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Wresting for peace

Letters from Steve Fraser

React, Relax, Reflect and Renew in Tough Moments

By Steve Fraser

March 21, 2018

It was the 1977 Junior World Team final wrestle-offs in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where I was competing for the Junior World Team spot at 82kg. I had beaten my previous opponents and was now in the final “two of three” wrestle off with a tough kid by the name of Don Brown, from Oregon.

Brown was a real cocky wrestler who had a great lateral drop. He threw almost everyone he wrestled with this powerful throw. Throughout our training camp prior to this final wrestle off we had trained together and I can say that there was no love-loss between the two of us. He was very vocal and loud, always talking smack. I was pretty quiet and reserved, not an angel by any means but mostly shy. This contrast in personalities made these wrestle off matches very emotional for me. I wanted very much to beat him.

The first match was a very close and competitive bout. I ended up winning the match by a score of 5-3. After the match I went over to the cafeteria to eat lunch and rest for my next match with him. When I was at lunch Joe DeMeo, who was the head Junior World Team Coach, came in and told me that he had decided that there were some controversial calls in the match and that they were not going to count it. They were going to have us wrestle it over.

This was devastating to me! I believed I had won this match - fair and square - and they were now screwing me. Needless to say I was very depressed and down. I had been away from home for over a month training in this World Team Camp and I really felt alone. This was my first serious training camp where I was away from my home.

Approximately three hours later I had to wrestle the match over. This time Brown caught me in his infamous lateral drop and pinned me in less than one minute. Now I was extremely down! I went over to some corner of the gym and cried my eyes out.

One hour later I wrestled the third match. This match started off terrible for me. Again he caught me in his lateral drop, plus one or two other moves, and all of a sudden I found myself down 9-0.

Now I was ticked! No more feeling sorry for myself. I was done with that attitude. I was mad. I was thinking, if I am going to loss…I am going to go down swinging! So I kicked into gear.

I turned up the burners and went to work. Long story short…I ended up coming back and beating Brown in that match, 11-9. That felt good.

!n our forth match of the day, just 30 minutes later, I whipped Brown by a score of 12-0 and made the Junior World Team.

What I learn that day was tremendously valuable to my wrestling career. I learned that no matter what happens you must let go of the disappointment or set back and refocus. I was feeling sorry for myself and I was upset, feeling cheated, up until that third match where I was down 9-0. Then, I finally let go of the anxiety and refocused.

When trying to master the skill of emotional power, which means you can totally control your emotions, you must know what to do when you are distracted, upset, or in a bad situation. If there is one characteristic that separates the great athlete from his fellow man or woman, it is the ability to handle his own negative feelings successfully. In all of sport, setbacks will occur from time to time. Because of this you must be ready to deal with the problems that you encounter.

One of the best ways to deal with getting upset is to be prepared for it. Wrestlers need to refocus quickly after they have become distracted or experience adversity. We need to let go of the upsetting moment and refocus on the next moment.

According to “The Achievement Zone” by Shane Murphy, Ph.D., he recommends using a four-point plan to refocus. React, Relax, Reflect, and Renew. 

In trying to summarize, Murphy states the following:

1. React:  As we know, setbacks can cause emotional reactions. The first reaction when we make a mistake or the official makes a bad call is to get angry. We may want to allow for this reaction but the key is then to quickly let it go and refocus on our game plan. We can’t allow for our negative emotion to take over.

2. Relax:  When negative emotions occur, we need to calm down quickly. Many athletes practice relaxation methods to help them calm down after a situation happens that upsets them. A lot of them use deep, abdominal breathing. The key is to find what works for you and then practice it so that it becomes habit.      

3. Reflect:  By being able to calm down right away this will allow for us to think more clearly. Thinking clearly will help us learn something from the situation and make good decisions on what to do next.

4. Renew:   When we put all the negative feelings behind us and focused on what our next step will be, is when we can focus on the total goal at hand and renew our commitment to the outcome.

All great wrestlers encounter tough, grueling problems either in matches or in their training. Overcoming these adverse situations and being trained to refocusing on the tasks at hand will help keep you on track at achieving success. As usual this takes practice. Use every tough situation to practice these skills and you will advance rapidly to the top of your game.

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