A former youth of mine, who is now in college, called me the other day and asked me to help her with a project. She’s doing a survey asking wrestlers and wrestling coaches, “What values do you think you get from the sport of wrestling?” (This reminds me, I need to respond and send her survey back!)
But it got me thinking: What exactly do I value about the sport of wrestling? I’ll do this in two parts, since I have a “Top 10” in my head. But my question to you is, “What values/benefits do you get from the respective sport you follow or participate in?” What meaning do you get from being so passionate about it?
1. Wrestling = Faith. Let me explain – everyone has something, some experience, ritual, etc. that embodies their faith, that communicates clearly and connects them deeply to their faith. For me, that’s what wrestling does. There are so many angles to take this, but as I think of what it means to be a follower of Christ, to live a life of faith, the sport of wrestling embodies that. Defeat, triumph, discipline, sacrifice. I could use theological words: Death, resurrection, discipleship, the Cross. Wrestling embodies my faith in God, lived out in this world, this life.
2. Dealing with reality. Some of the most sobering lessons I’ve learned about life have been through wrestling. For example, hard work usually pays off, but sometimes it doesn’t. But the effort was totally worth it. We think of things in this world as one big transaction – “If I do this, I should get this.” But that’s not always true. However, the effort itself is about transformation – “If I go through this, it says something about me; I discover something about myself.” Transaction is about control, transformation is about faith. I wonder, if we do things for the sake of learning things about ourselves and how we relate to others, rather than with the expectation of a result, would we have a better sense of reality for what life is?
3. Winning. Because I don’t care what anyone says, winning feels damn good. But not winning at the expense of someone else, but because of everything endured along the journey to that point; what it took to get there.
4. Courage to be vulnerable. You probably don’t think of wrestlers as vulnerable creatures, but if you ask one and they’re honest with you, wrestlers go through a certain anxiety and fear every time they step on that mat. The possibility of losing, when you’re the only one out there – exposed, beaten, defeated – why would you subject yourself to that? I know for me, and for my athletes I now coach, to be able to acknowledge vulnerability and fear, but not to let the risk of failure paralyze or have power over you, that’s life-giving. And that mentality carries over to other aspects of life – relationships, jobs, etc.
5. Friends/The Wrestling Community. Let’s be honest: most of us are looking for a place where we belong. And since we’re being honest, I like being a “guy.” You may not like it, but I do. The sport of wrestling attracts a certain type of people that quite simply, I like hanging around. It may not be your community, but it’s mine. And I need that community, because it gives me life in ways the other communities I belong to (the church, in particular) can’t.
So there ya go: Again, if you’re a wrestler or love wrestling, I’d love to hear your additions to this list. If you love a different sport, I’d love to hear what you value about your sport so much! If you aren’t a sports person, I’d love to hear what you think about all this!