Run to the Middle. Every. Time.

Winning in wrestling is about discipline. I learned that lesson over and over again through my time as a high school wrestler and as a coach. For my junior and senior years, our coaching staff was graced by the panther-like presence of a man we called Coach Shoops. We usually had three coaches, our head coach was the middle weight, and then the assistant coaches would be split one for the little guys and one for the big boys. Shoops was big and quick. He weighed around 200lbs and was constantly carrying around a med school textbook as he studied for whatever exam was next.

Shoops had a variety of little techniques he added to my repertoire. Because he was technically sound where I was quirky, and much quicker than I, I don’t remember picking up too many larger moves from him. What I did learn was a style of thinking and gamesmanship that helped me win matches.

Like I said, winning in wrestling is about discipline. The head coach, Quilty, made sure we worked hard enough to have physical discipline, and were sufficiently drilled in techniques to have technical discipline. Shoops made sure we were ready to get inside our opponents’ heads and grind them into the mat. He made sure we had competitive discipline.

Some of his ideas were a little quixotic, but worked with practice. It took me a while, but eventually I managed to get good at pointing towards an opponent’s shoe to make them think it had come untied, so I could strike while their attention was away from defense. One of my favorites of his was The Handshake Maneuver. If you act scared while warming up and then give a dead fish handshake, your opponent will underestimate your confidence and technique. If you are reading a book at the side of the mat and give him the double-handed nerdshake, chances are he will underestimate your strength. If you make exceptional eye contact while shaking hands, he might still be looking when the ref blows the whistle and you can strike first. The Handshake Maneuver was straight up fun for me.

The most effective and hardest of his recommendations was that whenever the whistle blew, no matter the score, run back to the middle of the mat. Some matches this wouldn’t have much affect because it would only be at the end of the first and second periods. Other matches you’d be going out of bounds every ten seconds and having to restart over and over.

In those cases, you could win a match simply by running back to the middle. The first time you do it, your opponent might just think it’s weird as he staggers/crawls back the 10ft to line up. The second, he might be a little irked by your unnecessary expenditure of energy. By the fifth or sixth, all he’s thinking about is what it’s going to take to make you break. If your whole team is doing this, you can track the morale of the other team as it sinks further and further. I know from personal experience that it’s not easy to run back to the middle. It’s even harder if you’re losing. But if you can be disciplined enough to do it, you will win the mental battle and eventually, the physical one as well.

I mention all of this because I think if you cultivate discipline in any area, it will give you almost superhuman abilities. This doesn’t take skill or money. All it takes is dedication and a desire to perform (and perhaps peers and mentors to help you get back up again when you mess up). If you want your employees to aspire to excellence, you have to teach them the basics and the techniques like Quilty did. You also have to give them the hard-knuckled fight and gamesmanship that Shoops taught.


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