Wrestling season just ended this last week so I like to take the time to reflect on how it went. This was perhaps the most challenging team that I’ve had the privilege to coach. Seems like every week there was some new drama between the kids that exposed every ounce of patience in me. Ironically, this was a very successful team regardless of the divisiveness at times. Amidst all the challenges and success, this year seemed very unique.
I witnessed a few athletes who chose to set their image aside for their opponents. Sports teach kids many positive character traits but unfortunately humility is not one of them. That is something that can only be learned by example and I’m hoping that these young men will be just that for all those who saw what they did.
We had a boy on our team who was a first time wrestler and faced some physical disabilities as well. Wrestling is a physically demanding sport as it is, so this kid faced an uphill battle every match. Time after time he lost and he began to get discouraged. Two of his opponents would give him the encouragement he needed to keep going.
Before I tell you what they did let me just mention that they were both the best wrestlers in his weight class. Needless to say both of these kids could have toyed with him and embarrassed him without breaking a sweat. Instead, they turned a possible humiliation into a display of humility. In both matches the opponent of our wrestler allowed him to take them down and get escapes and score several points on them. They didn’t make it super obvious either. They allowed our kid to keep the match close all the way to the end. When the matches were over, our kid walked off the mat with his head held high and a big grin on his face. You could tell he was so happy. Those two losses were his biggest victories of the season. Two weeks earlier I had read about a high school wrestler who was undefeated and ranked #1 in the state. He was wrestling a kid with Down syndrome and actually let the kid take him down and pin him. He gave up a undefeated season to make a mark in a kids life that he’d probably never forget.
These stories give me hope for the younger generations and for athletes who are bombarded with messages to pursue perfection and awards.
Humility is a powerful force. It can change someone’s life forever. The best example of humility is Jesus Christ. The night before He would be crucified, He knelt down to wash the feet of His disciples, even the one who would betray Him. Jesus did this obviously knowing who would betray Him and when. Jesus even says that He came to give us the ultimate example of humility so that we too would lay down our lives for others and never elevate ourselves above others. If God in the flesh could pay the death penalty for my sin, then I should not hesitate to humble myself before those around me.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”