Mark Terry

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Weekend Adventure

January 21, 2008

My youngest son--seen here in double vision--got into wrestling a couple months ago. Our school system has a wrestling club and a pretty hot wrestling program, so Sean, age 9, joined the wrestling club. He seems to love it.

Leanne and I don't know much about wrestling. It's not a sport either of us spent much time paying attention to. I did a little wrestling in junior high gym class, so I have the idea, but I didn't know much about competitive wrestling.

On Sunday, he had his first club meet and there were several hundred kids from all over the state there. I had to get up before 6:00 and take Sean (it was 4 degrees with a wind chill factor of -10) up to the high school by 7:00 for weigh-in. Yes, he's a whopping 76.2 pounds.

Then there was a lot--and I mean A LOT--of sitting around and waiting. Then my wife and oldest son showed up a little bit before it began, sometime after 9:00. Ian, my oldest, was giving us major 'tude because he didn't want to be there. We eventually stopped threatening him and gave him chores to do like, "Here's $10 bucks, go find us something to drink and a snack. Go!" That usually works very well in changing a teenager's attitude, I've found.

Sean received a "bye" on his first round, which is to say, there were an odd number of wrestlers in his age and weight class, so he didn't wrestle and had to wait for the second round. Then about 45 minutes later he was called to wrestle. This was done in the gym and there were about 9 pairings going on simultaneously. Sean's opponent was more experienced and two things struck me most. First, it was clearly a different experience for Sean from wrestling his buddies during the club. This kid wanted to win and he had more experience and he was going to fight hard to win. And secondly, I thought Sean handled himself very well. He was down a bit by points--2, I believe--but for a first match he showed a lot of heart. He eventually lost by a pin.

Then he was going to have another round later. Since we didn't know how long this was going to be and Ian had displayed enough brotherly support and reasonable behavior, I decided to take him home. Unfortunately, I missed Sean's match by about 10 seconds. I mean, really, I walked back in the gym with him stepping off the mat. He lost again, but it was 11 to 9, and Leanne, who had been acting as coach, said he was great, it was very close, and it was obvious that he had gained some confidence from the first time around.

One of Sean's friends, who's a much more neurotic kid, had one of those odd sports experiences. He was wrestling his opponent (Sean's friend was clearly outmatched) and they were all over the mat and the ref--who are typically kids from the high school wrestling team--didn't move quickly enough and they wandered into another wrestling area and Sean's friend tripped over another ref lying on the ground checking for a pin. Sean's friend took a pretty hard fall and then, being the kind of kid he was, had a meltdown.

I saw a fair amount of that with the younger kids. The ages for the wrestling clubs range from age 5 to 14 and it was interesting and a little dismaying at times to see how the younger kids handle things. Sometimes they were crying because they lost or sometimes because they were hurt or took some slamming around they didn't expect. I can appreciate that, actually. One of the most common expressions I noted in kids who were wrestling for the first time was a kind of "controlled panic." A sort of, "holy shit, this isn't what I expected it" look on their faces as their opponent went after them. Then, in most cases--not all--their training kicked in and they started fighting back and hard.

I'm not at all a "this will make a man out of him" kind of guy. If Sean likes it, fine, we'll support it. If he doesn't, hey, life's short, find something you like to do. At the moment, he seems to like wrestling. I see some value in it--grace under pressure, persistence, hard work. And if it's fun for him, it's probably better for him than hanging out in gin joints and pool halls--these 9-year-olds, you give them an inch, they take a mile :)

At the risk of sounding like a real doofus, I'm reminded of a line from the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. Spock is asked by Kirk if his crew is ready for the mission and Spock essentially says, each will rise to the occasion depending on their abilities, nature and training.

Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

I love that Trek quote! The only thing I know about wrestling is what I learned from John Irving.

Controlling panic is a great skill to have. Awful skill to acquire, though.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
Great fatherhood post.

I have really mixed emotions about kids and sports. Has to do with sportsmanlike conduct and the way it seems to become this obsession of time and money when kids reach a certain level. Only one of mine is at all gravitating towards sports. So I am in the "learning" phase, along with her. She just knows that I can't ever agree with sports taking over families' lives the way some people get. And she knows I'd much rather her put on her catcher's pads than be a cheerleader, which I thank the Lord each day she tried and hated.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

SS--great way to put it.

Erica--we're a very active family, but not exactly "sports." All of us (Sean's taking a break from it) study Sanchin-Ryu karate, which is non-competitive and not a "sport" martial art. Both my wife and I lift weights at the gym and Leanne's a runner and I'm a biker. We like to kayak. To swim. To walk. But "sports" and being organized and teams, etc., isn't a big deal to us. I'm supportive of Sean, but at the same time, I think we will draw the line when it comes to travel and time commitments.

There were some parents at the wrestling meet who were definitely too intense, although nothing like what I saw when my oldest did a parks & rec basketball thing when he was about 8. That was just plain scary.

9:47 AM  
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