Many adults who competed in the sport of wrestling during high school or college tend to remember the sport more for the life skills they learned from time spent on the mat than for their competitive record.
For Kendrick Ellison, Lake Nona High School’s wrestling coach, the sport was his roadmap to success in life. He came away from his competitive wrestling years with a greater sense of focus, self-discipline and confidence that built a strong foundation of expertise for his professional career.
Earlier this year, the Lake Nona Jr. Lions wrestling program welcomed Coach K to also instruct the Lake Nona Youth Sports athletes in calisthenics, basic wrestling instruction drills, and live wrestling matches. “Lake Nona Youth Sports is pleased to be working so closely with the Lake Nona High School wrestling program to provide opportunities for our future high school athletes,” says C.R. Dunnavant, president, Lake Nona Youth Sports. “When Coach K agreed to provide instruction to our young wrestlers, I knew they would greatly benefit from his expertise on skills and conditioning and be inspired by his motivational philosophy.”
The elementary and middle school boys have been working with Coach K since February to hone their techniques and to develop physical and mental toughness. “Wrestling is a sport that lets kids develop a keen awareness of their individual capabilities,” he says. “It’s about developing a mental toughness that allows you to tackle life situations from high school to college and on through adulthood by gaining strength, perseverance and focus.”
He teaches young wrestlers in the program to work on balance, agility, flexibility and footwork. Since wrestling is a one-on-one matchup, technique and toughness are important, but so are determination, endurance and creativity. “I think wrestling is one of the best sports to teach kids self-confidence and self-discipline,” he says. “It gives them such a sense of accomplishment and self-worth when they compete against another wrestler in a battle of wits and physical fitness.”
Coach K also tries to instill humility in the young athletes, along with the ability to respect others and prove themselves coachable. “As a wrestler, you have to listen and respect your coach’s instruction because all through your life, you’ll be working, listening and respecting others,” he says. “Proving you can learn from those you’re wrestling with even when it’s a struggle or a little challenging is a sign you’re adaptable and eager to improve.”
But wrestling isn’t all drills and hard work since he also wants the kids to have fun. “Even though it takes discipline to achieve your goals, the journey to get there can be one of the richest parts of our lives,” Coach K says. “Spending time with friends, feeling good about improving physically and mentally while playing the greatest of sports, which I truly believe is wrestling, are the ingredients for a good athletic season and success in future endeavors in life.”
Valerie Sisco lives in Lake Nona and is the author of the blog gracewithsilk.com.