A good friend of mine posted an article on his Facebook wall titled, “How Important is the Wrestling Room?” The article’s premise is that good practice facilities are important for attracting athletes and building programs. The article makes a good point, especially when you consider the state of college athletics in the United States today.
However, I want to offer a different perspective…one that goes beyond a spacious facility with clocks, pristine locker rooms, state of the art workout machines and weights; one that goes beyond the mats and banners. I want to offer how important a wrestling room is for what happens on those mats, and what those banners stand for.
For me, it’s on those mats that a lot of battles have been fought, not just to improve and prepare me for competition, but as a person. I don’t know how many times the battles I was facing in the wrestling room were internal: fighting through self-imposed limits, learning to keep trying when I knew I wasn’t at my best and things weren’t perfect, dealing with the anxiety and fear of possibly failing, and handling success with humility.
And it’s on those mats that as both a competitor and coach I’ve experienced some of the best support and community I’ve ever known. Coaches and practice partners, silently supporting and pushing me to my best (and sometimes not so silently!), and me doing the same in turn. Together we know the struggles that the other is going through, and understand that while you can relate, that those internal battles have to be experienced and fought through on one’s own terms and in one’s own time. It’s on those wrestling mats that I’ve had some of the best conversations about not only wrestling, but about life as well – lots of laughs, wisdom, futures and hopes, good stories shared, and of course, wrestling with the things that happen in this world that extend well beyond the wrestling room.
And those banners….the tradition. Those banners remind you of the tradition, of those who have gone before you and have reached the places you hope to be. I recall one person saying, “Tradition is something you can’t put a price on because it perpetuates success; people want to be a part of it, and it’s totally free.” Theologian and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber put it best in her “On Being” interview with Krista Tippett: “I actually have this — I really feel strongly that you have to be deeply rooted in tradition in order to innovate with integrity.” Her point being this (I hope!): tradition provides the integrity for our efforts that grounds us and keeps us accountable for keeping us focused on the right things. Tradition reminds us why things came to be in the first place; and that while we’re always evolving and changing, we do so with the same commitments and values at the center.
For me, it’s these things that make a wrestling room important. And I hope, it’s also things such as these that make a church important too. It the things that happen IN these spaces – the community formed and tradition’s role in helping give shape to that ever changing community – that matter.
And so folks, whether you’re a wrestler, churchgoer, or both: “What makes the wrestling room or the church important to you?”