With a new year upon us, I want to take this opportunity to encourage and challenge all wrestlers to become leaders and role models in your community. I’m not simply talking about being a leader in the wrestling room. The majority of our club wrestlers are very dedicated and I have no doubt that in their practices they lead the way with their work ethic, skill set, and approach to being successful. What I want to address today is the importance of all wrestlers being role models in their communities and in their Classrooms. With wrestling programs being dropped at an alarming rate and nearly dropped from the Olympics our sport is under greater scrutiny than ever before. Many people are not that familiar with wrestling so they judge the wrestling community as a whole by the limited number of wrestlers they may know in their community and the way that wrestlers act is a reflection upon all of us. I strongly encourage everyone to make a greater effort than ever before to hold themselves to the highest possible standards. No matter what those around you are doing take the high road and focus on your priorities and achieving your goals. If others around you are taking a different path have the strength to do what you think is right and not give in to the habits of those who are less focused.
An example of where I believe all wrestlers can be leaders is with bullying, a topic that has received much attention lately in our society. Being a bully on the mat is fine but bullying people who are smaller or younger for no reason is not what our sport needs and does nothing positive for anyone involved. As we all know most wrestlers are typically tougher and stronger than many of their peers. I’m not suggesting that wrestlers should get involved physically if they witness bullying but what I am suggesting is that they have the courage to stand up for someone who may need it.
In terms of academics and conduct in the classroom it is essential that wrestlers represent our sport and themselves in the highest possible manner and set the standard for other athletes and the student body. Being academically responsible and conducting themselves appropriately is a must and all wrestlers need to understand this. I can guarantee that wrestlers who do well academically and are viewed positively by their teachers will have far more options when it comes to wrestling or even attending college.
The last area where wrestlers need to live by higher standard is the choices that they make socially and who they choose to associate with. This is also the area that I believe most closely aligns with the progress wrestlers make on the mat. If your goal is to be a champion you need to live like one in all areas and making the right choices socially is a critical one. Surround yourself with like-minded and goal oriented people who live the same lifestyle that you do. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they may think of you, focus on yourself and your success.
It’s often said that the values that are learned through wrestling like discipline, goal setting and hard work serve those who participate in our great sport for the rest of their lives. I agree with this and I would like to see all wrestlers take another step in a positive direction by leading in areas outside of wrestling. As important as is it is to be a successful wrestler, it is ultimately more important to be a successful person. By choosing the right path and by being willing to make tough decisions because it’s the right thing to do wrestlers learn another very valuable lesson that will also serve them for the rest of their lives. Everyone is different and some people are naturally more inclined to lead however all wrestlers can be positive role models in their community who lead by example on and off the mats.