For more than five years I have watched my son develop as a wrestler under the close supervision of many great wrestling coaches, friends and parents in the Ohio Valley. It has not always been a glorious, fun-filled experience. Yes, for many years my wife and I watched with heartache as my son was beaten time and again, figuratively and literally. We felt so bad for him as he stood there, tears running down his face, a bloody nose, and crushed pride while the other wrestler was determined the winner.
There were many hours spent driving to tournaments and practices. I do have to give my wife, and many other mothers out there, a tremendous amount of credit for sacrificing their personal time, and taking their sons and sometimes daughters to all the necessary venues related to wrestling. This is not easy to accomplish and is not an inexpensive endeavor. Even with the many losses early in his career my son never gave up and neither did we.
The support that he would receive was such a wonderful, uplifting experience. Complete strangers would come to him and say, "Good match son, keep working hard, and stay positive." Where in our culture today do we see strangers giving this kind of attention to our youth? Everyone is so enslaved to the goings on of today that we have a hard time stopping the craziness in order to give our young men and women the attention they need and deserve.
Believe me, no smart phone, Xbox, PlayStation or any other advanced technological device is going to teach them how to be a successful person.
Even in defeat my son was showered with positive words, he was often given a caring embrace or a handshake that meant even more than a trophy or medal. I've seen grown men with tears in their eyes, sometimes tears of triumph, sometimes tears of sorrow for the kids they have trained win or lose. After the match each wrestler is sent to the other coach's corner and you will witness the opposing coach giving the defeated wrestler words of encouragement and support.
Wrestling is one of the few sports where our kids are taught respect and sportsmanship with every match. Let us not forget the spiritual aspect. Many wrestlers before and after their match are taking time to pray to God. Do you ever see your child praying to God before or after they play a video game? Or texting on their phone? When is there time during the day that our children get a chance to connect their spiritual side with God? With all the noise and commotion going on, this young person will stop and take time to pray. Where did they learn that? Tim Tebow? Wouldn't we all feel better if we did this more often? I know I would. I don't care what you say, without spirituality you will never truly progress as a person or athlete.
As a physician I also see the psychological benefits learned by these young wrestlers.
Not only do they receive intense physical exercise, they learn how to deal with the psychological stressors put on them. At an early age the wrestler learns how to control his/her emotions while being in an extremely intense situation - all the while pushing the physical and emotional thresholds to the limits.
I have seen Marines break under the same pressure, but yet watch a 9-year-old turn it to his advantage and win a grueling match.
Even the wrestler that lost his match - if willing to learn from his mistakes - will be a better wrestler the next time. There is no one else to blame for their failure. There is absolute accountability. And so starts the building and maturity of a wrestler that will carry on with them for the rest of their lives.
What about the wrestler that has put in the time and training necessary to win and does in fact win the majority of their matches? The self confidence that these successful wrestlers have makes the less confident adult envious. It's wonderful to witness and be part of. Not only is there a close bond between wrestler and coach there is hopefully an equally close bond between parent and child.
Wrestling, without a doubt, will challenge a parent's relationship with their child. The weaker parents will be weeded out very quickly but the ones with grit and endurance will be rewarded with a wrestler that will get better as time goes on.
Wrestling will demand that the parent be supportive of their child but yet assertive if need be. I can honestly tell you that wrestling has made the relationship with our son a more enlightened one. It is a give-and-take relationship. Parents give time and money and in return we expect our children to wrestle hard, win or lose. That's all I've ever expected from my son. If you go out there and wrestle as hard as you can then I'm satisfied, win or lose. Isn't that true of life?
Wrestling truly is a community-driven process, no matter what school you come from, no matter what part of the valley you live in.
Every person I've ever met involved in this sport has one goal in mind, and that's making our kids a respectable individual in our community, and if they turn out a winning wrestler then that's a bonus we all get to enjoy.
After five years, our family is now enjoying the rewards of our son as a winning wrestler and it's only because he's had the community and coaches behind him from the beginning. To those of you that have been part of this - Coach Nash, Coach Copney, Coach Shelek, Coach Nally and many others - I thank you. To all the parents and people involved, please continue the support and tiring work associated with this sport. I truly believe our kids are better for it.
We as a society have given up much over the years and we are no better for it. We all must sacrifice and struggle at times to keep the core values we know are so dear to the growth of our children. We expect our children to put everything they have into their practices and matches, but what about us? Are we putting everything we have into raising the children in our community? No matter what sport our youth play, it's about making our young children and young adults better people and teaching them how to work together. I strongly urge you to support all athletics in the Ohio Valley and to take time in teaching our youth the values we expect of them.
Wood is a family medicine practitioner. He lives in Wheeling with his wife and two children.