ASK KOLAT: How Do You Deal with Injuries as an Athlete?
The 100% Fallacy
Cary Kolat is asked how he dealt with injuries when he competed as an athlete. Kolat makes reference to the saying you hear repeated a lot in wrestling rooms and in all athletics, “Give 100%”. He warns to not get stuck on the number 100%. While you should strive to put your best effort into your training you’re likely never going to be able to. Whether you are sick, sore, hurt or injured your body is very rarely, if ever, at 100%. Instead, train smart and hard but don’t get caught up in a number that gets thrown around.
Adapting to Injury
The first severe injury Kolat faced was freshman year of college at Penn State. He broke his right hand and was going to miss the first few wrestling duals of the season. Instead of dwelling on his hand being broken, his assistant coach wrapped his arm in foam and they started drilling. They adjusted his stance and practiced using his left hand. By the time Cary got his hand/arm out of the cast, he had become a more versatile wrestler. A big part of dealing with an injury is you’re forced to wrestle smarter. You might not be able to perform certain moves or strategies you’re used to being abling to do. This allows you to grow as a wrestler and athlete. Another key is confidence. Cary was injured freshman year of college for six weeks but, he had been wrestling his whole life. His coaches assured him he wasn’t going to forget or have to fully relearn what he’s been doing for many years.
Find a Way
The second time Cary Kolat faced an injury was when he strained his ACL in practice. This happened the year after Kolat earned a Silver Medal at the 1997 World Championships. The US Open Wrestling Championships were coming up. He decided to sit out the US Open instead of adjusting his style as he did in college when he injured his hand. Later in the year, 12 days out from the World Team Trials, Kolat tore cartilage in his rib. Since he decided to bypass the US Open he could not miss the World Team Trials if he wanted to secure a spot on the World Team. Kolat had 12 days to find a way to compete at World Trials. Once again he was able to adapt, strategize and wrestle around this injury. If you’re injured you have to look at the situation like the glass is half full. You must fully commit and give it your all. If you do not fully commit you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position for re-injury or making it worse. Take your situation and figure out how you work around it and win even though you have an injury. Injuries are apart of being an athlete. It’s how you deal with them that separates the good from the great.
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