by George Way, Scholastic Coaches Director

Fortunate and Lucky

As I reflect on my life and focus on the opportunities and experiences afforded me, I quickly realize how fortunate and lucky I was. I’ve also realized that beyond the hard work, sacrifices, perseverance, and resilience employed by me, being fortunate and lucky also played a big part in any success I might have had. I have also come to realize that every kid does not experience the same opportunity as many others might. In the paragraph below, I will attempt to state my case.

Looking at my life, I was fortunate enough during my scholastic career to wrestle for three Hall of Fame coaches. The first was a legendary junior high school coach who introduced me to a “system” of wrestling that provided a solid foundation for all my future wrestling endeavors. Our coach also demonstrated the ability to believe in you, but more importantly, made ME believe in ME. We all know the importance of instilling confidence in our athletes and the measure of future success that it provides. Looking back, I was lucky to have this gentleman as my initial mentor and teacher of life through wrestling. The program he offered was second to none, and I would argue that it was one of our state’s top junior high programs.

My senior high coaches were no different. I had the best competition in our wrestling room, making me work even harder at being successful. Unfortunately, I was a late bloomer and a very frustrated wrestler during my sophomore and junior seasons. Sometimes, I felt I would never be able to crack the lineup. However, once again, I had a coaching staff who believed in me and encouraged me through those tough times. It paid off! In my senior year, I was basically an unknown who found himself in the Pennsylvania State Tournament semi-finals. While I came up just short, it propelled me to the next level (not originally in my plans). So, once again, while I was trying to do all the “Right Stuff” and coming up short, my coaches continued to believe in me. To sum up this paragraph, I can state that I was very fortunate and lucky to have coaches in my life that committed to my potential success. Additionally, my teammates didn’t make it easy, but they certainly made me a better person and wrestler. Without my teammates bringing their best every day, I’m not sure I would have continued in the sport beyond high school. I know every athlete doesn’t get this experience, but I’m sure glad and lucky I did. It was part of our team culture.

All these opportunities and experiences helped me in my college and coaching careers. Being fortunate and lucky enough to have great teammates, great coaches, and awesome competition served me well. Certainly, it had a large part to do with any success I enjoyed but again, there is a difference between the coaching, opportunities, and experiences that kids get. The other piece of my experience was related to the large number of participants that were part of my teams. During most of my scholastic career, I typically had anywhere from four to six athletes in my weight class. They were all very good, and thus I was afforded a very challenging daily practice. I know this would be very rare today, and we probably would lose many of these kids along the way if they were not able to compete regularly. I was very fortunate and lucky to have a junior varsity schedule during my early years, and I can’t tell you just how important it was for so many of us to compete every week. Without that opportunity, I’m not sure how many would have stuck with it.

Having said all this, I want to challenge you to consider how to implement the fortunate and luck concepts into your program. While these words can be interpreted as something beyond our control, I would argue that they can be intentionally designed to be part of your program’s culture. Will the kids on your team look back someday and say they were fortunate and lucky to have you as a coach? Were they challenged by you and their teammates? Did they think that you believed in them and supported them, especially through those difficult times? Will you say something to each one of them that will change the course of their lives (that happened to me.) As coaches, we have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to teach so much more than wrestling and winning as the metric of success. Think back on your opportunities and experiences. Do you want the same thing for your athletes, or do you want to give them so much more? Certainly, something to ponder during this early part of your season.

Good Luck!

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