A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness: Chapter Four

If you haven’t read the previous chapters you can read those below!

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter One.

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter Two

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter Three

Chapter Four: When it Rains, it Pours

Greg woke up to his alarm, 5am on the dot. He sat up to the edge of his bed and looked up at the new poster Coach Bob had printed out and given to him. “Get up and train while your opponent sleeps.” It was supposed to be a motivational sign, but Greg couldn’t help but think he’d rather be sleeping! But he looked at the sign closely. There was a little bit of writing at the very bottom of it. “The extra mile isn’t always straight, and it’s almost always lonely, but the journey is worth it I promise. I don’t expect perfection, I expect the best you can do! Treat every day as precious and one to make you better, I am incredibly proud of you buddy. Make today a great one, or don’t, the choice is yours.”-Coach Bob.

Greg didn’t quite understand what the extra mile meant. But he really clued in one the last part. Coach Bob didn’t want perfection, he just wanted Greg to do his best. That felt very different than any coach Greg had ever had. Even his Dad had always gotten on him about “demanding perfection” a common thing he would yell at him at football practice is “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect! YOU NEED TO BE PERFECT!” Greg always felt the pressure of being perfect made it hard to enjoy football. He began to really hate practice and games by the end of the season, most of his teammates felt the same way. Greg decided it was time to stop thinking negative and start doing his best, he dropped down and started his first set of twenty pushups. He was supposed to do as many sets as he could, then do 5 less until he couldn’t do anymore. Then do the same with sit ups and air squats. Coach Bob had shown him how to do all three with good form at their last practice.

Bob woke up at his usually 4:45am and got up, did a set of twenty 8-count body builders and went downstairs for his morning coffee and oatmeal. As he walked downstairs, he heard Aiden running around in the garage, his favorite song playing through the speaker. His coffee and oatmeal were ready, he walked into the garage and sat at the table he had put in to watch Aiden do his morning training routine.

“Good morning buddy! Today’s gonna be…” as they always did Aiden jumped in the air, hands to the sky, “A great day!!!” This had become their morning routine a year ago when Aiden said he wanted to do more than was required. They started each day with a positive affirmation that the day would be great, so they would manifest it to become great. Aiden did the normal Monday morning routine. Jumping jacks, box jumps, clapping pushups and dead hangs. It was a quick 20 minutes of movement followed by 15 minutes of good stretching where Coach Bob helped Aiden stretch a little bit further.

Bob knew that it was important for Aiden to not only do the work, but to love it. About two months ago Aiden had started beating Bob to the garage every day. Often waking up as early as 4am just to be sure! Bob was never prouder than the second day in a row he beat him there. He didn’t need to motivate him, he typically needed to dial him back a bit. As they finished their workout Bob began to hear the sound of heavy rain hitting the roof of their garage. He hated when it rained like this in the winter.

Mom woke up, Dad was still asleep but she swore she heard noise coming from Greg’s room. She looked at the clock, it was 5:15am. She slid out of bed and walked down the hall to Greg’s room. She slowly peaked open the door. She heard a song playing, it was Getting Stronger from the first Rocky movie. Greg was so focused on his exercises he didn’t even notice his Mom had opened the door. Mom smiled and just simply closed the door slowly. She had never seen her son so happy and energetic. He was driven by something bigger than she even understood. He finally had a passion for something. Something that he felt was entirely his own and he would fight anyone who tried to prevent it.

It was amazing how fast he had found his passion too. Mom thought about it for a second and it had to all tie back to Coach Bob. Greg had someone who made him feel like he could do anything, and that meant more than anything to her. Greg was a changed kid after he won the deal with his Dad. Dad on the other hand had become incredibly frustrated that Greg was so focused on having fun and just working hard. He didn’t care about winning or losing at all. Mom loved that Greg was focused on the effort, her dad had always taught her that effort and attitude was all that mattered. Mom walked downstairs, Getting Stronger had abruptly stopped, all she could hear now was the pouring rain hitting the house.

Dad woke up and noticed that Mom was already out of bed, it was early. He sat up and wiped his eyes, looked at the clock, 5:25am. He got out of bed and walked into the bathroom to splash some water in his face. As he looked up in the mirror he saw looking back at him a man confused. He felt as though he had lost so much when he lost the bet with Greg. The power over his sons career had suddenly shifted. Greg was turning into something Dad couldn’t possibly understand or support. Wrestling was becoming about fun and passion, not strength and toughness like Dad had known to be required for wrestlers to be successful. Greg needed to know what it meant to grind and suffer for the sake of improvement. Dad walked out because he heard music playing. He walked down the hall to Greg’s room and opened the door. Greg was doing air squats while Getting Stronger from Rocky played.

Dad unplugged the speaker and turned the music off. “Greg what are you doing? It’s 5:30am, your Mom and I were sleeping and you woke us up with this music! What were you thinking!?” Greg was startled, he stared at the ground while his Dad continued to rant. “And all this cause what? Cause Coach Bob told you so? You think he can help you achieve anything preaching that fun and love stuff? He has no idea what it takes to be a true champion. He got lucky one time and made an impressive run to a title and suddenly he knows it all?”

Greg finally looked up and realized something. His Dad didn’t like Coach Bob because he was jealous of him. “Sorry Dad, I’ll keep my music low when I do my morning routine from now on.” Greg went back to his squats and left Dad to his anger. Dad walked out of the room, he couldn’t make heads or tails of what had become of his son. He was six and was that defiant of him. He walked towards the stairs and heard the sound of rain outside, it was always a bad day for Dad when it rained.

When Mom saw Dad come into the kitchen she could tell that he was clearly upset about something. “What’s the matter honey? Why are you so angry?” Mom made a cup of coffee while Dad sat down, “Greg, he’s really changing quickly.” Mom smiled, “I know, it’s amazing isn’t it! He has really taken to the sport! He loves it!” Dad quickly snapped towards her, “You like this? You’re proud of how he’s acting!?” Mom was shocked, “What do you mean? Is it a bad thing for him to enjoy what he’s doing and be willing to work harder on his own than we ever could have dreamed?” Dad stood up, “Not like this! Not where he doesn’t listen to me, where he doesn’t respect me and the way I want him to grow up!” Mom laughed, “He is a little man to be, the way he grows up isn’t ours to determine. All we can do is support his pursuit of happiness…”

Dad sat back down. Was he really panicking over his son being happy, was he being supportive or overly controlling. He truly thought he knew best for his son but maybe he didn’t need to be his everything, maybe he just needed to be his Dad. “Can you give me Coach Bob’s number, I’d like to talk to him, man to man.” Mom looked at Dad, she wasn’t sure how he meant it but she had known that look before. He was focused on something, she just couldn’t tell what it was. “I can give you his number, our son really looks up to him so if anyone can help us understand him, I know he can!”

Bob was shocked when he got the call, “Hey this is Greg’s Dad. I wanted to see if you could just help me understand Greg a little better. I am so confused right now man.” Bob could tell that he was being honest and was very confused. “Greg has been doing great man! He’s really into this sport, a special kind of passion that is really hard to teach. Aiden did the same thing last year, some kids just fall in love right away, others take some time!” Dad walked to the living room and sat down, “But Greg doesn’t respect my opinion anymore! He needs to know that he has to listen to me too, I am his dad and I’ve been around this sport for a long time!”

Bob couldn’t help but laugh at that comment. “When Aiden first fell in love with wrestling, there wasn’t anything I could do to stop him. He didn’t wanna hear anything I had to say! As far as he was concerned, I didn’t know anything about anything!” Greg laughed realizing that this wasn’t a unique problem to him. “Well that’s reassuring man, I was beginning to think this whole thing was going from bad to worse. When it rains it pours, ya know?” Bob smiled, he hated that phrase, it was entirely negative. “Rain doesn’t have to be bad, in fact it’s more good than it’s bad. “Rain is part of life, a very important part in fact. It’s a good thing, not something to hate! Rain grows plants, allows birds to feed their chicks, and fills rivers and lakes. We should look forward to rain more than we hate it.” Bob hoped that little story would connect with him. Dad kind of laughed it off.

“Man you have to be one of the most positive people I’ve ever heard of. How you can see rain as a good thing is beyond me. But I just don’t understand how to help my son if he won’t listen to me man. There’s no way you can spin it to be positive that your kid directly ignores you! Unless you can, at that point you better write a book on it or something!” Bob laughed, “Not much of a writer man, I just read a lot. However, one of the best things I’ve ever done to help my relationship with Aiden is to just be his super proud and supportive dad. He doesn’t see me as coach, trainer, or anything. All he sees is a smiling dad who loves hanging out with him, and he loves doing whatever it is we happen to be doing because of it. I took the kid for a flu shot and he was proud that he and eye got it at the same time!”

Dad slumped in his chair a bit, confused but also now much more awake to how he had treated Greg. “I haven’t been the most supportive dad now that I think about it, I’ve been his coach in so many sports and I get so frustrated as a coach when he doesn’t listen that I guess I’ve blurred the lines of coach and dad a bit too much now. I just don’t know how to connect with him on a level to make him feel like I support him, I’ve spent most of the time he can remember being the one that had to yell at him, his Mom never would!”

“Well if it makes you feel any better I started out the same way man! When Aiden first started I wanted him to win every match, people made me think he represented me and him losing made me look bad. So I was super hard on him when he made mistakes. That was right up until my own wife reminded me of my freshman year of college at Rutgers. I was winning 10-1 in the match that would’ve sent me to the NCAAs that year and I took a sloppy shot, got headlocked and pinned. I was devastated, but my coach looked me square in the face when he saw me so upset and said, “So what, are you never gonna shoot on a guy ever again? No? Didn’t think so, you made one mistake. It’s not the end of your career, it’s not even the end of your season, it’s just the end of THAT match.”

Dad laughed, “I remember watching that match against the Michigan State guy. That was a nasty headlock in your defense.” Bob smirked on his end of the phone, “Not even the worse one of my college career! I was headlocked 3 times in college! But anyway, I lost that match and had to wrestle for 9th/10th at my weight, on the off chance my weight would get the At Large Bid to allow me to go even though I didn’t place high enough originally. I didn’t ultimately make the cut, but I learned that I couldn’t fear mistakes more than I loved the opportunity to compete. That mistake changed the trajectory of my career. I learned how to wrestle free, and wrestle to dominate, one mistake changed my life, but it was because I had a coach who was supportive, not controlling.”

Dad stood up and walked to the window, the rain was slowing down, the sun had started to break through a little bit as it rose, it was a very pretty sight. But it made Dad think, what if today was a new day for him, a way for him to reconnect with Greg and focus on being that supportive dad that he himself had always wanted. This was a chance to break the chain of controlling dads in their family. “Well Bob, I just want to say thank you. I really had no idea that I was such a huge problem with Greg, I never paused to think maybe I was the issue.” Bob smiled, knowing he had gotten through to another great parent just trying to do their best.

“Don’t worry man, parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. If we ever figure it out, we’d be millionaires but sadly I don’t think anyone can crack the code on every version of our sons we’ll see in their lifetime. All we can do is be their support until they’ve truly learned to stand on their own.” Bob looked out the window as the clouds passed and the pink and blue sky lit up from the sunlight. “Today is a new day my friend, and if you want to connect with Greg you should remind him that today is going to be his day, and do the same thing each day until he doesn’t need you to believe it!”

Dad said thank you to Bob one more time and hung up the phone. He walked upstairs to get Greg ready for school and saw he was already showered and dressed, hard to believe this was a his six year old who two months ago could barely get out of bed on his own. He really was transforming into a tiny little man. “Hey Greg! I just wanted to say I’m sorry for yelling at you this morning! I was really cranky and I took it out on you, I want you to know that I am so proud of you, and that today is gonna be the best day of your life! You can do and be whatever you want to be, and I’ll be here to cheer you on!”

Greg looked up at his dad and smiled, “Make today a great one, or don’t, the choice is yours.” Dad smiled, the sun broke through the window and shined on Greg, “Exactly buddy, it’s a bright sunny day, the rain has passed and now it’s time to go make today your day! I love you so much little man!” Greg ran up and hugged his Dad, “Thank you Daddy! I’m just gonna do my best!” Greg ran down the stairs and Dad sat there on his bed for a second, Greg had completely flipped to positive and happy when Dad was being supportive. The sun hit Dad in the face but he didn’t move, he just embraced it, today was gonna be the best day of his life too!

Published by Centurion Wrestling Club

Former D1 Wrestler at Penn State University. Member of Four national championship winning teams.

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