Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Snyder
You see it all the time in youth basketball. The biggest kid on the court pulls down a rebound. He accidentally knocks his opponents — and a few of his teammates — sprawling to the floor. “He doesn’t know his own strength,” whispers his mortified parent as he sheepishly passes the ball.
“He doesn’t know his own strength.”
To me these are some of the saddest words in the English language. Strength is a virtue. It’s the basis for security and the courage to act on your convictions. Every young person should know their strength. But too many big kids in the United States never learn to harness their strength for fear of being called a bully.
Hall of Fame NFL head coach John Madden wrote about this in his biography “One Knee Equals Two Feet.” Rookie NFL offensive lineman often had gentle souls. They could not tap into their aggression even when opposing defensive ends were charging down their quarterback. These massive young men were at the pinnacle of their profession, yet still they could not give themselves permission to be aggressive. I saw the same thing as a rugby coach at the University of Texas.
Madden would take these gentle giants away from the group and have them beat on a tackle bag until they learned what it felt like to be aggressive. Madden also wrote “I would have all of my offensive lineman wrestle if I could.”
Many folks have written about the benefits of kids wrestling — increased strength, agility, self confidence, discipline and work ethic. But wrestling is even more beneficial for BIG kids. Through wrestling, big athletes can learn to be aggressive in a safe environment. Not only safe for themselves, but also for their opponents. They will be matched against athletes their own size. Wrestling will teach them to tap into their aggression, control it, channel it into something constructive.
Big kids here in the United States are nice. From a very young age they are taught not to assert themselves physically. There’s nothing wrong with being nice. Being kind and considerate to others is also a virtue. But when any sign of aggression gets stamped out by teachers and parents, consideration can cross the line to passivity. Aggressive feelings are entirely normal and age appropriate as boys become men. How will big kids learn to handle these feelings if they are never given an opportunity when they are younger? Big kids can learn to recognize, control, and ultimately harness their strength through wrestling.