I heard one of the world’s greatest soccer players—Pele—say you should become a good person first, before you become a good athlete. When I think about all of the wrestlers I’ve trained, watched, or followed, I cannot agree more with the idea that becoming a good person first should always be the priority!
I have so much respect for the sport of wrestling that I have to challenge who we are in order to make us better. I’m not sure if “better” is the right word because there is danger in forcing people to assimilate to one way, so a more accurate word might be “honorable.” That’s it…how can we make our sport more honorable?
I mean a lot of wrestlers believe by stepping onto the mat and competing, or gutting out a hard practice is already honorable; however let’s think about the ways we dishonor our sport—me included. I still see us knocking other sports down in order to “prove “ our sport is better. There’s that word again: better. Throughout history cultures have been annihilated because more dominant societies wanted to make them “better.” Let’s not prove our sport is better by knocking others down, to me that is more like bullying, and there are many good reasons to avoid bullying.
We also dishonor our sport when we become braggers and posturers. I used to be really good at that. I had always felt I was invincible—for good reason—the workouts our college team endured kind of made us invincible.
I look at somebody who does represent our sport well, somebody in my circle, and that is Stephen Neal. A 2x NCAA champ, an NFL player with 4 Super Bowl rings, yet you wouldn’t ever know it by talking to him. He is respected by many, and he never had any reason to posture, even though many would have liked to challenge him.
Now, he represents what I am trying to convey about honor in our sport. Except, our sport of wrestling does not need individual representatives, we need everyone associated with our sport to accept the level of responsibility that comes with being a wrestler, and that my friend is becoming a good person first. And the only reason I get to say something about this topic is because I believe in learning from my/our mistakes.