Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Leaving Your Shoes

leaving your shoes

Leaving your shoes laying around is generally not a good practice.  It can spur getting your momma riled up, give dad something to trip over, or provide a snack for a new puppy. 

Leaving Your Wrestling Shoes

There is one place where the practice of leaving your shoes laying around is fully acceptable.  That location is in the center of a wrestling mat. It is a time-honored tradition for a wrestler to leave their shoes in the center of the mat after their last competitive match.  It symbolizes their retirement from the sport. 

Olympic Trials 

Wrestling has meaning in our household.  I was a wrestler, I coach wrestling, and my son Grant is a wrestler. 

He and I spent Saturday night watching the Olympic Wrestling Trials.  Wrestlers from around the United States competed against each other for a spot to represent their country at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

It is a bittersweet event to watch.  You see young wrestlers in their prime reach the pinnacle of the sport, but it can come at the expense of the veterans of the sport.  Several legends walked to the center of the mat, filled with emotion, unlaced their shoes for the final time, and left them laying there.

It was something I wanted Grant to experience.  Not only for his wrestling career, but the world he will face one day.

Here are two quick leadership takeaways from this tradition:

Don’t Quit

While it may appear that the wrestler is calling it quits, they are far from being a quitter.  I played about every sport there is, wrestling is by far the toughest.  In the toughest moments, quitting was always an option, just one that a wrestler never chooses. 

President Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler.  Most know him as one of the greatest American Presidents, but few know his path to the presidency.  A path paved with failures.  He failed at business, lost countless elections for public office, and lost a fiancé.  He never quit, he was resilient, he put one foot in front of the other and pressed forward.  I have to imagine the sport of wrestling shaped Honest Abe.

It’s hard to imagine a world today if President Lincoln had just chosen to quit. 

Leadership presents its fair opportunities to quit.  In the midst of the chaos, confusion, criticism, and discouragement, it can be easy to want to throw in the towel.  Like Lincoln, great leaders just keep walking.  One foot in front of the other, one step at a time. 

New Beginnings

In my final match, I didn’t follow this tradition.  I was not prepared for the moment and had trouble accepting my wrestling career was over.  Simply couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The problem was that in the emotion of the moment, I was blind to what the future held.  I would never lace them up in competitive wrestling match again, but I would have the opportunity to give back to a sport that gave so much to me.  As a coach, booster club president, and as a father.

Sometimes things don’t go the way we draw them up in leadership.  Plans don’t pan out, we wake up early from dreams unfulfilled, and we grow weary of doing good.  We don’t always see it in the moment, but every setback prepares us for a comeback.

The end of every season, prepares us for the next one to come.  One that is built on the foundation of our experiences and lessons learned.  Where we can better others and the worlds that we live in.            


Leaving your shoes on the mat of leadership simply looks like this…that we have left everything and everyone better than where we found them.  We have nothing left to give when our time is done. 

When that moment comes to leave our leadership shoes on the mat, will we look back and be able to truly say that we, “left it on the mat?”  The alternative is ordinary and no one desires that.  Do something extraordinary.       

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