.
The school’s medical staff hooked me up with a mixture of fresh lime, soda water, sugar and salt. Achieving some sort of electrolyte balance, I hung a whistle around my neck and set off for two, three-hour sessions.
“Hey, if it was easy, everybody’s be doin’ it.” Sound familiar?
FEBRUARY 6, 2014 - A NEW DAY
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY’S AES CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT IS BEING STREAMED LIVE. You can watch the event at: www.aes.ac.in
I really thought my laptop computer would be happy in India. I have spoken with its parents a couple of times, on the phone, and I’m pretty sure this is where it was born.
Such is not the case, though. As yet, I have not discovered a connection strong enough to support a call on Skype. So, Eva and Sterling: if you’re reading this, I’m OK.
I cannot access my email. I have one of those rural servers, from deep in the heart of New Mexico. Foreign systems often have trouble recognizing and accessing it. Fortunately, I have the good old gmail, as a backup. I’m pretty sure I got yesterday’s installment to Richard, as USA Wrestling.
After a reasonably good sleep, I had a wonderful early morning walk. It doesn’t take long, walking the main thoroughfares of Delhi, to appreciate both cultures. Obviously, as Americans, when we get to travel we always find out there is really no place like home.
Delhi is everything my friends prepared me for. I’m in the Diplomatic District, so I’m pretty much protected from the harshness of Old Delhi. Still, the complete mixture of the modern super-urban environment with remnants of one of the world’s oldest surviving cultures is a lot to absorb.
Today’s clinic was a kick. Coach Rick had sent me a flash drive, full of video of last year’s AES tournament. I kind of knew what I was getting into, here. The coaches I met are young teachers in these American Schools. They remind me of a lot of the young coaches we see in smaller and rural schools, throughout the States. They are young, have a little wrestling in their background, and are passionate about passing it on.
Every single one of these guys pulled me off to the side, to tell me they want to teach their kids LIFE, through wrestling. It ended up being, perhaps, the easiest clinic, to teach, that I’ve done for a while.
We spent the last two hours in a technique clinic for the athletes from the Delhi and Cairo programs. The kids from Dubai don’t fly in until tonight. I was impressed that an AES school in Bombay flew in their Athletic Director and potential Coach. They are hoping to add wrestling to their athletic menu, as early as 2014-15.
The athlete clinic was a lot of fun, although I got the impression these kids are not used to my level of intensity. We focused on a practical application of Seven Basic Skills. The kids and coaches seemed to immerse in the concepts, quickly and completely.
For my Students & Ms Otero: Hoping my last night’s piece got through, I sent Richard a picture to post. Erika, Nayeli: the experience of the Taj is something special. I hope the photo does for you what that old black and white did for me. You guys really need to use your education to see the world. To all: Please remember to record the Opening Ceremonies for me, Friday night. I’ll work late and miss them. Thanx !
FEBRUARY 5, 2014 - BUCKET LIST
I don’t like the term, ‘Bucket List’. Just not a fan of what always ends up happening to the bucket.
But, today, I got to see and touch the Taj Mahal, and that’s something I really needed to do! I saw a black and white photo of the Taj, in a textbook, when I was 17. Been trying to get here ever since. Have I ever pointed out just how lucky we are to have wrestling open the world to us? I try to stay aware of that good fortune, and to point it out whenever I get to write these pieces.
This was the only thing I asked my hosts for when I found out I was coming to New Delhi. The trip from Delhi to Agra is a three hour drive, using the new express toll road. I had heard all the horror stories of the old highway taking double that.
My flights were all on time and I arrived in Delhi at about one o’clock, this morning. By the time I got bags and cleared customs, it was 2:30. The AES – India Coach, Rich Freil, and one of the school’s drivers, Maxwell, met me just outside the crowded terminal.
Maxwell and I dropped Rich off at his flat, on the AES campus. I thought maybe I was going to settle in for a couple of hours, but I was wrong. Maxwell loaded my bags in a smaller SUV and we hit the road, arriving in Agra about an hour before sunrise.
We drove to a pre-arranged meeting place and met Muza, an Agra native and tour guide that serves AES personnel, among others. Maxwell stayed to get a nap, in the car, while Muza loaded me into one of those infamous three-wheeled, motorized, Indian rickshaws and whisked me a few blocks to the Taj entrance. It was still dark.
I got to watch a guy sweep the street, saw a couple of Sacred Cows cruise by, and witnessed the worst dog-fight I guess I’ve ever seen, while other tourists lined up for the seven o’clock opening. But, I gotta’ tell you watching the fog lift and a brilliant, deep orange sunrise color the marble of this famous lover’s monument was worth waiting 42 years to see!
Muza spent the rest of the morning showing and explaining all the best kept secrets of the Taj Mahal. He and Maxwell took me to a pretty nice place for a late breakfast then added a hurried tour of the Agra fort, where ShaJahan was imprisoned until his death.
Now, Maxwell is fighting New Delhi traffic to get me to Rick’s four o’clock workout. It will be forty hours since I slept, lying down. It’ll be a satisfying rest.
FEBRUARY 2, 2014 - OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
It does, again and again. I’m packed, enjoying a little family time and on my way Monday morning. This trip is New Delhi, India. It’ll be a pretty quick hit. Leaving Albuquerque Monday and accounting for time change, I arrive in Delhi at one o’clock Wednesday morning. I change planes in Atlanta and Amsterdam.
This one is a very special assignment. I will offer a sort of crossover clinic for Coaches who need to serve as Officials.
Many countries have American Schools on, or near, U.S. Embassy compounds. These schools serve American kids from the families of government personnel and industry subcontractors. Some offer sports.
Three American Schools have programs in wrestling, American Folkstyle High School Wrestling. Those three are located in Dubai, UAE; Cairo, Egypt; and New Delhi. They compete in a seasons end Championship, annually. That Championship is this weekend.
The Coaches of the three programs have had no choice but to referee their own event. With several other American Schools exploring the possibility of adding wrestling programs, these coaches decided to take steps to improve their skills in the officiating task.
With support from their A.D.s, they contacted USA Wrestling last fall to ask for assistance. They specifically asked for someone to attend their Championship and provide instruction in the areas of rules and officiating mechanics, but someone who can see through the lens of the coach.
How flattered I am my name came up. I find particular satisfaction in this one, because it validates the philosophy I have expounded for the last 35 years. I got started officiating because I thought it would make me a better coach. I continue to coach because it makes me a better official.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been confronted with, “You’ve gotta’ give one up. You can’t do both”. I have stuck to my guns and been pretty successful. So, to get a call from half way around the planet, from Coaches wanting to Officiate, really lit me up.
The growth of USA Wrestling’s commitment to Folkstyle, over the past few years, is something we can all be proud of. You know, Folkstyle, just by the nature of its name, is wrestling that is deeply ingrained into a culture. Every culture has its own ‘Folk’ style of wrestling. American Folkstyle didn’t need USAW to teach a Granby or a Switch.
But, in a culture as large and complex as ours, and with our ability to travel as far as we do, there continues to be a need for consistency in the way we present our precious Folkstyle. I’ve watched and listened, carefully, to conversations among our State Leaders and National Staff. The tools and philosophy we bring to the preparation, management and presentation of our sport, in all styles, insures that more Americans than ever can call themselves “Wrestlers”.
So, here we go. We’re taking the American Folkstyle show on the road. And I get to be a part of it, and that’s way cool! As usual, I’ll look for ways to share the interaction between Wrestling and the World. Should be an adventure.