This Sunday, the IOC will reinstate wrestling for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. As soon as the announcement is made there will be many sighs of relief and cheers of joy, all heard around the globe but the question is what then? Where does wrestling go from there and how do we make sure something like this never happens again?
Three questions need to answered:
- How did we get here?
- How can we prevent this from ever happening again?
- Can we leverage the media attention of the last seven months to turn lemons into lemonade?
Let’s take a closer look at the three.
1) How did we get here?
Arrogance, superiority and stupidity. Those attitudes and attribute from FILA forced the IOC to act. Hopefully the scare of losing the world’s flagship event for wrestling was significant enough to assure that changes will continue to be made in Lucerne’s structure and personnel.
But have things really changed? Everyone who was a member of FILA’s Board leading up to our removal from the Olympics is still a member of FILA’s Board. No one was let go and no one was disciplined. The only thing that took place was a game of musical chairs where the rascal who was President when we got the heave-ho lost his seat at the head of the table. But he’s still at the table enjoying the benefits of participation, complete with the same voting privileges as the new President.
However, I am encouraged by and grateful to FILA’s new President, Nenad Lalovic, for all he’s done to begin the changes the sport and their organization needs. It is a difficult task, and one that’s just begun.
2) How can we prevent this from ever happening again?
In one simple word, the answer is – leadership . To whom much is given, much is expected. If FILA and to a lesser extent USAWrestling were a corporation with stock holders every top level executive would have been given pink slips. They cost wrestling millions and millions of dollars to repair broken relationships with the IOC not to mention our PR nightmare. Regardless if they knew this was coming down the pipe or not, they’re in power to know. Just as ignorance of the law isn’t a defense in our court system, not being aware that we were about to be let-go should be justification enough to let leadership go as well. Combine all the resumes of each of our leaders both home and abroad and read each one carefully. Nowhere will you find phrases like, “Occasionally I don’t know what’s going on” or “there are times when I’ll allow things to happen that I know are wrong.” To not know is to be ineffective, to not understand is to be unwise, to not resign is to be self-absorbed.
3) Can we leverage the media attention of the last seven months to turn lemons into lemonade?
In the turbulent world we live in, regardless of the position an individual, organization or nation takes, there will always be others who see things differently. What remains a constant of agreement worldwide is sports and music. They transcend the fray, overcome conflicts and unite differences. Regardless of your political or religious views or national ties, everyone enjoys a good concert or an exceptional sporting event.
Think about it, here we are, a small, low-profile sport bringing together Muslims and Christians, Iranians and Americans, even the AAU, Nuway and USAWrestling are one in this cause. Anything that powerful should be bottled and sold.
This is our message. This is our purpose.
Think about what that could mean, the use of sports as a means of establishing understanding and tolerance toward the world’s differences? For decades we’ve been looking for a message that would resonate with the media and elevate wrestling. Why not take advantage of what the sport just began? In 7 short months we became the thread that began to bind the planet’s philosophic fabric.
Instead of “man’s oldest sport” which has forever been our “go to” slogan; maybe we should try “It started with wrestling” and develop a marketing campaign around it.
That’s the way I see it at least.
I remember not too long ago when soccer was so on the outside in this country that it was hardly considered a sport. I look at what their leadership did, and even a new idiom was born, “soccer mom”. Because of their leadership and tenacity, the USA is now able to at least compete with the best in the world at their, not our, number one sport.
Other than providing opportunities, which our leadership did not fight for, nor mandate, where have we benefitted? It’s still moms and dads and family members, bragging on their wrestlers and what they’ve accomplished and former wrestlers whose lives were changed that are keeping this sport alive.
I’m with Wade. We should expect more from our leadership. We should have a better game plan to promote the sport in this country, and then also internationally. The only thing I hear about wrestling outside of wrestling circles is when something absolutely amazing happens or when a prize football player was a state wrestling champion. And we’re okay with that? To just accept the status quo just seems a bit ridiculous. To me “status quo” should always be a call for change.
First order of business I think would be to study the successful Olympic sports organizations structure to see who has a model or organization we can follow. Fila’s model is too easily dominated by a dictatorial.
The second structure that needs to be addressed id forming a rules committee that includes athletes, coaches and administrators. The tough part of this is to make sure the major powerful countries are included in membership, but cannot dominate.
There needs to be an officials organization that has the power to discipline as well as selected officials in a fair and clearly stated set of rules. Corruption begins with officiating.
Although I also appreciate Wade’s willingness to think outside the box, it appears from his comments that there is an end game he has in mind. That said, the easiest part of any controversial and difficult circumstance is to point out where the man who is already in the arena may have failed.
My end game isn’t really that difficult to see. I love wrestling. I think its wonderful what is does for every child who struggles through the life lessons it teaches. It makes our society better and as a result produces a stronger America. Anything I can do to help it along; regardless of which decision makers I upset in the process so be it. FILA screwed the pooch big time and those sitting to the right and left of Martinetti knew what he was doing and looked the other way. The why should be obvious.
And to the excuse “we didn’t see this coming” I call bullshit. Do you think there is a Vice President in any corporation in America who doesn’t know exactly what the President is doing and why? How did the two weakest sports in the Olympics; Modern Pentathlon and Hockey spend months developing a furious rearguard action to save their sports while wrestling sat fiddling? If other sports knew, wrestling and its leadership can’t claim ignorance.
USAWrestling in so many ways need to be reined in. The 2020 IOC difficulties was just the catalyst that drew a great deal of attention to their deficiencies; and it doesn’t matter whether they are on purpose or happen accidentally, failures are failures. You, I, we, the sport deserve more.
The 1978 Sports Act which dislodged the AAU and created the USOC specifically states that the #1 responsibility of any NGB (National Governing Body) is the health, growth, support, protection and development of the sport they represent.
For decades USAWrestling has done everything they could to swat, squash, demean and debase all competing organizations. And they have been pretty open about their intentions and successful in their efforts.
So why is that acceptable to anyone in the sport, even those at USAWrestling? This is in direct violation of not only their prime directive as the NGB but what wrestling needs and the community as a whole wants.
Internationally we have fallen flat on our faces over the last 20 years. I don’t need to go into it here but there isn’t anyone who feels we’re kicking ass and taking names internationally.
And that failure falls completely in leadership’s laps. How can anyone support those who is so blatantly defies their role as the NGB and makes excuses why the number one country in the world when it comes to having the most wrestlers, the most wrestling rooms, the best nutrition and nutritional experts, the most sports psychologists, access to the best equipment and annually spends the most money can’t win?
It’s really rather simple. If you want more cream, produce more milk. AAU, Jack Roller, Nuway, Ed Gutierrez and all the other independent event operators are nothing more than dairy farms that produce milk. When you openly burn their barns and kill their cattle you shouldn’t be surprised to see a reduction in the output of milk; and as a result less cream. This isn’t rocket science.
My end game is simple . . . to openly say what tens of thousands of people want to say but can’t because they’re in the system and have children with USAWrestling cards.
To fail is normal, to continually allow failure to exist is incompetence, to keep one’s mouth shut about it is unforgiveable.
I always enjoy reading Wade’s opinions. Always creative and thinking outside of the box. Many good ideas. Never hesitates to speak his mind. I met Wade at a wrestling camp when I was in high school. He was and is a dynamic clinician and now is always thinking about how we can improve our sport in every way possible.
I know you are absolutely right. Keep communicating the actual facts.
Great idea. The photo is so powerful!
Right on the money Wade!