Parents can be rough on their kids when it comes to sports. In Marple Township circa 1997, 6 or more dad coaches came together to be equally tough on their own and each other’s kids. We travelled everywhere with eachother. North Jersey tourney on a Sunday, fuck it were all there. Maryland tourney on a Friday, call sister and tell her the boys are sick we’re heading to Maryland. Most of these dad’s never wrestled themselves but because they helped practice out they were able to pick the sport up and become relatively efficient at coaching. Outside how mean they were.
Some self reflection: I was soft. I wasn’t the stay puft marshmellow man soft but I wasn’t a hardened individual. I was notorious for faking injuries and crying to make excuses for why I lost. Looking back there was so much pressure to win and my little brother being better than me for the first time in any sport that there must be a reason I wasn’t as good.
“My neck was broken.”
“He poked me in the eye.”
“He elbowed me in the Nuts.”
“He broke my back, it’s spinal.”
Err that last excuse might have been Mike Tyson, I can’t remember. But man I was full of excuses. So hearing “Don’t be a pussy” or “Stop being a pussy” became common lingo between these coaches and many of us wrestlers. Honestly it never phased me. We laughed about the word as kids.
Then a mom from our team started coming to tournaments. My mom never came, youth wrestling tournaments in the 90s were a wild place where mothers weren’t seen that often. The ones that were there were tough moms. My mom was tough but not watch your son get beat up and not do something about it tough. The one mom who started coming to our tournaments was no exception. She overheard our dads once calling me a pussy and she let them have it. They were legit scared to let the word fly. That’s how “Putca” came into our lives. One of our coaches was Eastern European. He taught them Putca which was another word for pussy. Shit man I’m still in one of my old coaches phones as “Putca Boy”.
It all came to a head for me when I was in 6th grade. I wasn’t fat but I was a baby fat wrestler. Kid I stood across against in the finals of a tournament was already hitting puberty. I rolled straight to my back from standing position. My coaches all laughed. My dad was pissed. I secured my name as “Putca Boy” because let’s face it I really did pussy out. Shit man I thought the kid was going to kill me. Two weeks later though in the finals of another tournament we stood on opposing sides of the mat. He was laughing and pointing at me. The Putca Boy he pinned in 5 seconds was again in the finals with him. It pissed me off. My dad asked, “You ok with him laughing at you, huh are you going to be a Putca Boy?” I won. I beat the piss out of him. He cursed twice and was ejected from the match. My dad and the other coaches were proud as hell. As they were with all my wins.
You may tell me that’s awful. May ask How’d you like being called that? It didn’t matter to me. It made me stronger. I went from being an excuse making preteen wrestler to a Prep School State Champ in the end. So did it hurt my emotional and physical development as a person? No. It made me the man i am today and i always thank them all for it.
Sports Journalist with an eye on being a sports talk radio host