#SaveWrestling - The problem is not should we, it's how do we...
Posted: Jan 24 2015
It's another year of high school wrestling coming to a close. CIF is right around the corner and wrestlers are getting excited about having their weekends back. While there has always been an elite set of folks willing to take on this great challenge, the number of high school students who actually wrestle is at an all time low. It has truly reached alarmingly low proportions. Showing up to matches where high schools have only a varsity team and/or have 25% or more of their team observing instead of participating is now the norm. There are definitely outliers, those schools who have a dominate wrestling program, but this is clearly not the standard. Lack of participants and interest also impacts fund raising for these programs resulting in doing more with less. We all know where that leads to, its a self fulfilling prophecy. One challenge may actually be with the next generation of young adults we are raising. Embracing the Grind, may not even be a part of their DNA or vocabulary. With smart phones, gaming devices, and the relative comforts often enjoyed by the average American teenager, it doesn't surprise me that they are not getting on the mat. It's hard work! Getting on the mat has such an influence on what you end up doing off the mat, too.
Many of today's top athletes and business men and women have benefited from what wrestling has to offer. Wrestling builds character. Leaders are not born, they are made. Sure, some may be more inclined to lead, but the confidence building and empowerment wrestlers come to learn is a life skill. High degrees of intensity and motivation have the ability to alter character and can easily become the driving force behind developing a mindset that breeds success. Until you wrestle or at a minimum watch a wrestling practice, you cannot truly appreciate what the sport has to offer our next generation of young adults. Its is unquestionably one of the most challenging sports anyone can ever part take in. 5 hour practices every day just grinding it out with another human being. And the ironic misperception most have is that it's not a team sport. This could not be farther from the truth. Going body to body with your match partner, taking it to the mat, rotating, king of the hill, the list goes on. If physical contact does not drive comradery and team work, I don't know what does.
One of the areas wrestling has failed, however, is in adapting to today's A.D.D. mentality. Wrestling tournaments are almost as much a grind for the observers (parents, friends) as it is for the participants. There are too many bye's and the bracketing takes way to long. So wrestling needs to adapt if it is going to have any chance of making it as a sport, let alone staying in the Olympics for years to come. Wrestling also needs participation and support from those who have gotten something out of it. There are not enough successful business people, MMA fighters, and sports athletes giving back to the sport that made them who they are today. That is truly the only way wrestling can be saved. People who once got something from the sport now need to give back to it. Otherwise, the sport will not make it. The rise of MMA has definitely provided a momentary boost in the participation of our youth, but that cannot be sustained without support. And if you are reading this and aren't sure you agree, attend a few high school matches. Without competitive high school wrestling, there is no collegiate level and there is certainly no Olympic level in our future. Becoming competitive in any sport takes time and requires nurturing at a younger age. Just look at where soccer has come from. Successful clubs and other programs designed for kids and high school students is the only answer. And to do that, people need to get involved. Who better than those who most benefited from it in the first place.