This isn’t a novel idea. In fact, it’s one that is often repeated within wrestling circles. That is, it is imperative that kids build a foundation of love for wrestling before passionately seeking success within it. Many people hear this, perhaps even acknowledge it, but when the time comes to put the idea into action, it’s discarded. The result is that we end up with little kids training and competing too much too soon, assuming too much unnecessary pressure, which often leads to them growing disenchanted with the sport or quitting altogether.  

Building a foundation of love for wrestling is not whimsical, nor is it an encouragement to exchange strength for weakness. I would argue that building a foundation of love for wrestling is necessary for producing our very best wrestlers.  

I’ve written about the concept of “passion” before; but since it is tightly connected to the topic at hand, allow me to provide just a brief snapshot. You see, our contemporary view of passion is somewhat distorted. Today, when we think of the word passion, we typically think of an “emotional” drive toward something of love or value. But no matter how intense this passion is, it’s still just…an emotion. However, the ancient view of passion, specifically the ancient Greeks, viewed passion a little differently. They viewed passion as not just an emotional drive toward something of love or value, but as the sacrifice and suffering a person was willing to undergo for it. In other words, to be “passionate” about something was not merely reflective of how much a person felt about it but how much they were willing to sacrifice and suffer for it. And, ultimately, isn’t this what we want for our wrestlers? Don’t we want to develop athletes who love the sport, and who are willing to sacrifice and suffer for it in their pursuit of greatness?  

It boils down to this: if you want to develop wrestlers who are willing to sacrifice and suffer for greatness (or success), then you have to develop wrestlers who love wrestling – love precedes passion.  

Every fall, I have the privilege of traveling the country and speaking to college wrestlers. And every fall is a process of trying to correct their introduction to the sport, or helping them rediscover their love for it. Too many of them were introduced to a scenario of sacrifice and suffering with no apparent foundation to rely on. And now, they’re wrestling in college. They’ve continued their wrestling journey to a point that many don’t. But why? Many of them have stayed the course with no clear understanding of why they have done so. And, quite frankly, a college wrestler shouldn’t necessarily be in this scenario. They should be focused on growing in the sport and chasing after their goals. The foundation should have been built long before.  

So, the time is now to stop simply acknowledging the idea. Ideas don’t mean much of anything if we don’t act on them. The time is now to start building the next generation of wrestlers…the ones who love wrestling.  

What do you think?

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Michael Fessler

Written by Michael Fessler

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