Updated: Dec 11, 2020
"Every depth has a surface but not every surface has a depth" is something I heard from an Elder from Simonospetra monastery on the Holy mountain Athos. When I heard these words I remember I was struck very deeply in the sense that I began to search my innermost being to see what I would really find there. As others before me, many probably way better equipped, will soon discover on such an introspective journey is that this is certainly no easy task. The first thing we find if we are able to stop and smell the roses for a minute is the insane amount of distractions that are layered upon us. And the craziest part about this is we allow this to be our norm because it is our very participation in so many frivolous activities that we find ourselves left with no time to participate in the truly important things in life.
What is the first thought in your mind when you awake? What is the first thing you reach for? As far as thoughts, only each individual can know these themselves and even then sometimes our own thoughts can even be difficult to decipher. But, in this day in age, it is easy to observe that the first thing most people reach for when awake is their smart phone. Perhaps a more remarkable fact to those of us who remember that just a short time ago smart phones simply did not exist. And the generation before that would walk into the living room and the first thing they would do is turn on the TV and now we see there are TV screens everywhere, on phones, in cars, at gas pumps etc. Previous generation to that would turn on the radios and so on and so forth. So, although the mediums we attach ourselves to seemingly become more high tech it appears that the need for such attachment is a human condition that spans generations. Why? When we remove the smartphone, the tv, the radio or in the case of the title of this blog SPORTS, what will we find? Number 1, we are forced to see what is directly in front of us, we are able to hear more clearly what is near to us, we when the distractions are removed will be left all alone with our thoughts. These thoughts originate from within our depth or in some cases the lack thereof. I believe that this can be a scary notion for many...
Sitting in my Chapel with a close friend discussing the idea about starting the Wrestling With Virtue program, we were looking at this topic and need from many different angles. Me, a lifetime youth sports coach with three children and he a retired HOF professional athlete with sons starting to get into sports themselves. My personal inspiration for the program came at a stop and smell the roses moment when my best friend from high school who was a high school wrestling State Champion died at age 40. At this moment in time, I started to really reflect deeply on my own experiences as an athlete with my teammates and coaches. I was Blessed to have 4 State Champions on my high school wrestling team and we were highly ranked in the nation every season. But, in this particular moment one had passed away of disease, one was in prison, one was in rehab and one was in a halfway house. This led me to quickly analyze these situations (and many I am involved in as a coach) as I was very close to all of these cases and had enough information to gain at least some level of understanding. One thing that became obvious to me was that at the moment sports were taken out of the equation there were in many cases a sort of identity crisis. My close friend in the Chapel was able to confirm that this can even be more extreme in the case of coming out of pro sports where elite athletes can become very wealthy and very well known in some cases. Another point he shared with me that troubled him was that as a Father of young student athletes, how many parents he had heard talking about their kids getting scholarships or going "pro" someday, even with kids as young as 8 years old or younger(this may be a seed planted for the identity crisis in some cases???). We both agreed that the value in youth sports lies in attaining the attributes that can make a person successful in all that they pursue in their entire lifetime and beyond not just some fleeting moments of glory on a field or on a mat or in any sports arena or level.
In conclusion, having spent a whole life involved in sports and as a person who personally loves the sport of wrestling, I am not saying that participating in sports is a bad thing or that based on my own experiences all of the youth or beyond sport success cases turn into bad situations later. This is far from the truth. What I am suggesting is that we evaluate and order our priorities in such a way that until the last day of our life we are able to utilize the characteristics we have attained during our sports careers. Namely, to use the same desire, discipline and determination of our time, talent and treasure that we use in search of sports "success" to also find life's success as spouses, parents, community leaders,teachers, coaches, employers, employees and much more. Not to mention, the pursuit of peace and salvation which originates and rests in the center of our being even beyond our own depths and far beyond our own surfaces!
Faith, Family, Wrestling ;-)
so when sports ends its just more time to focus on the more important things in my life
P.S. To the above blog I will add that if you are still in the middle of your sports career and this is only a pause then I will encourage you to use this opportunity to continue to improve which will include but not be limited to praying, reading, eating healthy, strength training, and using the internet to improve technique by watching, studying, reviewing.
It is very important to avoid just sitting around doing nothing, playing video games or getting absorbed in social media and allowing this time period to develop bad habits into your lifestyle.
There is a lot of truth to the saying, "if you are not improving then you are falling behind" Do not see this as an excuse for laziness or a giving up attitude but rather as an opportunity to explore the many other ways you can surge ahead in your own improvement!