Oct.WIN Article #104 What's Your Team's Reputation


Does Your Team Look Like Thugs?
By Ben Peterson #104

The perspective that people get about our team is very important. Recently the International Olympic Committee (IOC) caused international wrestling to refresh what we portray our sport to be and that was healthy.

This summer I heard a team I am close to referred to as having an image of being a group of “thugs”. That suggestion/accusation really got me thinking. What created that impression? What would make a bunch of hardworking college student wrestlers look like thugs? Why did that person come to that conclusion? Do others think the same?

Maybe that was what my Mother saw when wrestling was first introduced to the Peterson family. The phony vulgarity of “pro-wrestling” was all she had to base her early perspectives on. It took a good while (1 year plus) to see that high school wrestling is a sport for Gentlemen.

Being part of several wrestling teams through the past five decades has taught me to expect misunderstandings and over categorizations. In fact two things I am passionate about are often misunderstood - my faith in Christ and my wrestling. I have learned to just keep doing right in both areas, answer questions and wait for the truth of the matter to be verified.

It does not take an entire team or group to develop a positive or a negative reputation. One, a couple or a few can give an entire team a certain reputation by their actions. We like being associated with the stars of a team. Individual champions tend to raise the level of respect for an entire team even if it is doing very poorly. I have seen that a lot.

I am going to list some things I have seen that have added up to a negative and maybe a thug reputation. In doing this I risk being misunderstood. None of these issues make a man a thug, but they may add to people’s perspective that leads to such a reputation.

1.) The athletic stare - When a wrestler gets “In the zone” and is focused totally on his match there can be a glare in the eye that can be scary to those who do not know us personally. I was very good at that stare as a young wrestler. With time my brother John taught me to temper my glare with a smile and even a laugh. I have experienced the comments of others changing with my disposition and my countenance.
2.) Muscular, physically developed bodies - A really well built wrestler is obvious to others. Muscular wrestlers can be very imposing and even scary to the average adult and especially to some ladies and children. If we build confidence with them our strength becomes a comforting asset. If not the more our singlet and muscle shirts show off our muscles the more uncertain others can become.
3.) Tough-guy talk - It is one thing for wrestlers to use a focused glare in a match and reveal his physic in a singlet, but when we brings tough-guy talk to the school hallway, the street or the local diner we bring a whole new element to our reputation and our team. Confident talk does not have to be tough and bragging. Confident talk in most cases should only acknowledge what has been physically verified.
4.) Bar room talk - A few college wrestlers choose to visit places where they can get a beer to drink. Nothing seems to travel farther than talk and actions spurned on by alcohol. Fellow wrestlers, I urge you to remember that you may be tarnishing your team’s reputation when you do not even know it. So we must be careful with our words at all times.
5.) Tattoos - Recently getting tattoos has become more popular in our culture and in wrestling. When a person puts a tattoo on his body he is joining a perspective. In my town the tattoo place was above the corner bar for ten plus years. It made me wonder how alcohol has effected the selection of tattoos.
Often I am asked about what the Bible says about things like tattoos. Leviticus 19:27-28 says, “You shall not shave around the sides of your head nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.”
Personally I have never seen a tattoo look better than the body God made. We change clothes and hair cuts regularly. But how could I ever choose something to put on my body that will be appropriate in every setting I am in for the rest of my life? Many of the recent tattoos are bold and do not add to the clean innocent and graciousness of a young gentleman.
6.) WWF (World Wrestling Federation) & MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) - These have gotten popularity and cause many mothers to connect wrestling with something potentially very violent. For us to continue to recruit young boys to wrestling we need to make it clear they are not going to be involved in that raw of a battle.

So what can we do to show people that wrestling is not a bunch of thugs? Here is a list that can do a lot to portray us as Gentlemen.

1.) Smile a lot - Along with the athletic stare we can show others we have a gentle positive perspective on life. My motto is “When in doubt, smile!”
2.) Be a diligent student - Show people you can do more than defeat other wrestlers. Working to learn shows people you are motivated by more than pinning people and that you have other long term goals. And when you help others learn and build their confidence you are using your wrestling skill in a very positive way.
3.) Show respect - Since we are defeating people in our game we need to do it with respect, and treat others and their belongings with respect. This is a huge balancing point.
4.) Volunteer - Helping other people is always a great way to show others we are more than thugs on a mat. When people see we care we erase a lot of misunderstanding.
5.) Thank people - Showing appreciation with our words and our actions is so important. Telling teachers, parents, coaches, classmates, and teammates that we appreciate them and their compliments is a must to avoid negative perspectives.

I encourage you to add to this second list. I have been misunderstood in the past and will be again. And I may be misunderstood in this article. But, I am always anxious to explain myself and to learn to say it better. So feel free to send your thoughts on this subject and others. Let’s work together to build strong competitive teams that have positive reputations.

A saying in my wrestling facility is: “Wrestling is a tough sport done by gentlemen.” To me this is a great motto. My prayer is that your wrestling team and you will have a reputation for being a tough competitor and yet a gracious gentleman on and off the mat whether in victory or defeat. Now all of us can live better with that!

You can find other articles by Ben at these web sites: www.campofchamps.org & www.TheCompetitor.org Today Ben & John run Camp of Champs Wrestling Camps. Contact them at: PO Box 222 Watertown, WI 53094; 800-505-5099 or ben@campofchamps.org

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