I reached out to my dear friend from Duke University, AJ Guardado, to share some insights about his multiple affiliations with sport. I gave AJ a very broad topic – “Tell me anything and everything about you and your relationship with sports – past, present, or future. Bullet point the areas, and have some fun with it.” He kindly agreed to write, “7 Ways Being A College Wrestler Makes A Full Schedule Easy.”
Here is a link to his Duke Bio for more information about his wrestling career: http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=1281168&
But to sum AJ up from a personal standpoint, all would agree that he carries the humble and hungry characteristics that make for an incredible athlete. “Humble,” in that he carries himself with a rightful confidence, but always knows that there is more work to be done. And “Hungry,” not just in the sense that wrestlers have to sacrifice all temptations to make their weigh ins. It is a hunger for excellence to be the best version of himself in anything he sets his mind to.
7 ways being a college wrestler makes a full schedule easy
- Time management: In college, there was a point where I worked 2 jobs, had a full class schedule, and was captain of the Duke University wrestling team, as well as a starter. I am currently the wrestling coach for the MMA fight team at Hybrid Performance gym and MMA academy, as well as a full time job and part time job I work 3 nights a week. My fiancée and I have 4 dogs. People ask how I get it all done, and the answer is that having to study for classes along with practice and be managing my weight all along that schedule has made any other schedule I have easy to manage. At the very least, even if my week isn’t going so well and I feel burnt out, I can still eat whatever I want!
- Efficiency: Whether it was getting the most of my workout in the littlest amount of time, creating a solid studying schedule, or even making sure I had everything done in a timely fashion so as to have as much time possible for my body to recover between workouts, every activity I partook in was intended to get the most done in the smallest time frame. When it comes to my chores and errands (maintaining the yard, laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.), I have almost all of them down to a system. The same can be said for my coaching lessons; each session I run includes a warmup, technique, and maybe live situations as well as conditioning to end the night, and takes no more than 2 hours. Even my rest schedule at the end of the week, when I work 60 out of 96 hours, is down to an efficient system.
- Intensity: I was always taught, in my personal and athletic life, to be the best version of myself. As with everything else in life worth achieving, this goal does not come easy; as is the same with being the best student, best employee, best fiancée, and best coach that I can be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is a mentality that I tend to live by; if you don’t put forth effort and even a small bit of risk, you will generally have nothing rewarded to you. I quickly learned in wrestling that you can be comfortable during a hard practice, but staying in your comfort zone in the practice room can lead to some uncomfortable situations in real competition.
- Passion: Along the same lines of intensity, but slightly different is passion. It is not only important to give full effort at what you do, but of equal importance to love what you do. If you are not passionate about your sport/occupation, something needs to change, whether it be something inside yourself or something having to do with your vocation. If you’re not enjoying yourself then you won’t be able to improve yourself either; you simply go through the daily motions and find ways to pass time to get through shifts/workouts/days. A passionless existence can leave one feeling empty and without direction or purpose. I’ve seen many people partake in jobs and sports they do not have passion for, and it affected them so profoundly that it actually stunted their growth as a person. Of course not everything in your sport or job field will always be picture perfect, but being able to find something to enjoy every day is key to longevity and success in said activities.
- Patience: Which brings me to patience. Simply because you are a driven, motivated and passionate individual does not mean that you can expect everyone around you to share the same attributes. You cannot hold the fact that someone is not as motivated as you against them, nor can you expect that being around you will simply make everyone more serious and motivated (although a driven and positive attitude can have that effect on people). I have come across countless lazy individuals in my time, and can only come to one conclusion about the vast majority of them: if they’re going to be lazy, let them be. As long as it doesn’t directly affect me, I can’t make everyone have goals and strive to achieve them. I work multiple jobs and coach in order to pay off my debt as soon as possible and save up for my family’s future, and I can think of no single goal that could be more motivating for me. Lack of sleep and dealing with many other unmotivated people at my multiple jobs is an unfortunate coincidence, but one that I have since learned to deal with. It only motivates me more when people tell me things such as, “I couldn’t do what you do”, or “I don’t have the motivation to do all that”, I simply think to myself, “I know”.
- Integrity: It is of utmost importance to be an honest person. I have had to face the harsh truth over and over again that I am not the best coach; I have apologized to my fighters for not having more to offer them; after losses, with great difficulty I have to discuss my own and my fighters’ shortcomings with them. If you are not able to be honest with yourself, your peers and those you lead, you will not be able to improve, whether it be as an athlete, coach or as a person. It is a scary idea to think that your best is not good enough, but it is an ignorant notion to never be honest with yourself and admit when you have holes in your game. Accountability, responsibility and honesty are not only respectable attributes, but necessary ones to reach your full potential.
- Faith: As I said before, it is a harsh reality to face the idea that your best is not good enough, but you must have faith not only in yourself as an athlete and person, but in your coaches as an athlete, and in your athlete as a coach. You have to believe that your coach is giving you the best lessons with your best intentions in mind, and that your athletes are giving you their all. It is difficult for all parties involved to buy into what the other side of your equation is selling, but if you can, the two of you can add up to something special. Aside from your counterparts, you also have to have faith in yourself. If you go into an activity and give your all, even if you fall short of your goals, there is a certain success in knowing that you gave all you could. Most high-level athletes I know have a common regret of knowing they could have put forth more effort during their career.
I’m not saying that these 7 lessons are the holy grail of success as an athlete or a coach or a human being, just that they are what I’ve chosen to live by myself. Take what you will from them, and best of luck to all you athletes and coaches!
Thanks everyone for reading about AJ’s insights as a wrestler and a coach. If you have some knowledge to share or want to participate in writing a guest blurb, let me know! It would be greatly appreciated email – firstname.lastname@example.org