It’s 10:00 am on Saturday. I walked into a crowded gym filled with hopeful energy accompanied by that oh so lovely scent of a high school gym filled with athletes. Today my son, Ryan, will be competing in the final tournament of the season. As a freshman, Ryan decided to break my heart and quit his soccer career and as a replacement activity, he asked to try wrestling. Uncertain what exactly we were getting ourselves into, I said yes.
Starting as a first-year wrestler as a sophomore, you lose a lot. It turns out some parents have their kids start wrestling at 5 and 6 years old. I totally missed the boat on that one. It would have saved me countless hours and grief of yelling at my son to stop wrestling his friends in the backyard because someone would get hurt.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. Going into the day, I thought and was told by other more experienced spectators that he had a good chance of winning the whole thing. And after round one and round two, when he decidedly had a winning streak, I began to believe that was in store for him. Then round three and four took a different turn. He was pinned in both rounds, losing the matches and emotionally and physically drained after a seven-hour day. He would now be competing for 5th place. You could see on his face that this place was the last place on Earth he wanted to be.
Bruised, battered and exhausted from hard fought matches and the grind of a long season, he had to step back on the mat one more time. As his final round started, early grappling indicated his opponent was an even match in abilities. Then, Ryan was hurt. His obvious injury was a dislocated shoulder. I was watching what was happening from the stands. The trainer was evaluating him. His coaches were by his side. Ryan was clearly distraught. Then some gyrations to his shoulder area. I packed up my things to begin leaving the stands because his match is clearly over. He is going to forfeit.
I watched from the sidelines as he wiped tears from his face, adjusted his headgear and walked back onto the mat. A few seconds later the match was called. Ryan won by pin. To say I had a mix of emotions is an understatement, but the most overwhelming emotion was pride and admiration.
Wrestling came into his life at a particularly difficult time. It was near the final days of the pandemic, he had changed schools mid-year, struggled with his mental health and as a result motivation. And in this moment, I witnessed his determination, stamina, resilience and grit to overcome; to push through the pain; to finish what he started; to believe in himself.
I was reminded today that we are built to do really hard things and we actually have what it takes to get through it. And those who witness our courage will be inspired to be bold and brave in their struggle. And if you believe in a higher power as I do, we are given exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, to come through the other side as a celebrated warrior.
It makes me wonder what hard things I have been avoiding. The times I haven’t wanted to step on the mat. Today will make me think differently about the next time I encounter something tough. Will I courageously step into the discomfort and wrestle for my win?
My son is an inspiration to me today and every day, but especially today. I can do hard things and you know what, so can you. We only need to dig deep and step onto the mat.