OSU National Championship Head Coach Joins B&B

“While you’re running, also read”

I am devastated right now, but if this is the worst thing that happens to me in my life then I am a blessed man.” 

“God knew I would be here way before I knew I would be here”

“It is so hard to quiet your mind until you are in place of pain”

“Make up your mind and then pursue it with everything you have”

Episode Index:

  • Welcome Back: 00:30
  • Taking A Leap Of Faith To Learn: 1:30
  • Leading Athletes: 5:30
  • Celebrating A Team Win While Coping With A Personal Loss: 14:50
  • Adversity Makes You Better: 25:30
  • Adjusting Leadership Tactics: 30:00
  • Maintaining A Culture: 34:30 

Key Takeaways:

Tom Ryan is the head coach of the No. 1 ranked Ohio State University wrestling team. A major turning point for him in his wrestling career was a wrestler on scholarship at Syracuse but decided he needed to learn from Dan Gable at Iowa. A school that had made no offer to him. He packed up all his stuff, moved to Iowa and without notice showed up on Dan Gable’s doorstep ready to wrestle and learn. He managed to walk on the team at Iowa and was eventually given a scholarship. He could not fathom the idea of not chasing what he really wanted. Dan Gable, being one of the greatest wrestling coaches of all time, Tom knew he needed to follow him. Of course it was a tough decision but decision making 101 is making sure you know who you are following because they can be a massive influence on your life.

As a leader there are three things that can help you to effectively lead a group of people. The first is, leading by example. You can’t talk about something like fitness and not be fit. You can’t talk about being committed then not be committed. You can’t talk about being a humble servant and not serving others. The second is truth and love. You have to share truth but it must come from a place of love because oftentimes truth can be painful. When the truth doesn’t come from love people recognize this and tend to put their walls up. The final piece is to embrace pain and suffering.

The people we tend to look up to are the winners though they may not have the best integrity. Though integrity and character is far more important than a winning record. Speaking about the NCAA National Championship, Alabama decides to put in an unexperienced freshman quarterback in the second half to lead a massive comeback. To many this decision made no sense but in his post game interview it became clear why Nick Saban trusted this young man with the game. During his interview he was humble, stated that he was a servant to his team and one of the first things he said was that he is committed to his faith. This is the X factor. There are 3 key factors to sustained success. The first being possibly the most obvious, hard work. You have to be able to work like an animal. Then there is always some level of DNA or innate talent that plays a role but the final and arguably the most important piece is that X factor. That X factor is character. You have to want to be here.

Sometimes your greatest examples of leaders are people you follow on social media. It used to be your parents and grandparents but now it is the people we see on the internet.  People who we really don’t know much about. We only know what they decide to portray to the public. Many people on social media are actually the great people they seem to be online but so many are putting on a facade. Following the wrong people online can be toxic to your mindset.

After Kyle Snyder (Olympic Gold Medalist) lost in the national championship and seeing his team take the overall title he got up to speak at a banquet and delivered true honesty. Though he is proud of his team, he fell short of his goal. The thought of losing was unfathomable to him and those around him. Kyle gets up and says “I am devastated right now, but if this is the worst thing that happens to me in my life then I am a blessed man.” He is really wise about who and what he follows. He is stingy with everything and everyone he surrounds himself with. He does not allow himself to reckless with his mind.

There are two options when facing adversity or pain. There is the chosen suffering. You choose the acute pain of, say lunging 400 meters, versus the chronic pain that comes with age and the natural deterioration of the body. Then there is the unchosen suffering. Coach Ryan lost a 5 year old son at at his dinner table to an undiagnosed heart condition. His family literally went from having six people at the dinner table to having five. It is a cruel reality that life can bring these things upon us at any time. The fact that he has felt this high level of pain he is better able to empathize with others who are going through suffering. He had a different perspective and clarity on his outlook on life. True suffering like this puts everything into context. You have that frame of reference for what a truly bad day is so when you spill your coffee or stub your toe to start your day, you are able to recognize that it really isn’t all that bad. Until you are at this deep place of pain you don’t ask yourself the truly difficult questions. In times like this you learn what truly matters. Its crushing for a period of time but you do grow from adversity no matter how tragic.

A part of Coach Ryan’s growth as a coach was focusing more on the entire person rather than just the wrestler. By imparting his wisdom and perspective he now makes a conscious effort to mold his athletes into truly great young men. There is a truth and if your life is so busy that you can’t slow it down to find what the truth is, then you ought to find a way to.


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