Even though I have a deep connection to Missouri, having spent the majority of my youth there, I nevertheless live in Minnesota. And so last season I went to the Xcel Center to watch the finals of the Minnesota state wrestling tournament. It was there that I saw something very compelling – something I’ve seen every year at the tournament but hadn’t given much thought to. That is, the tears that come from wrestlers after both victory and defeat.
I was sitting in the stands, and two rows in front of me, I saw a young wrestler embrace his father after losing in the finals just ten minutes earlier. He buried his face in his father’s shoulder and wept while his father held him tight and comforted him as best he could. In that same moment, I looked down at the arena floor and saw a wrestler, after just winning a state championship, bury his face in his hands and begin weeping as well. In a single moment I witnessed two wrestlers with a face full of tears. For one of them, the tears were delivered on account of heartache. For the other, the tears were an expression of sincere happiness in accomplishing his goal.
When I saw the above scene, the first thought that came to mind involved a single word: Passion.
Now, when we think of passion, we often think of an emotive thrust toward something as well as a distinction of value. However, there is a deeper, more profound meaning if we consider the word in the ancient Greek language. And I think it’s beneficial to consider. After all, we know that it was the ancient Greeks who competed in our great sport, making it one of the foundational forms of competition in the Olympic Games. In the ancient Greek language, the word passion involved not just a powerful, emotional drive or a distinction of value, it also referred to suffering and endurance. In other words, to be “passionate” about something was not merely reflective of how much a person loved or valued it but how much he or she was willing to sacrifice and suffer for it. Therefore, true passion was evident in one’s continued commitment despite adversity.
So as it pertains to the sport of wrestling, it’s quite easy to love and value it when you’re winning. All the hard work is paying off positively in your favor. But this wouldn’t necessarily be reflective of passion. Passion is evident in wrestlers who maintain a commitment to the sport even when positive results are not apparent, even when confronted with disappointment.
In returning to my story, I find that it is the tears of wrestlers which seem to indicate passion. The wrestler who loses delivers tears of sadness because his or her sacrifice and suffering resulted in losing what he or she passionately trained for. The wrestler who wins delivers tears of joy because his or her sacrifice and suffering resulted in achieving what he or she passionately trained for. Passion for something is defined by how much you’re willing to sacrifice and suffer for it. You have to seriously ask yourself: when things don’t go as planned, when faced with defeat, is wrestling still worth it?
Now, this doesn’t mean that tears are necessary for true passion. I’m sure there are wrestlers who are genuinely passionate about the sport but who (even in private) maybe choose to respond to victory and defeat differently. And I’m sure there are a number of former wrestlers who did the same. Nevertheless, what this does mean is that, when tears are delivered, they just might be clear evidence of passion.
So the next time you consider the word passion as it relates to wrestling, challenge yourself with the following: What are you willing to suffer and endure in order to accomplish all you can in this sport? What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to put your mind, body, and soul through in order to prepare for battle and set yourself up for success? Again, it’s easy to suggest you are passionate about wrestling when you have experienced a consistent course of winning. But what about when you experience defeat and you feel like you’re not getting from the sport what you hoped you would? Are you still passionate about wrestling then?