To the Moon and Back, Part II

February 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm (Amateur Wrestling, Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Middle School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Teenagers, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , )

Part II

I was just thankful that fall that he said he still wanted to wrestle, though there were a few times at the beginning of the season where I found myself asking him “do you even want to wrestle?’ because he wasn’t acting like it. He just didn’t seem to have the drive anymore. He wasn’t one of the guys volunteering to mop mats, wasn’t much of a leader with the younger kids, and most of all he wasn’t happy when he got home.

But he was, to his credit, not leaving every weekend to hang out with his friends. He was, to his credit, trying to un-bury himself from the horrible mess he’d made of his grades so that he could wrestle. That had to mean something, right?

He didn’t have a great season last year. He was struggling mentally, and this sport is heavy on the mental aspect. His coaches had high hopes for him, because he does have real talent, but he just kept beating himself and even though he won more than he lost, he was disappointed with himself and didn’t feel as if he fulfilled his potential. This year, his Junior year, was going to be “his year”. He has paid his dues and I know he was planning on redemption. But still, his heart wasn’t really in it.

Let me tell you, this is the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever had to watch. Knowing what he feels for this sport and how he feels about himself when he does it, and seeing it not bring him any happiness any more is painful. Every day I worried that today would be the day he’d just quit. And THEN where would we be? He needs this. He needs wrestling, and wrestling needs him.

Things did get worse before they took a turn for the better, and I will spare you the gory details of it, but suffice it to say that he hit “rock bottom”, hard, and I am ever grateful that he found a tiny spark of self preservation and re-thought the things he was doing and who he was doing them with before he made a mistake that couldn’t be fixed.

In the last few weeks, he’s got renewed energy for the things and people he loves, including wrestling. I credit some of that to a visit from a favorite coach from his freshman and sophomore years who has since retired, but found his way up to the wrestling room to light a spark under kids who were struggling with apathy like my son. This coach’s brand of motivation doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for my son, and it is with a tear in my eye that I say I will always be thankful to him for caring. I will always be thankful for his timing. And I will always be thankful that he took an interest in my son’s wrestling career from the first time he met him as an 8th grader at their end-of-year tournament. Always and always, thank you “Papa B”. Much love to you.

I am very much looking forward to the last few weeks of this season. We’ve got team and individual districts in a couple of weeks. It should be a great time, and regardless of his individual outcome in the end of year matchups for districts and beyond, I will be happy just to be there for it, proud and with a smile on my face that he is where he should be.

I love this boy to the moon and back, and I will do whatever it takes, within my means as an opposite-sex parent, to help him on his journey into manhood. Sometimes that means letting him fail, sometimes it means propping him up, and sometimes it means just being there and being a quiet presence in his life. I know that kids try some very stupid things in their quest to define who they really are and what their place in the world is.

But he doesn’t know what I already know. He doesn’t remember being the 4 year old who stopped what he was doing once on a Christmas Eve night, as we were walking out the door from a busy Christmas with my family to tell me “Momma? You’re the prayer of my heart”.

He doesn’t know that I witnessed one of the most selfless acts in recent memory and he was the one performing it, when he hid a birthday card he received in the mail from his father. He hid it and didn’t want to open it, because his father had forgotten his brother’s birthday six months before, and he didn’t want his brother to have hurt feelings that Dad remembered one of them and not the other.

He doesn’t know that I know he is that rare hard working teenager who when given a job, is one of the more impressive workers I’ve ever known.

He also might not know that the things he’s learning from wrestling will stay with him. Care about other people, teach them what you know and learn from them too, and help a guy up once in a while. Work hard. Make no excuses. Be proud but humble. When you get knocked down, get up and go harder, when you are fighting for what’s right.

He might not know these things right now, but it is my hope that someday he will understand and remember them. They are the very core of who he is, not missteps and skipped classes and the wrong group of friends.

Today my son was one of 8 conference champs on our team, who also took the conference championship. I haven’t seen him this excited in a very long time. I haven’t seen him this proud of himself in an even longer time. His journey has both been completed and is just beginning, if it can be both. He might be 112 lbs, but to me today, seeing him take this journey, and come out on the good side of it, my son is ten feet tall. Love you so much, kiddo.

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Self-Defeating Wrestling

December 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Amateur Wrestling, Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Middle School Wrestling, Middle School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , )

It has been said that wrestling is 20% physical, 80% mental.  I can see that.

How do you teach a kid not to beat himself?  I will use my son as the example for this post, but trust me, I saw it happening at dozens of matches all day long last weekend.

Kid looks to be more physically developed than opponent.

…..ankle cuffs……handshake….whistle.

Match starts and kid also proves to be more skilled than opponent.

Kid manhandles opponent for two periods, and is winning by a spread of 13 points.

Opponent throws a move that kid wasn’t prepared for, kid takes a minute to recover.

Opponent throws same or similar move, because he figured out it worked.

Something happens to kid and the crowd sees a visible change.  Kid starts looking like it’s his first day on the mat and gives up point after point.

Kid lets opponent catch up to and beat him at the buzzer by one point, or in some cases gods forbid, gets pinned.

What.  Just.  Happened?

I don’t get it.  Kid doesn’t get it.  Coach doesn’t get it for sure.

Why both of the coaches came up to me, the Mom, afterward and asked me what happened….I don’t know.  My job is to love and nurture and clap and blurt out things that don’t make sense.  My job is not to analyze.  My son is 16 years old now, I haven’t known what was in his head for at least 4 years.  And if I try to get in there, he more often than not shows me the proverbial door.

I try not to dwell on it, but I ask him to read an article I found on the internet about sports psychology and the High School wrestler.  He reads it, but he probably thinks it sounds like a bunch of baloney.  What 16 year old wants to learn how to breathe meditatively and visualize and all that psychobabble la-la?  (I hope mine does, because I think there’s a lot of truth to it and he might find it helpful…….but yeah.  Not holding my breath).

If anyone knows the answer to what happens in a kid’s head at the moment he decides he’s beat and how to turn it around, please email me.  Because this is one of the hardest parts of it to watch, and I am sick of watching it.

Did the memory of the brackets flash in his mind, where he saw that his opponent pinned his last kid in 42 seconds?  Did the name of the school on the singlet intimidate him once he realized the kid could actually throw a move on him?  Did he forget to breathe on the bottom like he is famous for doing and get dizzy?  All of the above?  Or is it something else?

I know the nature of the sport is someone has got to lose, but when a kid should not be the one losing, it’s just …… not cool.

I’m ok with watching my kids lose with dignity to an opponent who truly beat them with skill and strength.

But I am not ok with watching them lose to themselves.

And it’s so hard not knowing how to help them.

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