Losing but still Winning- My lesson from Competitive Sports  

TomEboy10 59M
357 posts
9/27/2005 11:39 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Losing but still Winning- My lesson from Competitive Sports


The Delbarton fieldhouse was packed to capacity.The first day of the New Jersey Prep School wrestling tournament was taking place and there was not an empty seat to be found.The survivors of that day would get to compete for the medals and the title of State Champion at Blair Academy.

I was a second year varsity wrestler competing in the 106 pound weight class.It was also only my second year in the sport and I had a pathetic 4-12 record for the season.Originally I had no intention whatsoever of going out for the team.I had messed around with the sport in elementary school gym class and did ok for a little guy but I never gave it much thought.One winter day I was killing time waiting for the bus watching wrestling practice when a friend on the team threw me on the mat.The next thing you know I am in the Coach Matakitis's office(what a name for a wrestling coach- Mr Mat) getting workout gear and a pair of wrestling shoes.The team's starting 98 pound wrestler was a diabetic and they had nobody to challange him for the starting lineup.Within a week I was the starting 98 pounder. I was the first wrestler to step out on the mat for the team.That is something that makes this sport different from most. You are out there alone.There is no one you can blame, no place you can hide. It is man against man in a sport that has exsisited as long as man has been alive.I was pretty good right away on my feet for the first period but terrible on the mat and my first season I never won a match and spent plenty of time on my back counting the headlights.In the vernacular of the sport I was a fish.Not because I wasnt strong - but more so because I did not have experience.But I loved the sport, the friends I made on the team and the coach became a father figure to me.Just making it through some of those brutal practices was an accomplishment.I was slowly improving but the record didnt reflect it.

Everyone knew I would be wrestling the top seed in my weight class.He was undefeated - 25 and 0 -with 24 pins.This kid was a little muscle,He had a deadly three quarter nelson power pin move which was almost unstopable.And because this match was taking place at my school, the stands were filled with classmates who had put together a pool as to when I would get pinned!The pot was up to $35 and everyone thought it was funny - everyone but me.All week I practiced the only counter that is effective against the 3/4 nelson - arch your back and stand up the minute he tried to apply it.No one- and I mean no one - thought I stood a chance. No one except me.

The match ended with the final score 6-5 - He beat me by one point riding time.I never was put on my back and I countered his move the two times he tried it which lead to 3 of my points. When the match was finally over and they raised his hand in victory I ran into my coaches arms( he swallowed me up because he was such a big man) crying like a baby.Coach told me to look up.The entire crowd was on their feet giving me a standing ovation.Coach told me they recognized the heart of a champion.Even though I did not win I gave 100% and almost pulled the upset of the tournament.I should be proud.So shaken was the young man that the next day he was knocked out of the semi-finals and placed 5th.

I wrestled two more seasons and in the end I was winning more than losing yet no match stayed with me like that one.What I loved about the sport is that it taught me all about taking responsibility for myself,building a positivemental attitude, paying the price to success,sacrifice,teamwork,how to handle disappointment and resiliency.It was the best thing I did to prepare myself for life.

I lost that day but I really won in the long run.Because of that experience I could understand these words:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

rm_rsp54 58F
531 posts
9/28/2005 5:07 am

Way cool, Tom. Sports are so good for self esteem. It's too bad that even high school sports have risen(I use this term loosely) to the level they have. If a kid dosen't train and now even compete year yround, they are at a distinct advantage. My son is a good athlete, but participates in several sports. The soccer coach is pissed because he misses summer training to go to wrestling camp. The wrestling coach is pissed because he can't participate in preseason league because of soccer season. The track coach is pissed because he won't run cross country in the fall because of soccer. Where does it end.
But despite all of these conflicts, my son continues to participate and feel good about his contributions to his teams.
Last year (8th grade) was his first year wrestling. There wasn't a starting position at 105, so he was trying constantly trying to lose weight to make it to the next lower class. I was more miserable than he was.I don't remember his record for the year, but I know that he lost more than he won. Despite this, he did have some great moments, including a match where winning came down to him. The only way the team would win was if he pinned his opponent. It was his greatest victory in sports!
He has grown 6 inches and now weighs 118 lbs. It will be interesting to see what this year holds.


rm_rsp54 58F
531 posts
9/28/2005 5:08 am

OOPS! I mean distinct disadvantage!!!


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