By Bill Bray
Fremont Ross Wrestling Coach Chad Hetrick saw something in the fall that opened his eyes to a bigger issue with the young athletes at Fremont Ross. In his final analysis he saw that the mental toughness needed to compete at a high level was missing, for the most part, within the Little Giant athletics community.
“We decided to turn to mental training just as much as physical training,” Hetrick began. “It seems to be a mentality Fremont has, to be honest. Mentally the kids aren’t competing at the highest level. They don’t have the confidence and I didn’t have an answer for what was causing it.”
With that said, Hetrick turned to one of his old youth coaches, Brian Moreland who has done much research around mental toughness. “I had Brian come in on Thursdays and had the team go up to the classroom and spend maybe a half hour, sometimes longer with him to learn just what it meant to be mentally tough.” The idea of this was to get the kids ‘dialed in’ as Hetrick called it. “They needed to learn the mental aspect, not just with wrestling, but with life scenarios,” Hetrick concluded.
Moreland, a 1994 Fremont Ross graduate, has an honest and real passion for the kids to succeed. He sees many of them at his “Ironcore Gym” in Fremont.
Moreland was quick to heed Hetrick’s call. “I really thing the world of Chad,” Moreland said. “There aren’t too many of him around that truly cares about what a kid does after high school and that is why I support him so much.”
With the once-a-week seminars, Moreland began teaching the male and female wrestlers about the four steps BE HUMBLE, BE AGGRESSIVE and RELENTLESS, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO LOSE and NEVER QUIT.
So, Moreland asked the athletes, “Who wants to be mentally stronger?” he said they all raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you knows what that means”? and he had a response of no hands in the air. “With that I started explaining what mental toughness is to them,” Moreland said. “I asked ‘who wants to be stronger? Who wants to be faster? They all raised their hands.”
Moreland, who is a 20-year veteran teacher at Vanguard, explained that mental strength works much the same way. Like being stronger and faster, mental toughness also gives the athlete an edge.
Moreland explained that our community’s youth, in general, have issues when it comes to mental toughness. “You must give them ways to become mentally tough. It depends on the athlete,” Moreland said. “Sometimes you must break them physically, meaning you must make them believe that the impossible is possible. To get one more step, one more shot, one more lap or one more rep. They are made to realize that they CAN.”
Moreland went on to explain that he would much rather take somebody that has the will to learn, versus somebody who has the skill but doesn’t want to work. “Because the harder worker will win every time,” Moreland insisted. Conversely, Moreland said “Now if you could take somebody who has a lot of skill and incorporates the will to go with it, now you have something special.”
So, over every week of the wrestling season, Moreland dove into the four steps with the athletes and the proof is in the results. The Fremont Ross wrestlers won the TRAC tournament championship for only the second time since 2011. At the Sectional tournament the Little Giants scored 179.5 points and were runners up. At the District matches, Ross was third with 83 points. The Little Giants qualified six wrestlers to the state meet in Columbus. The most qualifications since 1990. Two of the wrestlers, Xsaria Puente and Bakari Scott finished their careers by standing on the podiums of their respective weight classes. Puente finishing sixth and Scott eighth.
So, with this idea and program, Hetrick has formed a spark. Now it is up to the other sports and their coaches to turn Hetrick’s spark into a flame.