A couple of weekends ago our high school team hosted a wrestling tournament. This tournament draws teams from all over our state and even a few out of state teams. It’s a tough double-elimination competition every year.
This year a young woman who I got to know and love when we lived back in Wyoming was wrestling this year. She has become a very good wrestler in the few years she’s been doing it. Granted, the girls division has only been in existence for three years, but she’s become one the top wrestlers of her weight class.
She won straight through, making it to the final match where she was wrestling for first place. Sadly, she lost and wasn’t handling it well when I finally caught up to her. After a minute or so of listening to her loud frustrations and complaints, I finally said.
“I know it’s disappointing to lose, but I would caution you to change your perspective on this.”
She blinked at me through her tears like I’d lost my mind.
“How many young ladies on your team made it to the placing matches?” I said.
“Four,” she told me.
“And how many girls are on your team?”
“So, only a little over ten percent of your team will get to stand on one of those boxes and get a medal tonight. And you are the only one on your team that went for first and second, which means you are the highest finisher they got.”
She bowed her head. “You’re right.”
“I know you’ve won several tournaments this year, and that’s awesome, but it’s just as important to choose your actions carefully when you lose. All those girls over there look up to you, and you can show them that it’s okay to lose. Remember that’s what most of them are feeling at every tournament. They still have value, just as you do, because win or lose you all decided to find the courage to step out on the mat every single time you’re called up.”
She nodded her head and then I leaned down and whispered, “But be ready to give ’em hell the next time you see that girl.”
She smiled, her first in the entire exchange. “I will.”
“That’s my girl, fearless to the end.”
I’ve been around wrestlers for more than twenty years. In all that time I’ve watched the sport basically mold two kinds of people–ones who are really cocky or those that are extremely humble. You would think it’s the winning that would separate the two, but you would be wrong. It’s all about perspective. If the winning wrestler can remember how it felt to lose, they will always be considerate of their opponents after a match, and trust me every wrestler has lost at one time or another. The cocky ones have lost sight of that. And let’s be honest, it makes them really hard to be around most of the time.