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A Letter to a Team

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Note to readers: After November’s election, I felt compelled to publish this letter because of the growing entitlement or something-for--nothing attitude that seems to be seeping into nearly every crevice of American society. The letter is written for my high school wrestling team. Most of my wrestlers are new to the sport, and due to the extremely hard work and tough nature that wrestling requires, more than 50% of the boys who attended the first practice quit within the first week. I have also seen the same lack of perseverance, work ethic, and mental toughness in the classroom while teaching English, and it saddens me. I don’t know that my philosophy described below is the answer to the pathetic mindset that is spreading throughout our nation, but I do know that the answer does not exist in telling kids—or anyone else-- that they “deserve” or are “entitled” to anything just because they are fortunate enough to be Americans. On the other hand, I do know that most of the young people I work with perform better when they take this message to heart. For the thirty-one wrestlers who have chosen not to give up, I am beginning to see their attitudes and work ethics improve.

Dear Team,

I would like to use this opportunity to share some thoughts with you regarding our upcoming season. Among my own goals, I want each of you to develop qualities that will help you succeed both on and off the mat. In life, it is important for you to appreciate that what we obtain or accomplish too easily, we tend to value too lightly. Most accomplishments that are meaningful and worthwhile require hard work and dedication. To be successful, you must be willing to make sacrifices concerning your free time. Working when you may not feel like working is not always fun --just ask your parents-- but it always pays off if you have the discipline to do it.

Wrestling is an incredibly tough sport. You will need mental toughness to help endure its physical intensity. This season, I will encourage you to reflect continuously on your work ethic, tenacity, self-discipline, personal responsibility, commitment, unselfishness, and teamwork. As your coach, I have an obligation to teach you these qualities through my own actions. If you will strive to develop these qualities and apply them to other areas of your life, you will quickly discover their value. I promise you that these traits will give you the edge that successful people share whether it is in athletics, the classroom, a job, or a friendship.

Furthermore, I want to stress the value of competition. When we compete against one another, we push each other to get better. Respect all your opponents --whether they are teammates or rivals-- because they contribute a great deal to your own improvement. Without competition, we tend to grow complacent, lazy, and inactive. Unfortunately, some people misunderstand competition. They fail to see how their rivals are actually helping them to better themselves. When you encounter individuals like this, respect yourself and carry yourself with dignity no matter how your opponents behave. Let your training and preparation speak for itself. Self-discipline and serious preparation make much more powerful statements than cheap words and shameful behavior. Remember that.

As you plan your personal goals this season, do not be afraid to set objectives that other people might consider lofty. If you truly work to be the best, you may or may not get there. But you are most likely to achieve your true potential when you have the guts to attempt tackling goals that others may tell you are not realistic. In order to be the best, you have to outwork the best. Never skip practices. Your teammates must know that they can depend on you to prepare yourself to the best of your ability. Skipping a practice will mean missing a competition. If you have to miss a practice, make an effort to let me know beforehand. Unexcused absences can lead to an individual being dismissed from the team.

I am looking forward to working with all of you. Lets work together to make this a great season.

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