I play a sport. In this sport there are no substitutes, no time-outs, and the only stop in the action is if a participant is bleeding profusely or has broken a bone. During competition I’m not required to do what my coach says; he can’t pull me out and yell at me; he can’t give me less playing time. I am in the whole contest, every contest. In other sports a contest is decided in seconds, distance or height. My sport is my ability to overcome my opponent in a hand-to-hand contest where at any second, any time, all can be lost or all can be won. There are no cuts in my sport; the varsity team is chosen not by the coaches but by pitting teammates against each other in ‘challenges’ for the right to compete. Only fourteen make varsity and the rest are either knocked to a lower level or don’t compete at all, and with our team of over sixty people this is quite common. In my sport, if a team is winning or losing by a large margin there is no option for those who may not be as skilled to get a chance at the action; if you are one of the fourteen, you are in every time. From a spectator’s standpoint, the action is not hundreds of feet away, as in some sports, but only a few inches away. Every move is seen, every act detected. A failure in endurance, in technique, in courage can and will be spotlighted. There is no place in my sport for the lazy, the show-off, or the faint of heart; when the whistle blows I put my determination and my courage on the line. Mine is a rigorous and difficult sport, but, like life, it is survival of the fittest. When I step out onto my battlefield, no one will run a play for me, no one will pass me the ball, and no one will catch the ball if my pitch is a poor one. When I step on to the mat as a modern day gladiator, I am a Wrestler, and I stand Alone.
My season spans both semesters of the school year and a total of four months. During these four months we practice seven days a week, two and a half hours or more each day. We practice every day after school and twice a week for an hour before school. There are no days off; we wrestle through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas day, and New Year’s. We are usually one of the top ten teams in the state and this is what it takes. The only break we receive from practice is to participate in competition. Essentially after all the hours spent, and sweat and blood shed for this sport, all comes down to this: six minutes of competition. For one third of my year I eat, sleep, and breathe wrestling; during this period, it is my world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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