Often I mention to my students that wrestling is not the totality of our identity! No sport or extra curricular activity can or should be all that we are known for or all that we strive for. If a sport or activity is all we are putting our energy into then we are setting ourselves up for a huge failure and eventual let down. I see way too many families putting way too much emphasis on sports in general and neglecting the spiritual, emotional, and even the academic progress of their children.
To begin with, in the end, sports is actually a very shallow reflection into the depth of our being. Do not get me wrong, I have spent a lifetime involved with sports both as an athlete and as a coach and I believe wholeheartedly in the life lessons that can be gained from our participation in athletics. But, what I see more often then not is unhealthy relationships being developed through our attitude of what we hope for our children to gain from youth sports. Not only do we make it the child's identity but it becomes our family's identity. Too often, I am seeing divorces of parents almost immediately after their children graduate form high school. I am seeing former star athletes struggling with addiction, thrill seeking and battling depression. And I began to ask myself why is this happening to such elite human beings?
In the many very personal cases that I have been close to and able to analyze very closely, I have been able to pinpoint that at the moment the sport was removed is when many times the seemingly identity crisis' began. To preemptively address this issue has become a big part of my coaching approach after 20+ years of experience. Because, at some point for all of us, sports is going to end. At that moment, what kind of citizens in the community, spouses, parents, employers, employees etc. are we going to be?
On this issue, I will suggest to understand that the reality of our identity is not just linked to our image but also our content. Seek to enrich this content by remaining in the present moment, learning from the past and preparing for the future but steadfastly being the best version of ourselves in each present moment. Love God by loving all people including ourselves. Stay away from evil and never cease doing good. Accept yourself as an unfinished being, keep an open mind and heart to who you are becoming - your truest self which corresponds to your total and true content. Evil lives in the past through regret and lives in the future though anxiety, true goodness lives in the present through love!
In conclusion, a good perspective to youth sports can be to gain habits such as healthy
diet, hygiene, and sleep patterns. This should also include gaining knowledge on goal setting, developing strategies, proper time management and the acquiring of virtues. Not to be dismissed is also learning to accept success and failure with a proper attitude, learning to work with others and the importance of the life long pursuit to understand who we truly are!