There is no substitute for hard work. No talent, no special move, no natural abilities or athleticism, nothing. Hard work beats talent every time when talent doesn’t work hard, and even sometimes when it does.
You may not be the best in the world, but I guarantee that you will have no regrets. Those words ring in my head each time I step on the mat. There are no promises in wrestling, or in life for the matter. The only promise is that at some point, your life will come to an end. However, that shouldn’t affect the way you encounter things. In fact it should fuel a fire inside of you to do the best you can at every moment. As an athlete, your window of opportunity to be the best is very small. You only have 4 years to be a high school state champ. Another 4 years to be an NCAA Champ. Maybe another 7-8 years to be an Olympic or World Champ after college, and that’s if your making enough money from wrestling to hold off from getting a real job to support your family. So let’s add that up. 4+4+8=16. 16 years. 16 years=192 months. Let’s say you wrestle 8 months out of every year and take 4 off to relax. 192-64=128. Let’s take another 8 months off in that time period for the weekends you take off to hang out with friends. 128-8=120. Let’s not forget that year off the mat you spent recovering from knee surgery. 120-12=108. 108/12=9. 9 years. The average World Class athlete retires at 33. The average World class wrestler retires at 24. Your clock may have already started. Have you started training hard yet?
Being good at anything is a responsibility. Expectations arise. People expect you to win. Coaches expect you to work hard. When all eyes are on you, lead by example. When no one cares who you are, and your just a squirt trying to make the varsity lineup, lead by example. Every champion starts somewhere. Don’t become discouraged and quit. Work harder. I was the 52nd ranked senior coming out of high school in 2006. 52nd. Not anymore. I made it my job to outwork all my teammates. To prove all the colleges who didn’t recruit me, all the wrestlers who had ever beaten me, anyone who had ever doubted me, that I would become a champion. Just because you don’t start at the top doesn’t mean you can’t finish there. Remember once you’ve reached halfway to your destination, it’s the same distance to reach your goal as it is to turn around and go home.
Of course there are times when you want to quit. You go through them. I go through them. If I only practiced on days that I felt 100%, I would probably never practice. But these are the days that make you into a champion. These are the days where you push through the pain and soreness, the weakness from cutting weight, and keep your eyes on the big picture. Here is where you make the biggest gains. It’s easy to wrestle when you feel good, easy to win when you have the lead. Can you overcome adversity? Only you can decide whether or not you train hard. You still have to be at practice in the wrestling room for 2 hours, why not make the most of it? The choice is yours. You have the rest of your life to party. Years to nap and eat pizza. These are the days where you become a fighter. Embrace these days.
No regrets. Realistically, everyone won’t become an Olympic or World Champion, but that shouldn’t stop you from dreaming. Dreaming is setting your goals, visualizing what it takes to get there, then doing just that. Don’t just tell everyone you want to be a State Champ, show them. Have you ever heard the story of giving 110%. Impossible. Someone once told me 100% usually does the job just fine. How can you give more than your all? The key is, be willing to give your all. On every sprint. Every drill. Every match. Winning doesn’t just happen on competition days, it begins at practice. Compete fearlessly with no regrets. The problem is not everyone is willing to give 100%. You tweet it. You Facebook it. You tell all your friends how bad you want it. But are you living it? It takes hard work to be the best. If being a wrestler was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Success is what you make it. Take comfort in knowing that if you gave your all and still didn’t win, it wasn’t meant to be. If you do win, recognize that hard work helped get you there. Win or lose, your family will still be your family. Your friends will still be your friends. Anyone who matters, will still be by your side just because you had the courage to go out and fight. The courage to put your foot on the line, under the lights, with no helmet, no teammates, and no pads. Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear singlets.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23
By Jordan Burroughs
NCAA Champion, World Champion, Olympic Champion