Coach LeRoy Gardner

What Do You WANT?

Billy Pierce tearing my head off at 2002 Greco-Roman World Team Trials

“Do you want to wrestle or play football in college?”

I asked this question of a high schooler after a wrestling practice. This young man probably was asked often by adults around him. I remember being asked during my time from sixteen to eighteen. Sometimes the answer was influenced by the asker. Sometimes the answer was based on events at a respective athletic event. However in time, with enough iterations over the questions, the answer became clear to me.

My answer became, ‘I am not done, I still have work to do in wrestling, things to accomplish. I am not finished with wrestling.”

This mentality was important because it sets the choice within things which I can control. I knew I was going to continue with wrestling it was just a matter of how and where. I was not letting this sport off the hook.
This young man’s answer during practice above was, “I am not sure, I’ll go wherever the scholarship money comes from…”.

I continued to think about the implications of his viewpoint because as a coach I wanted to help if I could. However the more I thought about it, although on the surface this idea seems perfectly rational, it falls apart at 5 am in December.

Any of path which one seeks to become accomplished will be filled with adversity, challenges and within athletics probably physical harm. The problem with rationality being applied to the effort, time and learning in one's future - is to become accomplished  —  you must be a bit irrational.

The cold, cool-headed calculation on being compensated in the form of tuition for your effort, dies in the middle of sprints at 5 am on near campus hill or track. The work, time, and effort needed to be successful at some point will become unreasonable.

You have to want it, more than it is worth.

Yet the experience is also priceless. I understand it seems paradoxical but this is the difference between a price/compensation and value. These things aren’t the same.

Now back to the abstract question, “What do you want, and how much do you want it?”

The better question isn’t whether one wants to do one sport or the other but rather the question above. This has grander implications. I wanted to become a National Champion, become an Olympian and get a degree. My choice drove my actions toward these desired outcomes.

My advice to this young man in the future, is going be to focus on what he wants to experience. His choices will guide this, thus his specific actions will be already plotted.

At 5 am on a December morning when he has to wake up to go train, all the scholarship money available doesn’t make you go.