Monday, June 29, 2009

Living the Dream

By one account, Michael Phelps has a net worth of $40 - $50 million. Shawn Johnson has gone from Beijing to Dancing With the Stars winner to millionaire. In comparison, fellow Olympic gold medallist, wrestler Henry Cejudo, got a pat on the back and a bag of chips. Oh sure, there were those charming few minutes with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show and a variety of other brief television appearances, but by now – less than a year later – Henry has faded from the minds of the general public. He definitely has not reaped the financial rewards that many other Olympians have.

No youngster takes up wrestling with the thought that it will one day make him or her wealthy. Most kids try the sport because Dad wrestled – or a big brother – or a cousin – or the next door neighbor. When they first step on the mat there are no dreams of Olympic glory either.

Somewhere along the way something seems to happen to a select group of those kids. They fall in love with the sport. Because wrestling teaches you to do so – they set goals – win a kids’ tournament, then a high school state championship - maybe even four or five of them. For some, nothing less than being the best in the world will suffice. So they sacrifice. They train harder than any other elite athletes (as former USA Wrestling resident freestyle coach, Terry Brands, likes to say, “We do things that would make a billy goat puke.”).

They make these sacrifices fully aware that there is no pot of gold – maybe just a couple of round pieces of it – waiting for them. Dan Gable, John Smith, Lee Kemp, Bruce Baumgartner, Tricia Saunders and Cael Sanderson – all were athletes that dominated American wrestling much as Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning have dominated their sports.

It would be foolish to think that American wrestlers will ever be compensated like Woods, Rodriguez and Manning. However, an alliance led by USA Wrestling has set out to improve the landscape for our elite wrestlers. Last month they launched the Living the Dream Fund. Starting in 2010 a World Champion will be rewarded with $50,000. Silver medallists will earn $25,000 and bronze medallists will receive $15,000. The group will up the ante for the 2012 London Olympic Games. A gold medal there will be worth $250,000, a silver earns $50,000 and a bronze earns $25,000.

Some of wrestling’s biggest supporters are already on board – Michael Novogratz, Dave Barry and the Martori family, for example. The program is also endorsed by the United States Olympic Committee. But – they can’t do it alone.

It’s a sad fact that far too many members of the wrestling family are willing to sit on the sidelines and watch when challenges arise. How ironic that some people who love this sport and everything it embodies, won’t battle for it!

Then - there are those precious few – God love them. You know them – they have a closet full of tee shirts that say things like “Save Oregon Wrestling”. They give $50 or $100 every time someone in wrestling needs help. It doesn’t matter to them: an ailing wrestler needs help fighting cancer – they’re in; a college team is working to become self-sustaining – they’re in; a high school team needs a new mat – they’re in. If we could only have more of them.

If you’re not already a member of that exclusive fraternity that fights for wrestling – here’s your chance to join. You can donate on line right now to the Living the Dream Fund or send a check to

Living the Dream Fund
C/o USA Wrestling
6155 Lehman Dr
Colorado Springs, CO 80918

I’m in – how about you?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cosmic convergence or collision course

I had too much time on my hands last week and spent way too much time surfing the ‘net for wrestling-related stories and posts. It just got “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice said.

First, from the Iowa Preps wrestling message board: This post was titled, “Wrestling Scholarship Available in Macon, GA.”

“Dear Wrestler,

My name is Kevin Andres, and I coach the wrestling program at Mercer University. I would like to introduce you to our program and let you know about an exciting opportunity for you to continue your wrestling careers in college. Mercer's team just finished 9th in the Nation @ the National Dual Championships and tied for 23rd at the traditional National Championship Tournament.

My program is part of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, which includes over 130 colleges of all sizes. The NCWA is entering its twelfth season and has grown in size and competition every year.

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to call (478-301-2404) or email (

Thank you,

PS: Mercer University offers many academic scholarships and is also offering wrestling scholarships in various amounts to select wrestlers who qualify. To be accepted you need a minimum 3.0 GPA, 550m/550r on the SAT/ 25 ACT

HIGH NEED FOR 125lbs, 285lbs wrestlers

Kevin Andres Wrestling Coach Mercer University, Macon, GA 31207478-301-2404”

Then I read a press release that the NAIA-affiliated Mid-South Conference is adding wrestling as a conference sport. Five of the conference’s 17 members already compete in wrestling and this will certainly add incentive for the other 12 to consider adding a team.

After reading the release I searched for more information on the Mid-South Conference and came across this discussion on the Georgia National Wrestling Alliance wrestling forum about which college in Georgia to target next for the addition of another wrestling program. As you read the discussion you’ll see that Coach Andres from the “Wrestling Scholarship…” post is a participant in the discussion. It appears that there is a very active group of supporters who are working hard for the growth of intercollegiate wrestling in Georgia.

This is all good news. Participation in high school wrestling is still growing. While the trend among NCAA member institutions to eliminate wrestling programs is continuing, NAIA and NCWA schools are stepping in to give young student-athletes the opportunity to wrestle as a part of their college educations. The NAIA member, Grand View University added wrestling this past season and Baker University will begin varsity competition in 2009/2010.

I couldn’t let go of the string – I had to keep searching. It was all so positive. I then found this blog from NAIA expert, Jason Dannelly. More good news.

Then the string broken. As one site led to another, I landed on this article from the New York Times. In the settlement of a Title IX lawsuit brought by three female students against the University of California-Davis athletic department, UC Davis agreed to bring the percentage of athletes who are female to within 1.5% of the total female student body percentage. In other words, in 10 years (the time line agreed to in the settlement), if 60% of all UC Davis students are women, 58.5% of all athletes will have to be women.

“Proportionality” is the first of the three “prongs” to determine Title IX compliance. This settlement appears to impact wrestling in a couple of ways. In previous Title IX lawsuit rulings a disparity of 5% was considered acceptable proportionality. That gap is now narrowed. It also seems to continue the trend of making prong one carry more weight than the other two (a pattern of participation growth opportunity for women and matching female participation level to interest level). As more administrations are forced to make budget cuts, the elimination of men’s sports teams will seem a far easier option than adding women’s opportunities. Wrestling will be the first to go at many schools.

So – what does this mean to those schools that are adding wrestling? Grand View’s student body is already well over 60% female – so is Baker’s. Doesn’t it seem as if the addition of wrestling would run counter to Title IX as reflected in this latest interpretation? Will the UC Davis settlement discourage NAIA and NCWA schools from further expansion of wrestling opportunities?

More importantly, will the UC Davis settlement result in unforeseen consequences to educational opportunity as a whole? What do I mean?

More women than men began attending college in the late 1980’s. Since then that trend has continued and the gap has widened. Recent years have seen enrollments drop at small private schools. For many of these institutions 70 –75% of the annual budget comes from tuitions. In those cases, enrollment growth – or at least stability – is an absolute necessity for long-term viability. A reduction in enrollment can be disastrous. Beloit (WI) College recently eliminated 40 staff positions because 36 fewer students than expected enrolled.

Thirty-six students! Grand View added 21 students the first year of offering wrestling and has commitments from at least an additional five for next year. Baker will add 30 or more new students primarily because of wrestling. Doesn’t it seem like the addition of a wrestling program could give one small private college an edge over its competitors in the battle for students? And wouldn’t a school with the foresight and guts to add women’s wrestling have an even greater edge? Doesn’t more schools, offering more activities, actually add up to more opportunity?

What will be the final resolution to these conflicts? Are we headed to a showdown between field hockey and wrestling and only one will survive? Are we willing to sacrifice a small college for the sake of an unbalanced interpretation of Title IX? Or – will we all take a step back and look at the complete picture?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Coming back

One year ago the Cedar River hit us with a 5 point move – threw us right to our backs.

The numbers were staggering – over 20,000 residents displaced and hundreds of businesses closed. In terms of financial loss, the Cedar Rapids flood of 2008 is the fifth worst disaster in American history (source: Iowa Public Television documentary, City Under Water). Numbers, however, can sometimes be meaningless. But, there’s no ignoring what happened to my friend Terrance and his family (his mother, 2 brothers and little sister) or my friend Jamie, her husband and 4 kids – they lost everything. Taylor School, where my wife and daughter worked for years (and where I volunteered) was declared a loss.

Somewhere along the line we fought off our backs and we’ve started our comeback. According to the latest reports, over 450 flood-impacted businesses have reopened. My friend Jamie and her family found a new home within weeks of being displaced and almost immediately started helping other flood victims. The Taylor School families refused to let their school die and it is scheduled to re-open this fall and my daughter, Emily, will be returning.

Make no mistake – we still have a long fight left. Depending upon whose report you read – once you add up all the money promised us by the state of Iowa and the federal government, we’re going to fall somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion short of full recovery. As you drive through the Taylor neighborhood you’ll still see flood debris piled at the curve – a tragic reminder of lives forever transformed. Dozens of businesses are gone. Terrance’s family is one of over 150 still living in FEMA trailers.

I’ve learned a lot about the strength and goodness of people in the past 12 months. At our darkest hour, when faced with the closing of our last well – and thus the loss of our last source of drinking water – the call went out for 800 volunteer sandbaggers. Over 2,000 showed up. Officers from the Saint Paul, MN police department worked tirelessly to help people they didn’t even know. Church groups came from all over the country and pitched in. The Americorps volunteers became like family to many of the victims.

You in the wrestling family have also made a difference. After I wrote about Terrance’s losses I started to get emails, “Can I send you money to help Terrance?” I started to get checks and money orders. You all helped his family start over with new kitchen furniture, dishes, towels, glasses, clothes and silverware.

Cedar Rapids hosted the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships just 3 months ago. I’ve heard a number of stories from recovering flood victim business owners about the kindness and generosity of the DIII fans who were here. Thank you.

As hard as we’re fighting – we still need your help. You can make an online donation to The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation flood relief funds. A simple way to help is to eat more Quaker Oatmeal – or Cap’n Crunch – or Aunt Jemima Syrup – or Fruit Roll Ups. All are made in Cedar Rapids. You can also just come here and stay for a couple of days and watch wrestling – the Iowa State High School dual meet championships will be here in February and the Division III Championships will once again be held here. Come join us.

I leave you with a video of one of my all-time favorite wrestling comebacks. Fittingly, it features a Cedar Rapids native. This is how I see us battling back.

(Video provided by and reproduced with the permission of Iowa Public Television.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dear Mary Alumnus

This week brought one more online request for money for a wrestling program. Norwich University announced the reinstatement of wrestling as a varsity sport, but it was added that they still need to raise $20,000 to meet this year’s financial obligation.

Last week I gave some basic tips on fund raising. This week I’ve written a sample letter from a fictional former wrestler at Smallville College to a hypothetical alumnus who has a history of giving to Smallville, but who has never donated to athletics. In this imaginary scenario the athletic director has just mandated that the team itself raise $100,000 a year or face future removal from the roster of varsity sports.

“Dear Mary Alumnus,

I’m a fellow Smallville College alum (Class of ’96). I loved my time there – the campus, the friends I made and the education I got will always be a part of me. Is Smallville as important to you as it is to me? It’s a great school, isn’t it?

Do you know what part of my Smallville experience I treasure the most? I wrestled. I spent four years on the varsity team and in my senior year I won a conference championship. I have never been prouder of any other accomplishment.

There are those who want to take that same opportunity away from future Smallville students. The athletic department has mandated that the wrestling team become more self-supporting or face elimination. The team must raise $100,000 a year or it will be dropped.

Mary, did the alarm just go off in your head? Did you just think, “Uh-oh, he’s about to ask me for money – for WRESTLING”? Mary, you’re one of our most generous alumni. You’re one of the elite few who help make a Smallville education a priceless investment in a young person’s future. But WRESTLING?!?! Why WRESTLING?

Wrestling taught me things that I never would have learned in any classroom – anywhere. Wrestling taught me to get off my back – literally and figuratively. I have faced adversity in my life since Smallville and the lessons I learned on the mat helped me fight on and overcome. The discipline I learned as a wrestler made me a better student. Today I own a small business and things I learned in the wrestling room contribute more to my success than anything I learned in Jones Hall.

Wrestling is the most democratic of sports. You don’t have to win some type of genetic lottery to be a champion. The competitor that works the hardest and learns the most almost always triumphs. A bi-lateral amputee- Nick Ackerman – won an NCAA Division III national championship. Wrestling embodies The American Dream – and there are those who want to take it away. Are you going to let them get away with it or will you join my fight?

I’m not the only one who believes in the value of wrestling. Nobel laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug – the man who fed billions – credits wrestling with teaching him the discipline and tenacity he needed to continue his research. Thirteen American presidents have wrestled – from Washington to Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt. Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle – Dennis Hastert, Jim Leach, Paul Wellstone - and others - wrestled. Wrestling has been a part of the educations of countless teachers, scientists, humanitarians, business leaders, military heroes – even Plato wrestled.

Won’t you join me in this fight? Won’t you help me perpetuate and strengthen this invaluable educational tool?

Your gift of $1,000 would cover travel expenses to our 2010 conference meet. A $200 check will buy meals for one wrestler for all of our road events this season. A $5,000 donation pays our insurance premium for the year. Please write your check today and return it in the enclosed reply envelope. You can use your credit card if you like.

Or - there’s an easier way for you to help - join the Smallville Mat Clan. It’s simple, go to and click on Join the Mat Clan. For a minimum pledge of $25 a month for the next 12 months I’ll send you a Smallville wrestling tee shirt and our quarterly newsletter. Why not join today?

Future generations of Smallville students thank you.


John Doe
Smallville College, 1996
BA Finance

Metrowebtech, Inc.

PS FYI – The football and basketball teams are not being asked to make the same sacrifices.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Will work for a mat.

USA Wrestling launched the Living the Dream Medal Fund over the weekend. It is an effort to raise money so that World and Olympic medallists can be rewarded for their achievements. Click on the link above for more details.

In the past two or three weeks I have read internet donation requests from the Cal State Fullerton wrestling team, Wrestling 411, and Operation Pass it On. All are worthy causes and a donation to any one of them will only improve the sport.

When it comes to wrestling – I’m just a fan. I have no special knowledge or inside connections and no experience participating in the sport. What I do know is fund raising. I’ve been a direct marketing consultant for almost 30 years and raising money for charities is a part of what I do. If you’re looking for the usual wrestling blog you can stop reading now. If you coach a wrestling team that needs a new mat, are an administrator hoping to endow the wrestling coach’s salary or a club leader in need of new equipment – read on. I’m going to share a few basic tips on the art and science of fund raising that may help you meet your goals.

Pick the right medium.

The most recent statistics show that telemarketing, direct mail and email (in that order) are the most efficient fund raising media. If you are relying too heavily on your website or on internet postings, you are missing a lot of money.

Know your donors.

Build a donor database that tracks at least the following:

Contact information (name, address, email, phone).
First donation date.
First donation amount.
Last donation date.
Last donation amount.
Total number of donations by medium (email, direct mail, website, etc.)
Total donated amount by medium.

You’ll soon learn that all donors are not created equal and you’ll want to customize your approach.

Get the second gift.

The second gift you get from a donor is the most important. A two-time donor is twice as likely to respond to a future request than is a one-time donor. Failing to ask for a second donation in a timely fashion is the single biggest mistake most charities make. However, don’t ask for the second gift with your “Thank you” note. The best pattern to follow is: 1. initial donation 2. Thank you. 3. Second gift request.

Tell the donor what his gift will accomplish.

Be specific. I recently managed a campaign where we asked for, “Enough food to feed a family of four for a week” ($100), “One week’s shelter and food for a homeless mother and her children” ($220), “A whole ton of food” ($700). You will still get a lot of $25 donations, but the number of donors who choose to give larger amounts are more likely to do so if there is a tangible result tied to the larger gift.

By the way – NEVER – let me repeat that – NEVER –say, “Every little bit helps.” No matter whatever else you have said, as soon as you use that sentence you trivialize your need.

Make it easy to give.

Offer multiple payment options – reply envelopes, credit cards, websites etc. Young charity managers often rely too heavily on internet payment. Statistically, major donors are older and more likely to respond through the mail than via the internet.

If you’re trying to raise money for a wrestling related cause and would like a little FREE advice, just send me an email at