Take action, face your fears, lead a bold and courageous life. That’s what USA Wrestling Greco-Roman National Team Coach Matt Lindland says he would do if he had to give advice to his younger self. And that’s the philosophy that guides his life to this day.
“A great life is fueled by great experiences, so get out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you,” Lindland says.
Train smarter, not harder, says Jessica Medina, National Women’s Developmental Coach for USA Wrestling. “I loved working hard and getting extra practices in as an athlete,” Medina says. “However, I now realize how important recovery is for your performance, your mental state, and your long-term physical health.”
Alli Ragan, a two-time World Silver Medalist at 59 kg and the current No. 1-ranked wrestler in the USA at 59 kg, would tell herself to love the process and that losing, while not something anyone will enjoy, is OK. “There is so much to learn in this sport whether you win or lose, so ultimately I would try to get across to my younger self to always keep learning, have fun, and keep trying to evolve,” Ragan says.
Below, Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Lindland, Medina, Emma Randall, Ragan, Katherine Shai, and Jacarra Winchester share the advice they would tell their younger self:
Olympic Gold Medalist and Four-Time World Champion
If I could give advice to my younger self knowing what I know now, I would first inform the young JB that if he continued to work hard, someday he’d become a star in the sport of wrestling. I’d also warn him of how big of a responsibility that would be.
I’d tell him that he could be the most influential wrestler to ever live, but he would have to begin to prepare at that very moment. Soon, thousands of people will be counting on you, and it will be your job to lead, I’d say. So go be the hero they need. Put in the work. Encourage your teammates. Lead by example. Live a life of integrity and honor. Be courageous.
I’d say not to wait until the world recognizes you before you start your transformation. Refine yourself now, so that when you finally introduce yourself to the world you will reveal all of the gifts that you’ve been working in silence to develop for years so that you are fully prepared to be a man worthy of following.
Two-Time World Champion at 79 kg
Keep having fun and think critically about your life choices off the mat. Eating simply based on the nutrient density of the food and not based on how much the food weighs will make things way more enjoyable. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks (or sweet diet drinks). Get out and see the morning sunrise, wear Blue Blockers at night when studying and hanging out, and get your bare feet on grass as much as possible. You are doing good on the mat but figure out how to move more fluidly and don’t rely on your joints.
USA Wrestling Greco-Roman National Team Coach
My advice to my younger self would be to live by the philosophy that guides my life to this day:
Take action, face your fears, lead a bold and courageous life, and do amazing things. Although I believe I may have unconsciously, lived this out even when I was younger. If you want to be great at anything in life, then you must live an interesting life and have compelling experiences.
A great life is fueled by great experiences so get out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you. To excel in any field, you must understand the world and the way we as individuals fit into the world. To do this you must cultivate experiences in your life. We must live to and experience adversity firsthand. You must take risk and get out there and go do stuff, without this you are boring, dull, and sheltered.
Life presents multiple opportunities, as the road diverges, and we have to make choices in life. There is a safe choice and a dangerous choice, a choice that pays well and one that teaches lessons, a choice that may not pay off until later or not at all. There are choices in life that challenges us and other choices that play it safe.
My advice would be to take action, face your fears, lead a bold and courageous life, and do amazing things. This decision will allow you to be unique, distinct, and wiser than others that play it safe.
USA Wrestling National Women’s Developmental Coach
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self I would tell my 21-year-old self to take more breaks—train smarter, not harder Medina! I loved working hard and getting extra practices in as an athlete. However, I now realize how important recovery is for your performance, your mental state, and your long-term physical health.
Growing up in the wrestling community we are taught to be the hardest worker, to put extra time in and to push our limits over and over. All those things are great but if you don’t balance your workload and your recovery you can end up overtraining or hurt your performance on competition day. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re lazy or undisciplined. Work hard, rest hard, and have fun.
Two-time World Silver Medalist at 59 kg
I’d tell my younger self to love the process. I always wanted to win so badly as a kiddo and when I didn’t I was so hard on myself. If I could go back I would tell myself that hey, it’s okay to lose, definitely don’t enjoy losing, but it’s inevitable and you might as well take something away from it. There is so much to learn in this sport whether you win or lose, so ultimately I would try to get across to my younger self to always keep learning, have fun, and keep trying to evolve.
USA Women’s National Team member (ranked No. 2 at 53 kg)
I had a clear vision when I returned to competition in 2019; I wanted to vocalize my goals more clearly with others so I had a strong team behind me, and I would work to take notice of the judgment. When I took time off of competition, I had an opportunity to reflect on my career. I realized how hard I was on myself as an athlete. It’s important to establish some ground rules with your self-talk early on. There was no reason to be that judgmental, and it prevented my ability to grow and learn as a person and as an athlete.
I don’t look at past experiences with regret, or with a vision of “if I only knew...” That takes me out of flow state, as the most important moment is the here and now. I can use every experience to grow into who I am meant to be. I like to tell young athletes that we all have choices. The sooner you recognize that life is really a series of choosing how to react to your external environment, the sooner you can recognize your ability to manifest the reality you want.
Take every opportunity to grow further than you imagined. Wrestling gives you the unique ability to shed your skin and become something new. The break down and build back up of who you think you are and what you think reality is comes with time and comes with effort. Embrace the uncomfortable moments as learning how to become open to new ideas. When you are open to a new way of looking at the world, you become open to a new way of wrestling.
2019 World Champion at 55 kg
The advice that I would give to my younger self would be to hold yourself accountable. I would tell myself this going into college. It was easy for me to blame everyone else for my failures, such as “the ref made a bad call” or “my opponent was being dirty during the match." Once you make everything your own fault, then it’s easier to build from it because you can see that it is in your control. It’s hard to fix something out of your control, but if you take responsibility for it then you’re taking the driver’s seat.