NO FEAR is a wrestling expression often seen on T-shirts. Although meant to inspire wrestlers to do their best, the statement is misleading. We all experience fear. It is how we control or direct our fear that makes the difference. In wrestling, some fear losing, looking bad in front of friends and family, or failing the team. Fear can be a great motivator, but it can also lead to missed opportunities or destructive behavior. This book addresses the fear I experienced—being prohibited from following my passion simply because of who I loved.
My name is Robert Lee Shegog, and I found my life’s passion early. I began a life-long love affair with wrestling. As a high school coach, I taught the sport for nearly thirty-three years. Not the scripted spectacle you see on TV but the unpredictable sport that takes place on a two-inch-thick mat. Opponents, equal in weight, are put to a test of pure grit and determination. There is no hiding, no excuses. It’s all about how well you prepared and executed. You can attain the highest glory or face the deepest despair.
I love this self-challenge, and I still get an adrenalin boost every time I coach, let alone think about wrestling. However, I believe I would not have been allowed to coach, and would never have fulfilled my passion if people knew the truth about me.
On the surface, people see a tough wrestling coach who happens to be Black. When I retired in 2006, I was one of only five Black head wrestling coaches in Arizona. Yet that statistic only scratches the surface of the experiences that shaped me and got me to where I am.
These are my stories. Many important people to me encouraged me to share them. But did I want to open up? Did I want to be vulnerable? Is telling my life story a form of vanity?
I was hesitant at first because, as a young child attending church, I learned that pride goes before a fall. We practiced humbleness, making it hard to accept a compliment or a gift. When Nick suggested the book idea nearly ten years ago, I resisted. Over time, I realized such behavior leads to tearing down one’s self-esteem and the deprivation of natural joy. Every day, loved ones remind me that my life has meaning and reason. So, I said okay. I’m ready to tell my story. This book is a record of my passion and purpose. It captures my truth.