I remember watching a video of my first wrestling practice with my Dad. Ironically, it was on this day - December 31, 1998 - 17 years ago in our living room in Iowa City, IA. I was always a pretty high energy kid, and didn't have the best attention span for long technique sessions. One thing that stood out to me (as I watched as my Dad worked to show me the stand up) was my inability to LISTEN! I'm writing this blog because that inability and weakness hindered me for so long! I hope it won't hinder you.

During the video, my Dad/Coach tells me several times to keep my arm tucked in on the stand up. For whatever reason, though, I repeatedly failed to do so. He simply says, "You don't LISTEN very well!" Little did I know at 6 1/2 that this would be a recurring theme for the greater first part of my now 17-year wrestling career.

A bit of background on my father, Willie Lee Gadson. He was a 2x Junior College National Champion at Nassau Community College and then went on to become a 2x All-American for Harold Nichols at Iowa State University. After experiencing a fairly accomplished career as a Senior-Level wrestler, he coached for several years on all levels, including Division 1. He led the Eastern Michigan Eagles to their only Mid-American Conference Tournament title back in 1996, and was Coach of the Year. So, to say the least, he had a hefty amount of experience and expertise in the field of wrestling and life. Many coaches and wrestlers, up until his death in 2013, respected his technical skills and passion for the sport. He was an advisor, scout, and counselor to so many.

So, back to listening! I had all this knowledge and know-how in someone who had been where I was trying to go, and I still WOULDN'T LISTEN. I say "wouldn't" because listening is a choice and a decision. I thought I could do it by myself, which was a bad decision.

5 Reasons Why Athletes Don't Listen

  1. I KNOW: They think they know it all! If they don't, they think they can find it some other way other than THEIR own coach.

  2. PRIDE: Pride can be your biggest friend and your biggest enemy. If you don't know when to set it aside and ask for help it will hold you back.

  3. TRUST: A lack of trust in THEIR coach's ability to coach. If you can't trust your coach to tell you the right things then you're on your own.

  4. I CAN'T HEAR YOU: A lack of communication is a downfall in any relationship. When there isn't an open line of communication problems will not get solved and will become detrimental to growth and success.

  5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: A lack of respect is another big reason why some athletes don't listen. If you don't respect someone, then why would you listen to what they are saying? Answer Yourself.

I know in my situation with my Father/Coach, I suffered from numbers one, two, and four more than anything else, and occasionally number three. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school - after losing and getting embarrassed by Derek St. John in the State Finals at 145 pounds - that I went to my Father/Coach and said, "I will do WHATEVER you tell me to do as long as that never happens to me AGAIN!" After that, WE started winning more. I won my first national tournament two months later. And still to this day, I wish I could've been smart enough to LISTEN sooner.

As I write this, I smile. Moving forward, I know now that the possibilities are endless; and as I work to become an Olympian and an Olympic Gold Medalist in 2016, I'm pleased with my maturity all because I made a decision to shut my mouth, open my ears, and trust that my coach knows more than me!

Don't forget a great coach is there to help YOU reach YOUR FULL POTENTIAL!

If you can't LISTEN, you can't WIN! Just ask 15-year-old Kyven. I'm sure he can elaborate.

Thanks for reading, and as you move into 2016 remember this: The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'. - Alfred Brendel

Hope you all have a prosperous and great New Year!!

- Kyven Gadson