What do we focus on?
There are positives and negatives to nearly every situation that occurs. The question is which part do we focus on? It is extremely easy to focus on the negative. From working with high school athletes, it is amazing how quickly they can tell me what was wrong with last year’s captains but have to think more about what they did well. They can always find positives but it is not the first part they think about. How about us? What part do we focus on? Over the years, we have developed a separation between the officials (mat and pairing) and USA Wrestling (USAW). Certainly there have been some decisions that have come up that we would not be happy with. As a result, we develop a negative opinion of some individuals and/or the organization. For the many situations that might frustrate us as officials, there are instances in which USAW has demonstrated that we are valued and they do appreciate the work that we do. Sometimes those items go unnoticed because we are not looking for them and have a tendency to focus on the negatives. Until a recently, I was guilty of this, too. Now I’m involved in a different capacity with USAW and have had a great experience and developed a great working relationship with them.
Upon reflection, I started to see numerous examples of support and appreciation from USAW. Here are a few examples:
1. Organization at the 2015 Open and 2015 World Championships – Both events took tremendous amounts of preparation to host. At the Open, many individuals who I talked to said the Open was much better than the year before. It was a pleasure working with the USAW Staff at that tournament. Anytime I needed something, they found a way to make it happen. This included the schedule, the clinic, scheduling of meals, etc. The World Championships can be very difficult for the host because they have demanding specifications as to how things need to be done and how the event is set up. At each request, the USAW Staff was extremely accommodating and helped out immediately. From a personal standpoint, they were awesome to work with at both of these events.
2. Iceland Volcano – In 2010, there were three of us officials who were stranded in Eastern Europe when the Iceland volcano erupted. That event shut down most of the airports across Europe. Our flight home was through one of those airports. With our flight cancelled, we were dropped to the bottom of list for the next available flight. With so many flights cancelled, it looked like we would not get home for many days. The host country chartered planed to Istanbul and to Madrid. Referees could have taken one of the flights but would have to make their own arrangements from there. USAW purchased new flights for the three of us so we would be able to get home in a reasonable time. We were there, without a team or coaches, and they made sure we did not have to fend for ourselves.
3. 2016 Olympic Trials – One of the referees received a call that his five year old daughter had been hurt and was going to require extensive surgery to repair her elbow. This occurred during the first day of the competition. After checking with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) about possible flights home, it was determined that there were no earlier options, and he would have to wait until Monday for his regularly scheduled flight. At this point, USAW stepped in and purchased a ticket so he could fly home the next morning and be with his daughter in the hospital.
Over the years, I am guilty of getting annoyed at times because I did not feel like USAW wanted to spend money to help support officials. I think these examples show that is not the case. These are a few of the things I have started to notice since I changed my focus.
My opinion shifted three years ago when became an Athletic Director. That was an eye opening experience for me. I had talked to other friends who were in similar positions but never really knew what it was like until I was living it every day. Much like the USAW staff, all you ever hear are people complaining about something. I consider it a good day if I just do not hear anything. I am sure there are appreciative people and parents, but you seldom hear from them; only the ones who want to complain. USAW is pretty much in the same boat. They typically only hear from people who are not happy with something they did or did not do. Most of my own communication with USAW was negative or complaining for many years. I never focused on some of the great things the staff was doing. As I became more involved in the operation of tournaments, I realized just how tough a job they have. I was judging them when I was not directly involved. Most of us feel like that as referees or pairing officials. It looks easy until you have to do it. This is the same with USAW and their staff.
I encourage all of us to take a different attitude going forward. Complaining and being negative does not really accomplish anything. Trying a more positive and professional approach typically nets better results. My two favorite words right now are, “Own It.” It is easy to pass the blame or be upset when something is not as we want it. However, if we want something to change then we need to Own our actions. As soon as we take ownership and assume a different attitude, we may see different results. This should not only be with USAW, but with everyone including coaches. Our adversarial relationship with coaches has gone on for too long. Both sides, coaches and officials, need to do our best to improve so we can all be on the same team at the end of the day.
As easy as it is to focus on the negatives, let’s try a new approach and focus on the positives. Maybe then we can help the situation. USAW and USWOA are great organizations and I am thankful to be a part of both of them!