A father’s letter to his son

I wrote this after a disappointing tournament when my son was 9 years old.  I wrote it as a way to ease my emotions and to also give myself some perspective of my own disappointment in my son’s performance.    I’ve yet to give it to him, and I don’t know when or if I ever will, but I thought someone should read it.

To my son,

You had a tough time on the mat today and the ride home was pretty quiet.  I admit I was very disappointed but I later came to realize that I shouldn’t be and that it is all part of the journey you are taking.

When I watch you on the mat I worry that you are doing battle while unprepared and that I have failed in your preparation.  As a father that is my greatest fear, that you are unprepared to face the challenges that will come before you.  I want you to be prepared for your match, but I’ve come to realize that it is the matches themselves that, are in the long run, win or lose, the things that ARE preparing you.

I think that the greatest benefit from wrestling is learning to face challenges and to demand the most from yourself.  You learn to fight when you think there is no more fight left within you.  You learn to get up after you’ve fallen, time and time again.  You learn about sacrifice and about pain.  You learn to endure and to overcome.  This is what I want for you, not because I wrestled, but because these lessons are the true gifts of this sport.   So, those losses today were actually part of this gift, and an important part of the journey.

My dream for you is to not just win championships and fill your room with medals.  My dream for you is much greater and I hope you get much more from wrestling.  I hope you learn to strive for greatness even if you fail in the attempt.  I hope you learn to get up one more time when you think you can’t get up any longer.  I hope you learn to not only face your fears, but to stare them down.

Wrestling isn’t about winning.  It is about the desire to win.  It isn’t about success, but rather the determination to succeed.  I want you to succeed as a wrestler, not to win state championships, but I want you to be a successful wrestler so you learn to be all that you can. This sport can help teach you that, if you let it.  I look forward to the seasons of our future as you go through these lessons and I’ll be in your corner for each and every one of them.  I love you.


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39 Responses to “A father’s letter to his son”

  1. you put into words my and as I see counbtless others feelings as fathers of wrestlers. As past wrestlers ourselves we know like only our sons now know, what it takes to do battle on the square circle. We know now years later what those years on the mat did for us.

    thanks for putting these thoughs to words and sharing them.

    Sean O

  2. Great Letter. I have gone through all these emotions but have never articulated it. I will share this with out wrestling community. Thanks

  3. Thank you so much for reading.

  4. My husband printed this out. I happend to read it while my son & husband were away at a tourment. I cried. How true your words are. I am hoping that he will read it to our wrestling team. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. I read this post last Friday and it put things into perspective for me. It was one of the most touching pieces I have ever read. I wanted to share this with my ten year old son, but I thought he would be too young to understand. In his final match this weekend, he wrestled harder than I have ever seen him wrestle but he came up short in overtime. That match was a turning point for him and I have never been so proud. Thank you for the inspiring words.

  6. I can’t thank you enough for informing me of your son. My son is also ten but I still have yet to have him read my letter. I think now, I will share my words with him. Thank YOU

  7. That brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. I will print it out for my son. We are preparing to make it to the State tourney and I want to keep everything in perspective whether he makes it or not. My son is 14 and gives 100% effort for every practice & match and more importantly his academics 4.0 student. Though he has had some disappointments on the mat he keeps battling and we need to remember it’s about enjoying journey and making quality young men because only so many can be called State Champ, but the character achieved through wrestling will stay with them for their entire lives.

  8. That was just beautiful, as a single mom it could have easilt been written from my feelings during all the matches I have watched of my son.
    My son is 14, an avid wrestler as well as soccer and baseball player, I shared this with him , and although I cries(again) while watching him read it he kept himself composed( as most wrestlers do) and said “yeah mom that’s what its all about and i know you love me”
    Thank you so much for sharing this letter to all us die-hard wrestling fans, I will keep my copy on my desk to remind me how much it means.

  9. I also have felt the emotions you write about, My youngest son (14 yrs) is our third son to choose wrestling as a sport and having watched my two older sons (both in college now, one wrestles still) …Your letter reminds me of why I love this sport, because like you say it is about the matches not the wins/loses…I’m 100% confident that my sons will be/are ready to face life’s challanges in part to this sport for the reasons you have already stated. After all if you can square up against someone in a packed gym and put it all on the line and win or lose, stand up and shake the other person hand. You are already more mature and confident in your abilities than most.

  10. Wrestling Mom Says:

    Oh, dear! I wish I hadn’t just put my makeup on before reading this. Thank you for summing up the thoughts running through my husband’s head when things don’t go quite as planned. We all need to be proud of our kids for doing what many kids would never be able to endure. In addition, we should pat ourselves on the back for giving them the valuable opportunity to develop their character for any obstacles ahead in life!

  11. Ken Seliga Says:

    I have 3 boys who wrestle 5, 8, & 10. They all have different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Your letter to your son is beautiful. I will print it and keep it in our camera case with the the copies of their birth certificates. I plan on reading it when I lose focus of what is really important! I am also going to pass it along to everyone in our wrestling program. Thank you!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this…it had the whole family in tears reading it last night. My husband is going to read it before every match and tournament!!

  13. Joe Leone Says:

    Now every time we look at my son’s trophies in that restored china cabinet I hope we both remember the joys and the pains and not just the techniques used in the matches. Whether you have a whole house full of those trophies, or none at all, this is the true reward. I hope those Saturday memories in all those school gyms accross Pennsylvania do have a lifetime influence. Makes one feel blessed and priviliged to have had that opportunity just to be in such a position.

  14. greg whary Says:

    this letter puts into words what alot of parents can’t. My one son lost in sectionals his senior year. he did not make it to districts even though he had a 19-6 record. the two losses he had that year were both to eventual multi-time state qualifers and the both are on their way this year as a top seeds in the pa state tournament in a few weeks. as he came off the mat after his loss and realizing it was his last match of his career, before even catching his breath he said to me “THANK YOU DAD!” thank you for running me and my brother all over the east coast for the past 12 years and giving up all your time to help train us..thank you for everything you did!!! I am not a quiet person by any means, But I could not respond….I cried….THIS IS THE BEST SPORT IN THE WORLD!!!!

    • Thank you Greg – I look forward to that same embrace with my son that you experienced with yours. I can’t imagine anything else that can compare for a father.

  15. The letter was really a tear jerking. I know the feeling as a mother and a grandmother. I was always proud of my sons that wrestled, win or lose. The same with my grandsons. I always tell them to do their best. That letter sounds like a letter my son would write, he is a great coach. I know that also sounds like a lot of other Dads.

  16. Terrence Says:

    I just read this letter and I know how you feel!! Both of my sons have made it to the PJW FINALS this weekend up in WILKES-BARRE, PA. I will be reading this to them.


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  19. awesome post – nice writing. as my boys approach the age of involvement in sports, i want them to be aware of the most important aspect one should take away from the experience: “so you learn to be all that you can”. winning is great, but participation, effort, struggle and completion are so much more important.

  20. Chris Walters Says:

    I too, like others that have posted before, have found it hard to put into words the emotions you summed up in your letter to your son. I tell my boys before every match that I don’t care if you win or lose just leave it all out there. In one big tournament here in Kansas last year my younger son (8) lost a match he was winning the whole time until the end and his emotions got the best of him and he showed some unsportsmanlike behaviors on the mat. After I corrected him we went out in the hall and discussed his actions. He said he was so upset that he lost and mad and wanted to wrestle that boy again and then he apologized to me for losing. I started to cry and all I could say was “Oh son…you could lose every match for the rest of your life but I will carry you off the mat on my shoulders like a champ every time if you just give it your all…” I just want them to get the life expreiences out of wrestling…my sons are most likely not going to be Olympic medalists or maybe not even Kids State qualifiers, but they are both learning how to be CHAMPIONS of life through the magnificent sport of wrestling, and Lord willing, will see that in the long run that is all I have ever wanted for them!! Thanks for the inspiring words!!

  21. I don’t think anyone who does not have a son in wrestling knows what it is like to watch him out on that mat. It is heart wrenching, because you know in the end the battle is thiers to win or lose. They own it. No one wants to see thier child hurt, my son is 16 has been wrestling for 12 years and he still tears up when he loses a big match. I wish I could bear all the pain for him everytime and leave him with only good feelings. This letter above is what I am hoping and always knew my son would get from this great sport. He will learn when the going gets tough he has the skill and chracter to tackle it and win and if he does not he has the character and self esteem to move forward and go at it again. Isn’t that what all successful wrestlers and human beings are made of? Bless our boys and young men. I plan to show my boy this letter.

  22. I tried wrestling when i was younger, and failed at sticking it out even though I had the tools. I just wasn’t mentally there. I have failed and given up on alot of thing in life. I learned my own lessons and had to figure out on my own how to overcome them. I became a late bloomer and started wrestling and competing in MMA while in my twenties…… I grew up without a father or father figure and was never taught any good lessons. I winded up in and out of juvenile detention centers as a youth. I now have two sons of my own and who I have gotten into wrestling since they were 4 and 5 years old they are now 8 and 9. They have been very successful on the mat and in school. I have given them speeches about hard work and dedication and how wrestling will teach them alot more about it. I teach them everything I was not tought and everything i had to learn on my own. They are going to be successful at everything I was not successful at. I read your word and began to shed tears. This is everything i want to say to them and everything i want them to understand. I would like to print out and frame your words so they can read and slowly comprehend over the years.

  23. Gloria Willis Says:

    Goodness!!! What a testimony to the life benefits of the sport of wrestling. I can attest to the vaue of every word I’ve read here due to my own experiences as a wrestler’s Mother. I was down on the mat’s edge, pounding and cheering for my son for many years until rules changed that put me in the bleachers where I continued to cheer away. I probably attended at least 95% of his matches in high school and college, cheering for him and the other wrestlers who I came to know and also love. He successfully coached many secondary wrestling champions while I still sat and cheered from the bleachers. In recent years, he gave up varsity coaching and gpvidrf on coaching ages, 4+. His 11-year-old son began his wrestling career when he was just 3. My son is his role model in life as well as in wrestling. I Used to think wrestling was “phony” when I saw it on TV but soon learned what the sport of wrestling was really all about through my son’s eyes. Wrestling has taught me a lot about life just as it has my son and, now, my grandson. And, I’m still in the bleachers cheering!

    • So you are a member of a real “wrestling family” ! Being a wrestling mom has to be one of the toughest roles a person can ever take on. Congratulations for getting through it all!!!

  24. Awesome for a Dad to acknowledge this! I see so many parents taking their kids out in the hall and literally yelling at them for loosing. How sad for the child as they need to learn to loose but also need to learn its up to themselves out there. This is an individual sport and its you or nothing out there on the mat. Kids need to know from the parents they have their blessing and encouragement to win or loose on that mat. That no matter how the matches turnout the parents will always be there! We have had many ups and downs with wrestling and we have always encouraged our kids that when the time comes and you no longer want to do this you need to be the one to tell us and we will accept it. Our son has been wrestling since 5 yrs old 10 years so far. He knows its up to him what the results will be. He trains hard and we see the results of it. undefeated this season.

  25. What an Awesome letter…..you said it right, it is hard to see your son or daughter lose, but in life they need to have them and learn to get back up again and never quit…win or lose, Always Love your children…….

  26. This is a wonderful post! I have to know if you’ve shared it with your son yet?

    • I wrote a book around this letter and unvieled it to my wife and to my son. He just shrugged his shoulders and siad thanks and it was “nice”. He’s not one to show emotions to me very easily. I’m sure he appreciated it more than he let on and I hope that appreciation will grow over the years.

  27. Mike Wilcox Says:

    Thank you for sharing your letter. I plan to give it to ever parent from our H.S. Team

  28. Betty Posey Says:

    I’m a wrestling mom and grandmother. Not just one but one who has sport running thru her veins. I’m typing this with tears running down my cheeks. You would be wise to share this with your son. Very wise.Trust me.

  29. After my son’s matches yesterday I came back to read my letter to him. I couldn’t have been more proud after his loss yesterday. His pain was for his team. Even though the points didn’t make the difference in the end, at the time his loss put the other team ahead. As we walked into the parking lot, he told me that he felt he let his team down. He swallowed back the emotion as he said it. He’s a freshman now, and he’s feeling pressure to succeed. Reading this made ME cry and made me think about what a great young man he is becoming.

    Thank you to all that have replied to this post. i wish the best for you, your wrestler and your next “6 minutes”.

  30. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through tyis poset reminds me of my gold old
    room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him.

    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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