You are doing fine
I recently saw this video on Facebook "I was Broken" featuring Katelyn Ohashi's struggle in the world of Gymnastics. As I watched it, my heart sank as I listened to her talk about her difficulties and the overwhelming pressure she tried to deal with alone. Although I was nowhere near the level of competitiveness that this girl at, it did trigger moments in my wrestling career where I also felt confused, unsure, and completely lost. The sport that had once given me so much joy was now becoming my worst nightmare.
Recently as I was sitting in bed, I was thinking about what I wish I could help kids to understand.
And referring back to this video, one of those things is just simply to not be so hard on yourself. More often than not, especially in a sport as demanding as wrestling, I think it’s very easy to get caught in the pressure of having to live up to these crazy expectations.
No one wants to feel left out, or be the one to disappoint anybody. Each kid also has an expectation of what their abilities are and what they believe they can achieve. And thats not to say that they shouldn’t go after what they want, but I sometimes worry about the sheer amount of pressure they put on themselves to get there. Pressure comes from many different sources of influence such as their friends, teachers, coaches, media, and of course, themselves.
I kind of think of it like weightlifting. Lift too little, you don't create a lot of pressure and you won’t feel challenged. But lifting too much, especially with bad form, you can really hurt yourself. It’s just a matter of when. In this example, bad form could be low self-esteem, feeling of shame, not having a supportive friend to talk to, feeling like you’re trapped, etc.
And why do they put so much pressure on themselves? More often than not, it's to receive validation. When kids are so desperate to receive some type of approval from their coach or parent, and to just feel an ounce of worthiness in themselves, they start to lose sense of their own boundaries. There’s that kid who, in an attempt to cut weight, doesn’t eat anything despite being in the time of their life where they are going through a growth spurt. There’s that kid who gets yelled at because his win wasn’t “perfect” enough. There’s that kid who gets pushed to go to compete in a tournament when they should be resting their injuries. Now, if it’s a big end of the year tournament, that’s an exception where you just gotta roll with the punches. But I’m talking about minor tournaments where resting would be more beneficial than competing. What’s in their best interest should come first.
And what I reeeeally want to tell those young athletes, is this, you’re doing fine. If you are in the room everyday, putting in the time, asking questions, being curious, having fun, you are doing fine. Not feeling like you're progressing fast enough? Wishing you were stronger than you are? Feeling like you should be better than where you are right now? Feeling like you’re letting everyone down? It’s ok, just breathe for a second. You're not alone in that feeling. Everyone wants to get better and it's normal to feel that way. But it's not a reason to go torturing yourself day after day.
Accept where you are at, and strive to improve one step at a time.
Understand that the athletes who win big, are the ones who can stay in the sport the longest, and who are mentally strong enough to endure the pressure. And you can’t do either of those things if you push yourself too hard too soon.
Everyone moves at their own pace. On some days it’ll feel like you’re doing everything great and you are on your A game. Other days you’re just trying to get through it. And other days, you feel like you’ve gone backwards. It’s normal, and nothing worth criticizing yourself over.
And why does all of this even matter? Because sports are supposed to build people up, not break them down beyond repair. Sure you might win a couple things right now. But in the long run, is this sustainable? Can you keep training like this, in this way? I don’t think you can and I don’t think you should.
I hope this message reaches those young aspiring athletes. Performing at your highest potential and achieving things beyond your imagination is a great thing. It really is. Just remember to enjoy the process and be kind to yourself in your moment of glory, and in your darkest hour.
You are doing fine.