If you’re a wrestler or part of the wrestling family, you know wrestling isn’t something you do, it’s who you are! There’s something truly unique about wrestling that sets it apart from all of the other sports. As a female, I grew up with two brothers who wrestled. I was a mat maid, watched our high school team practice, worked tournaments, and was one of those obnoxious spectators who lost their voice from screaming out moves during meets. Even though I never joined the wrestling team – I was considered part of the family and it changed how I pursue life. Side note: If you’re contemplating wrestling as a sport, once you’re in a wrestling family, you’re part of the! Wrestling family – an exclusive brother/sisterhood like no other.
My name is Jamie Hope and I am assisting Coach Krause with taking NXT LVL to the next level. It doesn’t matter where I go, wrestling always seems to find me – but I can’t complain, as a supporter and family member I might not have experienced all a wrestler has, but I still understand the lessons learned and benefits earned.
The benefit of ‘my brother’s keeper.’ Like the military with battle buddies, wrestlers have accountability with one another. Wrestlers rely heavily on their teammates to sharpen their skills during practice in preparation for battle on the mat. If one wrestler isn’t giving his all in practice, the other wrestler will suffer for it during a meet. Like iron sharpens iron, wrestlers are required to give everything on the mat, even in practice, to give their teammate an edge during competition. As Coach Krause says, “Championships are won in the practice room.” The effort and work ethic of a wrestler is unrivaled and no doubt that principle carries over in life off the mat at a job, in school, or other challenging pursuits.
The benefit of discipline. To even qualify to wrestle, discipline is paramount. In order to wrestle in a particular weight class assigned, the wrestler has to be fit and eat the right foods to “make weight.” Week-in and week-out during wrestling season, wrestlers deprive themselves of easy and tasty fast food meals and favorite high carb sugary foods and beverages ever fearful of standing on the scale and being told they didn’t qualify. Learning to meet a deadline and knowing that qualification could be the very thing that stands between the wrestler and their next win, is a valuable lesson that will be carried through life. Let’s face it, especially in America, easy and addicting foods are constantly at our finger tips – is a life on the couch in front of the television. To be that young and learn to forego cravings for a goal, carries over into other areas of life – saving money instead of an impulse purchase, studying on a Friday night to get that better grade instead of going out to the party etc. Learning discipline at a young age through wrestling is an invaluable gift.
The benefit of strength. – Most young people think of strength as the ability to dole out physical pain on an adversary. However, one wrestling practice will quickly define the true nature of strength. I remember vividly the staggering warm-ups high school wrestlers endured before they even got on the mat to practice. Wrestlers coming out of the room with clothes that look like they just showered, hair dripping with sweat, and faces beat red after a warm-up for the actual practice. I went to school in the early 90s and our school was full of “tough guys.” But one practice with National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Coach Becker, more than one of those wrestlers would leave the wrestling room in tears. Something those wrestlers still laugh and talk about fondly twenty-five and thirty-years later. Those boys, now men, will tell you those practices were truly what made them the men they are today. It taught them strength is not just the ability to beat the other guy, but to take a beating and not quit.
The benefit of respect. Wrestling teaches not only respect for elders and those in position of authority, but also respect for peers. Respect on and off the mat is a strictly adhered to policy. During competition, the opponent is to be demolished, but before and after, respect and good sportsmanship is the only tolerated behavior.
The benefit of family. Often former and current wrestlers stand out in a room because of cauliflower ear. Yet, even without that trademark identifier, many wrestlers have an innate ability to know when they’re in the presence of another wrestler, and that makes them instant family. It’s a fraternity of sorts that can only be truly articulated by being a member. It hunts you down and finds you know matter where you are.
As I stated previously, I never wrestled (well not officially, but my brother’s wrestled me often.) However, as a writer/filmmaker, I was at a veterans event, and one of the men there approached me about a project he was working on – and oddly enough, me being a female, he still asked me if I’d be interested in assisting him with creating a documentary on the Michigan State University 1967 National Wrestling Champions, the first Big Ten School to win the title. He knew nothing about me, and yet, once again, wrestling found me and asked for its assistance, to which I immediately obliged – because this is my wrestling family.
In this day and age, especially in America, respect, strength, family, discipline, and accountability are diminishing concepts. Unfortunately, most of the breakdown in society can be attributed to the lack of these attributes. Wrestling is not only a great sport to learn for self-defense, confidence, and physical fitness, it provides many other valuable intangible benefits that will carry through the rest of a youth wrestler’s life.