What High School Wrestlers Can Teach Public Relations Professionals

What High School Wrestlers Can TeachPublic Relations ProfessionalsLifelong learning includes appreciating lessons taught by others. Many teachable moments for parents take place by observing their children participating in activities.


An official raises the hand of Ryan Mueller after winning a match during Rockwood Summit High School’s annual wrestling tournament, The 141 Rumble.

Experiencing life with a high school wrestler at Rockwood Summit High School revealed several discoveries. After several seasons, it’s clear how principles learned in wrestling are transferrable to the working world, especially for marketing and communications professionals.

A tremendous amount of character, discipline and integrity are required to simply step onto a wrestling mat. Wrestlers often compete against their own teammates for the honor and privilege to represent their school in a wrestling match. A wrestler must be one of the top four finishers in their district tournament to qualify for the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s state wrestling tournament.

Talent, skills and ability will take you to a certain point in the tournaments and in the marketing and communications sector. The following principles became apparent on Saturday at Mizzou Arena during a procession of the top 116 wrestlers in the state before the opening ceremony.

Everybody gets pinned: Every athlete experiences a defeat somewhere during their career. Wrestlers experience a loss by a pin when the opponent is so dominating, the contest immediately ends when your shoulders are on the mat. In wrestling, very few go through a season undefeated.

It’s inevitable in the world of communications for your organization to avoid a crisis or criticism. Despite your best preparations and execution, your organization will experience a setback.

Summit Wrestling Sign on desire and fear

Signage in the Rockwood Summit wrestling room.

You’re going to get pinned.

But your organization will benefit with honest and candid reflection and a resolution to come back stronger, wiser and better prepared for future challenges.

Continuous focus on fundamentals: No matter how many years of experience, there’s a correlation between a wrestler’s success and their preoccupation—in some cases an obsession—with seemingly endless repetition of basic tasks. The principle is true for all successful athletes in every sport.

Successful communicators possess an intense focus on good writing, clear design, engaging storytelling and effective strategy development. These elements contribute to positive communications outcomes in the same way weight lifting, running and stretching help wrestlers improve.

Flexibility: Still photography reveals many wrestlers’ tremendous flexibility. They will twist their shoulders and arch their backs for what seems like an eternity to keep from getting pinned during three two-minute periods.

Communicators must also gain flexibility and determination. Many outside influences will create challenges for marketing and communications practitioners. Being able to provide a second or third option or alternative will create more opportunities for positive outcomes.

Top 10 Mental Skills to Master

Signage in the Rockwood Summit High School wrestling room on developing the proper mental approach and attitude.

Discipline: Strict nutritional guidelines will help wrestlers maintain very low percentages of body fat compared to the general population. They seek to gain an advantage by being stronger than opponents, yet weighing the same amount. Wrestlers might burn 2,000 calories during a practice, but must not replenish their bodies with poor nutritional choices. And wrestling season takes place during the two best holidays for feasting—Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also must get proper rest and pay proper attention to academics.

Communications and marketing professionals face many choices each day which will result in long- and short-term success. Remembering and recommitting to an organization’s goals provides the same motivation as a wrestler choosing to skip chocolate and enjoy an apple or a banana.

Sportsmanship: During the match and at its conclusion, athletes are judged and remembered for respect, courteousness and fairness shown to opponents—win or lose. Competition helps develop these character traits and they are an expectation by good coaches and all associated with their programs. Communications professionals who model these virtues establish trustworthiness and integrity in all their relationships and are respected throughout the communities where they do business.

Strategy: You must take time to plan and your plan must compliment your strengths. Knowing your capabilities and skills will help you take advantage of many opportunities. Wrestling opponents, life’s obstacles or communications goals can be addressed in the same manner—with respect, analysis and intentional action.

Expect victory: Wrestlers must step onto the mat expecting victory. The timid and cautious often find themselves struggling to succeed. The overconfident often find themselves emotionally upset and wondering how things went wrong after a loss. Those with a steady, positive demeanor often are humble in victory and gracious in defeat in athletics and business.

Does your nonprofit organization need assistance with taking its marketing/communications to the next level? Contact Joe Mueller at (636) 232-7730 or joe@muellercommunications-stl.com for a free 45-minute consultation by telephone, videoconference or in person in the St. Louis metropolitan region.

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