With the U17/U19 National Championships having just passed here in Fredericton, I have been seeing and hearing a lot about scouting and recruiting.
While I am a huge proponent of knowing your worth and advocating for yourself, I think somewhere down the line this concept of empowerment got confused with money. Don’t get me wrong, I know first hand how expensive things can be – I’ve been in university for *cough* a lot of years and I have been travelling to compete for wrestling for just as many – I know that money is important. However, I strongly believe that if you are in the sport of wrestling for money you are in the wrong sport. Wrestling is not a rich sport… especially not in Canada. When did the sport full of athletes who pride themselves on “the grind” come to expect money to be thrown at them during the recruiting process?
I can tell you that if money is the thing that is driving you, if it’s how much money you can make from wrestling or how much money a program can offer you, you might need to re-evaluate; you will probably not last long in this sport if that’s why you do it. There is a whole lot more money and fame in hockey, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, football; a number of professional sports with mainstream media coverage and a plethora of fans…
Money is a prime example of what we like to call “extrinsic motivation” in psychology. Without very much effort I could point you to dozens of peer-reviewed academic journal articles on extrinsic motivation; but to save you some reading, successful elite athletes are not driven by extrinsic motivation, they have the opposite of that: intrinsic motivation. What’s driving them to wake up early in the morning and go to the gym? What’s motivating them to stay disciplined on a meal plan and work hard even when no one is watching or holding them accountable? It’s not external factors, it’s not money… it’s something inside of them, a passion and love for the sport that money can’t buy. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at what some of wrestling’s most successful athletes have to say about the sport of wrestling:
“I will not force myself to train and compete if I no longer feel the excitement, passion, motivation, or have the ability to do so.” – Danielle Lappage (Junior World Champion, Rio2016 Olympian, and 2018 Senior World Silver Medallist)
“I wrestle because I love it. I will never make millions from wrestling. I will never be a famous sports celebrity — outside, of course, of the passionate wrestling world. I do it for my love of the sport and my love for fellow wrestlers and the entire wrestling community.” – Jake Herbert (2012 Olympian and Senior World Silver Medallist)
“Wrestling is a sport that is often relegated to the basements and back rooms of training centers and people’s minds… I love the sport of wrestling so much, it is a physical and emotional battle at the most primal level that requires intense energy both in body and mind to overcome. It is in that struggle that we find out who we truly are. The pursuit of excellence takes courage, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to the daily grind.” – Erica Wiebe (Olympic Gold Medallist, 2018 World Bronze Medallist, World University Champion, and 2x Commonwealth Games Champion)
“If you’re counting on some sort of external factor to keep you motivated, chances are you’ll fall short of your goals.” – Jordan Burroughs (Olympic Gold Medallist and 4x World Champion)
It might surprise you to know that none of these athletes talk about the money. In following their blogs over the years, none of these athletes tout how much money coaches offered them to join their programs. Olympic Champion Erica Wiebe wrote about her transition from high school wrestling in Ottawa to wrestling for the University of Calgary Dino’s where she “worked 10 hour days all July and August that summer to afford the move”. And I love Erica, she’s awesome, so I won’t put words in her mouth and guess at what she meant; I’ll tell you about my own experience.
I wasn’t recruited out of high school!
There – I said it. No one was knocking at my door begging me to come be a part of their program. There were no phone calls, texts, or Facebook messages from prospective coaches or future teammates. I wasn’t flown across the country to go train with a university program in hopes I would be persuaded to go there. There were no special recruitment lunches or dinners or campus tours or scholarships. I wasn’t wooed by any one. To all the high school kids out there graduating this year and in years to come, and to anyone who is or was in the same shoes as me: that’s okay too! I found the right fit for me. No one from the University of New Brunswick recruited me here, but it has been an awesome experience nonetheless. I’m almost done my third degree at UNB and have seen domestic and international wrestling success along the way.
So, here is my advice to the high school wrestlers of today: before you completely discount a school because they don’t throw a large dollar figure your way, do some research into what else the school or team could have to offer. It’s not all about the money.