Do you want to have a strong, productive network? I am talking about a network where opportunities, information and energy seem to continually flow to you. Is that what you want? If you do, the secret is to give to those around you.
Your response (even if only in your mind) might be, “What? Give! Give to whom? Give what? My money is tight and my time is limited.”
While it might not be clear as to what you can give or where you can give it, know that opportunities for altruistic action are all around you. You just need to open your eyes to the opportunities and then commit to action when you see one.
Just ask Brandon Teel. Who is Brandon Teel? Brandon found an opportunity to give in December 2003. He did not make a large cash contribution to the Salvation Army near the holidays. He did not spend countless hours serving meals at the open shelter. Actually, he found his opportunity to give in a junior varsity wrestling match.
In December 2003, Brandon was attending Kearney Senior High School and wrestling for the high school team, the No. 2-ranked team in Nebraska. As a senior for the Bearcats, he was a backup in the 189-pound weight class.
One day, the Bearcat wrestling coaches approached Brandon with an unusual request. It all started when the head wrestling coach for the Lincoln East Spartans, a nearby rival high school and No. 1-ranked team in the state, e-mailed Brandon’s coach with a request. The Lincoln East coach asked his counterparts at Kearney if one of their wrestlers would compete in a junior varsity match against one of the Spartan wrestlers.
The request was unusual because the Spartan wrestler was a freshman named Trevor Howe. This Lincoln East freshman had Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder resulting in mental retardation and an inability to fully develop motor skills. Thus, for Trevor wrestling was a struggle.
The Kearney coaches agreed to find someone to wrestle the East Lincoln High freshman. They knew that it was going to take a special kid for this situation, so they quickly decided to ask Brandon Teel to take on this challenge.
However, the challenge was not in winning the match. Under normal circumstances, an experienced senior would be too much for a freshman. And under these special circumstances, Trevor did not stand a chance against Brandon.
The challenge was in the stipulations placed on the match. The coaches asked Brandon not to pin Trevor for two periods as well as not hurt him. The Lincoln East coaches just wanted Brandon to let Trevor experience wrestling in a competitive match.
Brandon accepted his role. Additionally, Brandon further agreed that he would not pin Trevor at any point during the match. Rather, Brandon would allow the match to proceed for a full six minutes and he would beat Trevor on points.
For a young competitive athlete at a wrestling powerhouse like Kearney Senior High School, Brandon’s agreement to allow Trevor to remain competitive was noble in and of itself. If the story were to stop there it still would be worth telling. However, it did not end there.
Once the wrestling match began, something happened to the Kearney Bearcat senior. Brandon Teel was overcome with what can be described as a tremendous wave of class, generosity and compassion. Picking the appropriate time, Brandon allowed himself to be pinned, giving the victory to the freshman.
“He was really working – he was trying so hard,” Brandon told Craig Sesker, a sportswriter for the Omaha World-Herald. “I was supposed to win on points in the third period, but I didn’t think it would be right for me to beat him. It ended up being better this way anyway.”
When the referee declared victory for Trevor, the entire gymnasium erupted. Trevor jumped up and down. He hugged his coach. He hugged his dad. Both wrestlers received a standing ovation. Brandon received accolades for his sportsmanship.
(This is an image of Howe just before he pinned Teel)
On Saturday, December 13, 2003, 17-year-old Brandon Teel gave Trevor Howe something he might not otherwise have had – the thrill of a lifetime to step onto a wrestling mat and earn a victory. He gave Trevor’s parents something that they might never have expected. He gave all those in attendance a wonderful experience – the sheer joy of one person’s unlikely triumph. And Brandon Teel gave us all a lesson.
The lesson is that moments of great compassion and generosity do not find us. Rather, we find them. Brandon did not have to lose. He did not have to allow himself to be pinned. He could have done exactly what the coaches had agreed – give Trevor a hard fought experience, not hurt him and take the victory in the third period – and no one would have thought less of him. Rather, Brandon chose a nobler course. He saw an opportunity to give to another and he took it.
More importantly, consider that Brandon Teel was just a 17-year-old kid competing in an obscure junior varsity wrestling match somewhere in small-town Nebraska. If he could find an opportunity to give, it should not be that difficult for us to do the same, considering we are mature adults, dealing with real world matters with metropolitan connections.
This post is part of a monthly sports themed networking series entitled “The Huddle” by Frank Agin. Read more on Frank in the About section of this blog and feel free to pick up a copy of his professional development book: Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like and Trust to Create a Lifetime of Extraordinary Success or his sport-related novel, Out of the Comfort Zone.
Do you have an inspirational networking story you feel should be covered in The Huddle? If so, please leave a comment and Frank will respond to your suggestions.
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