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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Finding His Own Name

December 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm (Essay, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , )

Dear You,

You left me a solo parent when our boys were 2 months old and 17 months old, respectively.  Not a single parent who can rely on the other person to help with things like transportation, homework, sports participation fees and school clothes, but a solo parent who has to rely on friends, family, and most of all herself.  For everything.  EVERY.  THING.  It’s not like you dropped entirely off the face of the earth….there were the two or three months-at-a-time stints you tried to see your boys once a month or so for a couple of hours, sometimes even an overnight visit over the last 16 years.  They were mainly uncomfortable for both your sons and you, but it was a small attempt.  Then there was the three years you “connected” with them that ended just about a year ago, if you call connecting with them leaving them with your girlfriend’s kid to roam the streets and sit home alone unsupervised while you went out drinking.   I guess they weren’t truly unsupervised, because they called me all weekend, every weekend, while you were busy.  But three years of that does not make up for you making plans with them one day and them arriving at your house excited for a fun weekend with Dad, only to find an abandoned house and a new life with no Dad for the next four years, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it does.

For me to write about the trials the boys and I have gone through over the years due to your selfishness and absolute inability to be in any way connected with reality would take weeks.  You will never know how terrifying it is to face the prospect of raising two boys all on your own.  (Seems kind of silly for me to point out the obvious…of course you’ll never know it, you walked away from it).  The days when they were simultaneously in diapers, sleeping in cribs, and drinking from bottles are far behind me now, but I’ll never forget them.  The fears of those days were a little more basic.  We’ve moved on now to more philosophical issues.  Am I doing the right things to teach them how to be good husbands?  Good fathers?  Good citizens?  How am I going to teach them how to shave and clean a fish and tie a tie?  (Thank God for Youtube, we got the fish cleaning and tie tying down).

Then there is the deep stuff, that I try to keep a little close to the surface with them, but not so close as to basically ruin every fucking day for them.  Things like “Don’t let his behavior define who YOU are”, and “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s got nothing to do with you”.  They listen, but it’s hard for me to tell if they believe me when I tell them that they really do deserve so much more than you’ve offered them.  My biggest fear, and something I spend time every day on, is attempting to block the self-defeating behaviors that so often happen with kids who are abandoned or unloved by a parent.  If they don’t deal with the issues they have with you now, the issues will kick their asses when they leave my home for the first time, or maybe when they find themselves as fathers.

I did everything I could to foster a relationship for the three of you.  Remember how I used to nearly beg you to see them?  I rarely said a bad word about you, though I have many.  I never kept them from seeing you, though that’s what everyone now thinks because you aren’t man enough to tell the truth.  I did my job and your job all these years, and have a few more to go yet.  I overcompensate because I have to, so they have a chance at an emotionally normal adulthood.

Oh, I’m sorry, do I sound bitter?  You bet your damn ass I’m bitter.

I don’t let it consume me, that would be giving you entirely too much power (another lesson I try to teach them).  But wrestling season has started.  You might remember that you were the reason they both started wrestling.  Our oldest because it pleased you, and our youngest because he thought that maybe you’d come watch him like you did with his brother (which didn’t happen).  I told them both that if you were the reason they were doing it, it was the wrong reason, but they didn’t listen and now it has taken on a life of its’ own in our house.  I’m thankful for that, because it has opened new doors for them physically and mentally.  It gives them a sense of balance that they are lacking with your repeated absences over the years.  It will serve them well, if they leave you out of it.  But they haven’t left you out of it, at least not yet.

Our oldest son received his copy of the team photo the other day.  He looks amazing.  He’s matured and he’s chiseled.  He’s been working hard and is going to go very far this year.  That night, he broke down sobbing because he misses you.  He wants you to see him wrestle this year.

I do what I can to be supportive of their wrestling, and the minute I think I couldn’t be more excited about it for them, a new day happens and I’m more excited about it for them.  But I’m a Mom.  I’m not a male.  I never wrestled.  I never went to State.  And these boys didn’t start this sport because of me.  Or even because of themselves.  They did it for you.

And all they have in return from you, after giving their unconditional love and desperately seeking your approval, are homemade birthday cards from jail with a few words trying to manipulate them into worrying about you or writing you back.  Well guess what?  They don’t know what to say to you.  They are too busy trying to live their own lives and trying to make sense of this unfair bullshit to worry about you right now.  They are not little anymore.  They see right through you and that’s something you can’t handle.  A part of me thinks they are not writing you back to spare your feelings.  But don’t insult their intelligence by thinking they don’t know what you’re all about now.  That must really suck.

Your son went 5-0 at Varsity at his first tournament yesterday.  Your son is starting to get his name in the paper.

His name.  Not yours.

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The Tao of a Wrestling Mom

December 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve had a really crappy week, one for the books.  I cut loose (for the second time) a would-be suitor who I was not very well suited for; had a surprise bill empty my checking account, battled with my youngest son daily to get his homework done (and lost), and work has been sucking the life out of me.  I have been in tears every night on the drive home.  It’s either cry or run someone over with the car, and who wants blood and guts on their undercarriage?  I hate it when I get all frickin’ fragile like this, but it happens from time to time and sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

One day was particularly stressful.  After a life-sucking day at work, I had to:  deliver bottles to the wrestling room to pour the hospital grade antibacterial soap we ordered in them and meet the lunchroom staff to purchase some apple juice before they left for the day which was the SAME time the band ladies left for the day and I had to get in there and get my son’s band dues paid and make sure I didn’t get there too much before the coach arrived so he could let me in the equipment room AND time it all just right so I could pick up my little anti-homework delinquent from detention!

A conference call and then my boss tried to keep me at work past my scheduled time and succeeded.  Knowing the after work schedule I was up against, I thought,  “Here it comes, I’m about to lose it….look out, bitches”. It was an insubordination near miss if I ever had one, but I kept it together.  After purchasing the apple juice and finding some wrestlers to bring it upstairs for me and paying our band dues, I ran into coach in the hallway.  The soap hadn’t arrived yet. “I almost wonder if we should get a big bottle of Dial for them to use until it comes in”, he said, but what he meant was “Will you please go to the store and buy them some Dial so they can use something besides Axe and risk skipping our first tournament next week due to an impetigo outbreak”?  Of course I said “I’ll go get some and bring it back before practice is over”, when I really wanted to say “pass the tissues”.  I decided to throw the juice in the fridge before I left for the store.  Denied.  The thing was full of mold after sitting idle for seven months.  Gross.  So I had another thing to add to the list…..whatever.

I arranged for Grandma to pick up my homework-hating detention dweller, so that took some of the edge off.  One of our injured wrestlers made me add him as a contact on my phone so I could call him if I got locked out of the school.  And when I returned from the store, I was met with a sincere “Aw, cool, soap!  Thank you!”.  Ok yep, I was feeling a bit better now, how could I not be?

As I sat there on the floor, de-skanking the fridge, it dawned on me that my son was practicing just a few feet away.  I love watching that kid wrestle.  I’ve never sat through an entire practice just watching like the Dads are “allowed” to do.  Bonus for me!  Being that I was in the equipment room, I got to visit briefly with about five of our young gentlemen who were looking for nasal tampons.  I got to mother them a little bit by helping them with their bloody noses and making sure they were biohazard-free before they went back out there.  They so readily accepted my help I have to wonder who takes care of them when no Moms are there?

They were so glad to see that they had juice for after practice I had to dash out of the way of the stampeding herd.

You’d have thought that after the day from hell and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, including cleaning mold – yuck – that by the time I got home I’d be even more stressed out.  But I had a slow realization that I was….happy!  I was refreshed!

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would find peace in a wrestling room, I would never have believed them.  But there’s something so basic and honest about the sport and the kids who do it, it’s kind of hard not to find yourself grounded after spending some time in their midst.

In a week where the recurring thoughts in my mind were “Oh my God people need to just get the hell out of my head!”, and “Ok where did I see that chocolate wine being sold?”  I had finally found sanctuary.  In a stinky, crowded wrestling room with the cheer team screaming and giggling over the top of the thuds and grunts of the wrestlers, I had found the elusive zen moment I had been so in need of.

The three jewels of Taoism are:  Compassion, Moderation, and Humility.

Compassion, check.  Moderation, check.  Humility, check.

I’m so damn lucky.

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The Season From Hell (How Our Team Learned to Swim)

August 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My favorite Uncle was a Marine who served in Viet Nam, and who, when he returned from war, went into law enforcement.  He was a gruff man on the outside, but loving and very protective.  He taught his two kids to swim at the tender age of five by walking them out to the end of a pier and just throwing them off.  It still sounds horrifying to me, and I could never wrap my head around the concept when my cousin would talk of how she and her brother learned to swim.  “But”, she says, “we didn’t sink, and he was right there to help us if we struggled”.  “And……we learned how to swim”.  Indeed.

Last year was my oldest son’s freshman year of High School.  His Middle School coaches were a gym teacher and a former football coach (from MY time in the same Middle School, 25 years ago), neither of whom were wrestlers.  They meant well, and taught some basics, but our freshman team came to the High School very unprepared.

Our Class A school, who has more wrestlers on “Trophy Row” than any other sport, had a wrestling team of 15 last year.

We started out with a few more, but three upperclassmen quit the team before the first meet for personal reasons.

One of our heavyweight upperclassmen was ineligible to wrestle all year long, until the very last tournament.  He was over weight.

The night of our first meet, one of our other heavyweights broke his leg during warm ups.

At one of our first tournaments we had a boy break a cervical vertebrae and another suffered a concussion, within minutes of each other.

It seemed our poor gimpy team could endure no more.  I think we lost every one of our team meets, because we were so empty in weight classes, there was no way we could catch up to some of the schools with bigger teams.

I think very highly of our High School coaching staff.  They are top notch, and have extremely impressive credentials.  You couldn’t help but feel bad for them as much as the boys, given the circumstances of this season from hell.

Not only did these coaches have a shrinking team of ill-prepared Freshman, the kids had to share their practice room with the competitive cheer team.

That’s right, I said…… Competitive.  Cheer.

The boys kind of thought this was a good gig at first, until they started actually trying to hear what Coach was teaching them.

Despite the bumps and bruises, and what was stacked against them, (literally, in pyramid form), they had promise. They had raw talent, and they had heart.  And if they didn’t have heart when the season began, they sure had it by the end.

Our Coaches had no choice but to throw these kids off the deep end.  The only other option would have been to drop out of the events we were scheduled for, which was of course, a non-option.  Wrestlers wrestle.  So out they went, every Saturday morning and some Wednesday nights, getting torn to shreds.

I’m not going to pretend like we had this amazing “come from behind to win it all”, season that would make a perfect cheesy Hollywood script.  I’m not even going to pretend it was easy to watch.  In fact, it was downright torturous at times, watching these kids go up against bigger, stronger, older and far more experienced kids match after match after match.

They lost, and lost often.

A couple of times, it was all I could do to not let my son see  tears welling up in my eyes for him.

Our wrestlers were learning how to wrestle just like my cousins learned how to swim.  Coach walked them by the hand to the end of a pier, and threw them off.

And just like my cousins, they didn’t sink.  And just like with my cousins, the one who led them to the edge and threw them off was right there to help them if they struggled.

At the end of the season, these boys held their heads high as they ALL received their first Varsity “letter”.

This year shows much more promise for a winning season.  We’ve got a lot of new freshman coming up, who had some very good coaching last season by new coaches at the Middle School.  And thanks to  a deal made by our Senior state placer, that if he went out for football, the football players would come out to wrestle, I think our numbers will be up as well more to where they should be.

But I don’t think any of this small group of now-Sophomores will forget what they went through last year.

I hope they don’t.

 

 

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Here Goes!

August 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Thank you for stopping by my brand new blog!

I am a single mother of two teenage boys who wrestle.  They do other things too, but wrestling, and everything that goes along with it, mesmerize me.

The team dynamics, the personalities of the coaches, the incredible effort I see my boys put forth, and how it’s changed them.

I subscribed to deegee’s b&b because he has great wrestling posts that I share on our team’s facebook page from time to time.  I felt there was something missing though.  I thought the place needed a woman’s touch!

He very kindly offered to post something I wrote as a guest post.  It was fun; I was a little nervous though, I’m kinda shy like that sometimes.  After reading his comment that 500 people had read my post….well come on.  Even the most humble among us would immediately start searching for how to start your own!  I thank you very kindly, David!

I hope my posts about wrestling honor the appreciation I have of the sport, the community, and the athletes.

 

MM

matmom@rocketmail.com

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