Windsor (Detroit, for my American friends) is not an area that leaps to mind when one thinks "Where shall I go to feel enormously inspired?". It is a manufacturing city hard hit by successive recessions, never really bouncing back in between.
This week, though, there is a special energy in town. Windsor is hosting the Canadian Cadet/Juvenile Wrestling Championships - the national finals for high school aged grapplers. Hotels and restaurants are overflowing with 900+ fit, excited, motivated young men and women here to compete at the highest level in their sport, along with their coaches, trainers, families and friends.
Today was registration and warmups, and the University of Windsor's "St. Denis Athletic Centre" was jumping! Eleven mats were already set up and crawling (literally) with kids loosening up, working technique and sweating out the last few ounces (pounds?) before weigh-ins. Beginning tomorrow, there will be thousands of matches fought over three days. There will be blood, sweat and tears. There will be pins and throws and highs and lows.
Coaching youth wrestling is a huge privilege for me. I started with my own kids, and have had the opportunity to work with hundreds more over the past several years. They are some of the most inspiring athletes you could ever imagine. Some are naturals and some are anything but. In either case, those who stick with this brutally demanding sport have enormous heart. Traveling with them to tournaments across the country is always an adventure and I never stop learning from them.
As we came back to the hotel this afternoon, loaded down with groceries to eat AFTER the official weigh-ins, I walked past the television in the lobby. Like most TVs in most lobbies in most cities around the world, it was tuned to "the news". By "the news" I mean the BAD news. Nowadays, there is so much bad news, and the networks are so eager to report it all, that the screen is split into several windows. Today, the main box had a reporter breathlessly describing the latest earthquake in Japan. The text scrolling across the bottom was reporting the imminent collapse of the American government's finances due to a budget bill stalled by bi-partisan bickering. The "upcoming news" window implored us to stay tuned for news on a grisly murder. It would be easy to lose hope and decide we are all going to hell in a handbasket.
Then I turned away from the misery box and looked, instead at a lobbyful of young athletes. Happy, fun, hard-working, eager kids. Laughing and jostling and sharing. I have no control over geo-tectonic forces. I can't do a damned thing about US politics (I took a shot at Canadian politics, but that's a big blog post on its own). What I CAN do, is keep working with these amazing wrestlers. Contributing to them and allowing them to contribute to me through their example and success.
They are our future! So, where are my shades?