For those of you who don't know, I coach wrestling at a local high school in Knoxville, TN. This is my second year with the program as an assistant coach, but I do as much as I can with and for the team. Today, our first full week of practice came to a close. While there were a few moments that aggravated me, this week was overwhelmingly productive. Today, however, something was different, in a good way. Many of you have never been in a position like I am in: having to contain, teach, discipline, and also bond with a large group of high school students. Believe me, there are trying times when I get pushed to the end of my rope. Right now, while the school's football team is still in the playoffs, I am left with a very diminished team, consisting only of about twelve wrestlers, but in those that are there now (and have been there during preseason practices) I have seen a change already. I wrestle around with almost all of my wrestlers on a regular basis save for the heaviest of heavyweights, and today while I was going with them, everyone of them improved over the course of this week. From our most advanced guys to the newest wrestlers, every one of my wrestlers I went with had improved in some way. Even over the course of this week, I can tell I am connecting with the newer wrestlers, and strengthening the bond between myself and my experienced wrestlers from last year.
Near the end of practice, before one of the other assistant coaches took them out to sprint in the hallways, I told them all to take a seat (a big deal in our room because I do not allow the kids to sit on their butts, backs, or bellies - something my first coach, my dad, drilled in my head ten years ago) and I told them all straight up how proud I was of them for this past week, and how I've noticed that they have all improved, pointing out specific examples in almost every wrestler. After their run, we closed practice by saying our last remarks for the week - reminding them of dues and other things to do. While we were there, they were all for the most part very attentive (this is also a big deal when dealing with high school males), and allowed each other to speak. I can see that we are starting to become not only a team, but a family, and I am absolutely ecstatic. They even threw around the idea to go run as a team in a Breast Cancer run next week to continue losing weight. When the rest of our wrestlers make their way back to the mat from the football field, I know the bonding is only going to strengthen, and I really do feel that we can, and will, be better than our team last year. Their attitudes, for the most part, have changed over one week of actual practice, and they all are becoming more serious about the sport. Again, I can't explain how excited I am for this season and happy to be a part of this team. I really do feel like I am making a difference in the lives of these young men, if it is something as simple as them being able to relate to me for being around their age. Yes, it does keep me busy, but the feeling I got after practice today from this past week makes up for that.