Photo courtesy of Jim Lynch
USA Wrestling’s “Wrestler for Life” program has started accepting submissions for “The Story of the Week”. It can be about anything wrestling related, whether it’s a particular wrestling match you’ll never forget, or a life lesson that the sport taught you. If your story is chosen, it will be featured on TheMat.com, and winners will receive a pair of USA Wrestling socks.
Send your submissions to: Wrestlerforlife@usawrestling.org
This week’s submission is by Jim Lynch.
We are a little over a month removed from basically the entire world being shut down due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has of course affected the wrestling world, NCAA Championships cancelled, US Olympic Team Trials postponed a year, all USA Wrestling events postponed until after July 1, USA Wrestling charter clubs strongly encouraged to follow the guidelines of their individual states and government regarding social distancing, which in essence cancels practice until further notice, 2020 Summer Olympics postponed until 2021.
I feel terrible for the athletes at all levels that had their seasons ended prematurely. I would much rather lose than not get the opportunity to compete at all. Let’s give the NCAA winter student athletes a redshirt year, but I digress. I sat across from my son when he got the news the kids state championships would be canceled here in NJ and I watched him cry like a baby.
I will tell you honestly, that show of emotion from my son surprised me. He never really gets too high or too low, but his reaction was probably fairly common in wrestling households all over the country over the last several weeks. Kids and young adults may not outwardly cry, but in a quiet moment are they disappointed and hurting. It’s only natural and human nature if they are. Wrestlers at all levels work extremely hard to achieve their goals and to not be able to see the mission through to its conclusion is a shame.
We have had the opportunity to process the reality of the situation. Wrestlers are continuing to work out as best they can, doing body weight exercises, shadow wrestling and making use of their home mats if they have them. My son’s club coach is offering virtual practices during this time and I know he is not the only coach doing that.
However, temporary normal is not the same as what was just a few short weeks ago. No home workout can replicate the intensity of a wrestling practice or match. It’s much more difficult to learn or teach remotely. To learn or teach wrestling you need to put your hands on another body, ideally a body of relative size and skill level. My sons miss their brothers and father figures. I miss my band of almost 90 sons. It’s tough because they are a family we have all chosen.
Here’s some positive. As we all know, the wrestler’s life can be a grind and a series of sacrifices. The grind and sacrifice has been tabled for the time being with this unexpected and unwanted break, but my sons clearly love and care about what they are doing. Every wrestler who does this for any length of time does, but my son’s reaction of about three weeks ago proved it.
After having some time to think about the current situation, I believe getting away from the grind for a bit when all is said and done will be a good thing for the sport as a whole if your athlete, like my sons and lots of others, are passionate about what they are doing. We will eventually be back on the mats and when we are I believe we will have a wrestling community that is more appreciative of this great sport and will have fallen in love with the sport again. We will remember what made us all fall in love with the sport in the first place. As a community, we won’t care as much about the hot wrestling rooms, the trading of potato chips for green salad and the nights of game planning before a big match. There’s an old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
As I said, this is only temporary. After the kids states got canceled here in New Jersey our season was ended, and I had no physical contact with my team. The only way I was able to communicate with the kids was via our team message board. This was the message I delivered to the team upon cancellation of the season, “Feel terrible for the boys, but remember they are all wrestlers and in being a wrestler they are used to overcoming adversity. This is just another adverse circumstance. They will all be stronger than ever. #wrestlertough.” I have never delivered a message in all my years of coaching that I felt more passionate about. Yes, this is a terrible situation. The water level is low, but the wrestling community will come through this stronger than ever because we are used to overcoming adverse circumstances. The tide will rise again. High tide raises all boats. The tide will be higher than ever. See everybody on the mats again soon. NEVER BE SATISFIED!
Jim is an industry leader born with Cerebral Palsy. In addition to coaching, he is a motivational and inspirational speaker capable of speaking on a variety of topics, but he specializes in topics relating to disability advocacy, personal and professional enrichment and training. He is a successful entrepreneur, former Olympic Trials participant, husband and father of two. If you would like him to present a story of motivation and inspiration to your group, please contact him. Follow him on Facebook at JLSpeaker. You can get a daily quote there as well as on his Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.