Benny is fortunate, compared to most of us, in that many things that he tries he succeeds in right away. But the downside to this is that when he isn't successful right away he gets incredibly frustrated and wants to quit.
The passion he shows when he gets angry or gets down on himself is exactly what he needs to be a good wrestler. Wrestling has not come easy for Ben.
We have been struggling with him to go to practice. He hasn't wrestled in a tournament because he was sick the majority of December. It must be hard to put in all that work at practices to not know the fruits of your labor.
Part of the problem is that wrestling is a difficult sport, there's no way around it. For a while he didn't realize that you could win by getting points for certain moves, not just by pinning his opponent. Once he learned that, it helped quite a bit considering at practice he had never pinned a kid.
But it wasn't getting any easier. He still cried when he went to practice and didn't want us to leave him there by himself. It is not encouraged for parents to stay at practice and that became overly evident one night when Benny convinced Kevin that he should stay. Half way into the first drill Ben stopped, burst into tears and ran to Kevin. He couldn't be consoled. They ended up leaving practice early.
That was a Monday, and on Wednesday I took him to practice. On the way there I went through a speech meant to pump him up and build confidence. Anyone who know my second born knows that the kid has a fighting spirit. I asked him what animal he thought each of his brothers was like. He said Louie is a lion. Charlie is a cheetah. I asked him what he thought he was. He said dog, so I went with that. I told him how he has a bulldog inside him and even though he gets nervous and is unsure of the situation, he knows that he has what it takes to win. I tried to explain to him that even the best of the best athletes get nervous before a game. (He asked what an athlete was.) I was hoping that talking him through this might help him realize that it's ok to be nervous and scared, that it is natural, and that he can use that to get better.
He seemed ok in the car, but when we got to the gym he was crying and holding onto my coat. I told him that I was leaving, but would be back early to watch the end of practice. I was counting on his lack of understanding of time (he told me to "come back at 4" when his practice started at 6pm) and his coach's support to help him get through practice without receiving a phone call. His coach was really great about stepping in, talking to him about what they would be doing and getting his mind off the fact I was leaving.
I called my uncle immediately when I got home. For many years he coached both high school age and little kid wrestling teams. He has an incredible ability to know what to say to kids and how to treat them in order to build their confidence and ability. He gave me some tips and said he'd go to the next practice to see how it was going. Thank goodness for kind and thoughtful people!
I left to pick up Ben and stood outside the doorway, making sure that he couldn't see me watching. He completed the cool down drills, and did so without any tears shed. The coach gathered the kids around and I just listened from the hall. He asked who was planning to wrestle in that weekend's tournament. A bunch of kids yelled, "I am! I am!" and surprise of all surprises, one of those voices was my Benny!!
The wife of one of the coaches, who coordinates the tournaments and knew of Ben's issues, looked at me with similar shock and happiness. I don't think it's that uncommon for kids to struggle with the sport, and many kids quit. She asked if that was ok for Benny to wrestle that weekend. "OF COURSE!" I said ecstatically!
Ben went into another room to get weighed in and I caught him on the way. He was so proud of himself, telling me what a great practice he had, and his coach confirmed this. I think everyone was surprised with the turnaround that Ben made in an hour and a half of practice!
A couple of the hardest parts with being a parent is seeing your child struggle and get upset. Who knows where it will go from here, but this was one huge hurdle he overcame and we are so very proud of him for it.