Learning From Failure | Sara McMann

Jul 22, 2021 06:00 · 4757 words · 23 minute read

(upbeat music) - What’s up everybody.

00:08 - And welcome to this episode of our “Athlete Interview” series presented by USANA.

00:13 - I’m your host, Jason Nacey. And today we’re chatting with the one and only Sara McMann.

00:20 - She’s an Olympic silver medalist in the sport of wrestling and she’s also currently ranked in the top 10 as an MMA fighter in the UFC.

00:28 - What’s up Sara? Looks like you’re in a wrestling room.

00:32 - - I’m at my gym. (Sara laughs) - Okay. Okay.

00:34 - - So with my son, it’s really hard to find a quiet places.

00:38 - And the only other place I go is in my car.

00:41 - So like I have all my zoom meetings I’m like sitting in a car.

00:43 - You can see cars passing behind me, but it’s like, otherwise inevitably, he’s gonna come up and ask me questions and I’m just want my attention.

00:51 - So I have to hide. (Sara laughs) - That’s awesome.

00:54 - Well, I really appreciate you taking the time today.

00:59 - We’ll try to blaze through this. I don’t want to take up too much of your time.

01:02 - I know you’re super busy but yeah, thanks again for hopping on with us.

01:08 - Appreciate it. - Yeah, no problem. - So I’m just gonna kick it off.

01:13 - First off you and I chat every once in a while on Instagram and I’d made a comment on one of your posts, because you had talked about cornhole.

01:28 - (Sara laughs) And it’s funny that you brought that up because as I told you, I’ve seen cornhole a handful of times on ESPN, but in your story, you had mentioned how it’s kind of crazy you’re seeing stuff like this and there’s no wrestling.

01:49 - - Yeah. And I know like they probably try to like fit all different types of sports and I understand that.

01:56 - And I always like, when I make these posts, I’m like man, I don’t want to seem like I hate on other sports.

02:01 - ‘Cause I don’t, you know. - Yeah. - But even before when I was like younger and I’m like man, we can’t watch NCAA wrestling like the biggest tournament.

02:08 - And then like hundreds of thousands in attendance.

02:11 - And I can’t find this to watch this tournament and they have like dog competitions.

02:16 - Dog competitions, you know? And I’m like, this is an Olympic sport.

02:19 - And so it’s always kind of a little bit disappointing to me that you know, like wrestling just gets like the…

02:24 - We used to get like super terrible time slots and things like that.

02:28 - And so- - Yeah. - Yes, but Cornhole I’m like, I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t consider that a sport.

02:36 - (laughs loudly) It’s something that like you know, like…

02:39 - And I’m not hating on people who love it. - Yeah.

02:41 - - I love all kinds of things that I don’t consider sports.

02:43 - - Yeah. - So… - Yeah ‘cause I mean, so…

02:47 - And for me personally, what I consider a sport…

02:51 - And again, this is strictly my opinion. Has- - Yeah.

02:56 - - You know, there’s no weight or no bearing on what I’m about to say.

03:00 - But I feel like in sport you’re exerting yourself, right? Like even a lot of people will say, oh NASCAR or racing is not sport.

03:11 - I disagree with that. ‘Cause there’s a lot of… .

03:13 - There’s a lot that goes on, yeah. Exertion, all that kind of stuff.

03:18 - But, when you look at some of these sports like cornhole and I don’t want to go down the list, ‘cause I don’t wanna…

03:24 - - Yeah. - I don’t want to offend anybody or make anybody mad.

03:26 - - I know. - But yeah, there are some things out there that don’t take exertion.

03:32 - - Yeah. And I think that like there could be a good distinction between things that are enjoyable activities.

03:39 - That even like, you know, use physical exertion versus something that is like an actual sport.

03:46 - Because like if it’s open so broadly then anything can be a sport.

03:50 - You know, like when people in college will put their head on a baseball bat and spin around and get dizzy and then like try to play hit the ball and play baseball.

03:58 - Well that’s a sport, you know? ‘Cause it’s you know, like so…

04:02 - I don’t know. I think that if you get too broad, then everything is a sport.

04:06 - So- - Yeah. - Like especially wrestling, it’s like one of the original sports.

04:11 - And I understand that it’s hard with… If they keep changing the rules and it’s hard for people to go watch like for like big, long tournaments.

04:19 - I understand that, you know. But for crying out loud, it’s people in peak physical shape in spandex and you can put like the highlight stuff up there.

04:27 - - Yeah. - We should get more representation on TV.

04:30 - I feel like it would do better, but… - Yeah, a hundred percent.

04:34 - So, I wrestled in high school. I don’t know if you knew that.

04:37 - I wrestled- - I didn’t know that. - Yeah, I wrestled two years.

04:40 - My junior and senior year. - Awesome.

04:43 - - And I have an identical twin brother and he started wrestling his sophomore year.

04:47 - And I was one of those guys that I literally tried out for every sport.

04:52 - - Yeah. - And never made first cut.

04:55 - Was you know, I don’t think I’m non-athletic, but I didn’t grow up playing baseball.

05:02 - So, when I would try out for the baseball team in high school, these are all kids who grew up.

05:07 - So, I never felt bad- - Yeah, travel teams and…

05:09 - Yeah. - Yeah. - Yeah. Yeah.

05:12 - - It never… Like it never… It never hurt my confidence for whatever reason.

05:15 - But man, I tried out for soccer, baseball. You know, football anybody made the team.

05:24 - But then so my twin brother wrestled sophomore year and so the junior year I decided to stop trying out for basketball and all these other sports and just you know, join the wrestling team ‘cause everybody made it.

05:39 - It’s not huge. - Yeah. - I mean obviously not everybody wrestles varsity, right? - Yeah. Yeah.

05:44 - - You’ve got to be the wrestle offs. But man, had to tell you like, I think wrestling is one of the best sports just to learn who you are as a person.

05:55 - There’s no hiding behind anything. - Nope, even wearing spandex, you’re not hiding anything.

06:02 - - (laughs) Yeah, exactly. Exactly. - No, I agree too.

06:07 - Like I think there’s a huge value in team sports.

06:10 - I haven’t played a ton of team sports, but the ones that I have and like the relationships I’ve built on a team and trusting each other, I think that, that is like a very valuable skillset as well.

06:21 - But man, when you are out there and it comes down to you, you can’t blame anything else.

06:27 - Like I just feel like it gives you a kind of accountability.

06:31 - And a lot of different skillsets can be successful in wrestling.

06:36 - It’s not always the strongest or the fastest, you know.

06:38 - Like it’s the person who is more intelligent.

06:41 - It’s the person who can get the most leverage.

06:43 - It’s the person who can use their body well and take their gifts and their you know, strengths and maximize them and, you know, disguise their weaknesses.

06:52 - And so like, I feel like there’s not one body type that is more suited ‘cause we have all the weight classes.

06:57 - - Yap. - And so I think that like…

06:58 - And we try to match people up as evenly as possible.

07:01 - So then you get like a true test of who you are.

07:05 - And you get thrown to the wolves right away.

07:06 - - [Jason] Yeah. - Like there’s no feeling (murmurs) Oh, you’ve been doing this two months, now you’re gonna be doing matches.

07:12 - And you’re like, I don’t barely know the rules.

07:14 - But it doesn’t matter. In wrestling you’re out there.

07:16 - So, I think it’s like a… It’s a sink or swim mentality.

07:19 - And I think it is good. I think that like a couple of years of wrestling would do like most people good.

07:23 - - Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So, one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned my whole life came my senior year in a wrestling match.

07:35 - It was at a tournament. I was down by one point.

07:41 - So I either had to escape to tie it up. - Yeah.

07:44 - - Or get a reversal. - Yeah. - And there was 10 seconds left when they had stopped, you know, like as like a stalemate and threw us back in the middle.

07:54 - - The break, yeah yeah. - So I’m on bottom and as soon as he blew the whistle, I’m trying everything I can.

08:00 - Like I’m exerting myself beyond anything I’ve ever done.

08:03 - And I had five seconds left and I almost gave up.

08:07 - I was just like, I can’t do this. Like, I’m too tired.

08:12 - I’ve done everything I can. Like it’s okay.

08:16 - It’s okay. But I just pushed it a little bit further and I felt the kid…

08:22 - The other kid give up and I got a reversal and I won the match.

08:26 - And that was like… The lesson for me was never quit because you might…

08:32 - I mean, I literally was so close to quitting, but I waited that extra second and the other guy I was wrestling couldn’t handle it anymore.

08:41 - Like he was also exhausted and didn’t want to hold me anymore.

08:45 - So, I was able to win the match and you know, that’s, I feel like one of the most powerful lessons I learned in not quitting. - Yeah.

08:57 - - So people think that wrestling is so much of like overcoming your opponent and there definitely is that aspect to it, but really with every opponent, you really…

09:06 - You have to overcome yourself. - Yeah.

09:09 - - So it’s much more about you. And some of my…

09:11 - Some of the biggest matches I’ve gone against some of the best performances I’ve had, I haven’t always won the match, you know.

09:17 - And sometimes I’ve gone out there and done terrible.

09:20 - Had terrible matches and I won, but I like look back on that and I’m like, I’ll never watch that match.

09:25 - I like, that was terrible. Like I wrestled horrible.

09:28 - I didn’t you know, like I’m not proud of that performance.

09:31 - So it is. It’s really like a mastery of yourself.

09:36 - - So, if wrestling was a sport that you could do professionally, what would you pick? MMA or wrestling? - Okay. Well, if I were 25…

09:49 - I love wrestling. And I think I’ll love wrestling like as my first true love, like for the rest of my life.

09:55 - I love it every time I do it. But being older man, my body can’t handle.

10:01 - Like it’s mainly what it puts your joints through and I can’t handle that at this age.

10:07 - So I would pick MMA because wrestling is a tournament sport and this is like a one-time performance per night sport.

10:14 - So… But wrestling… You’ll ask any MMA fighter.

10:20 - You’ll ask anybody who does other sports and does wrestling and they’ll say like, wrestling is hard on your body than any other sport is.

10:25 - And so for my body’s sake, I’d have to choose MMA.

10:29 - (Jason laughs) But my heart always loves to wrestle, so.

10:33 - - Which is crazy because when you watch MMA it’s looks so violent, right? - Yeah.

10:41 - - So, I think people who don’t know either sport would think that wrestling…

10:49 - Or would think that MMA is a lot harder on your body.

10:52 - ‘Cause you’re getting punched in the face You’re getting choked out.

10:55 - - But you can’t do that and practice every day.

10:58 - - [Jason] Yeah. - It’s not the actual performance.

11:00 - It’s what I have to do every single day. Now if I go into my striking practices and we’re punching and kicking each other full force every time, we’re all gonna have concussions.

11:08 - - [Jason] Yeah. - None of us are gonna make it to our fight because we’ll be too. .

11:13 - Every one of us would be too injured. So we have to be skilled enough to pull our punches and pull our kicks.

11:19 - And like in the times that we hit hard, we’re not hitting another person.

11:22 - We’re hitting the heavy bag. We’re hitting the mitts, you know? And so that, it like wears on you, but it’s not the same.

11:29 - Whereas wrestling like the rules are designed to keep people from being physically injured through strikes or joint locks.

11:37 - So you can go as hard as you possibly can 100% of the time.

11:41 - And it’s like… It just is like the exertion on your muscles is great.

11:45 - The exertion on your bones, typically pretty good.

11:48 - The exertion on your joints, it’s like… It’s not good.

11:53 - It’s like you feel like you’re falling apart, so.

11:55 - - Yeah. Well and I have to say… So you’re one of the trailblazers for women wrestlers.

12:03 - I mean, you were the first American woman to win a medal at the Olympics in wrestling.

12:09 - - I was the second. - You were the second? - Yes, because Patricia Miranda won a bronze.

12:13 - They wrestle a bronze medal matches before the finals.

12:16 - And so she technically won the first bronze and then I won the…

12:20 - I was the first woman in the finals, so. - Okay. Okay.

12:23 - (Sara laughs) Sorry, my bad. - No, no, no. It’s okay.

12:27 - It’s all right. I love my teammate too, so I like always want to give her props.

12:31 - (Sara laughs) - Yeah. Yeah. But still when you guys were wrestling that…

12:37 - I mean, you’re an advocate for women’s wrestling.

12:41 - I know you work closely with Sally Roberts and the Wrestle Like a Girl Foundation and you guys have made huge strides.

12:50 - Like, you know, women’s wrestling is now getting sanctioned in a lot of states, which is really cool.

12:58 - But what was that like for you growing up in wrestling in high school? - So it was…

13:06 - It’s the only experience that I ever really knew.

13:08 - And so it wasn’t a bad experience for me. I had to earn my place on the boys team when I was the only girl that was wrestling.

13:16 - Like… Sorry, there’s a fly. (laughs loudly) I was the only girl that was wrestling in the state.

13:21 - So I had to learn how to hold my own and how to navigate being on a boys team.

13:32 - And I had never done any sport before that.

13:33 - So honestly kind of helped me ‘cause I didn’t know any different.

13:37 - But the real challenge I think that… Is that I had to keep a realistic standard for myself while always at the disadvantage of wrestling boys.

13:49 - And it’s really hard not to get very discouraged, especially like when they hit puberty, they have that growth spurt and they’re all like a lot stronger, you know? And so that’s what I say, like wrestling is a wonderful sport because I still beat guys.

14:01 - Guys who were stronger than me and guys who were faster through technique.

14:05 - - [Jason] Yeah. - And through conditioning and through all of the other aspects that we are just talking about too mentally that make a wrestler, a wrestler.

14:14 - So I wore some of them down and I broke them, you know? And so that was like a really tough experience.

14:22 - I wouldn’t change it for the world. I do think that it’s great that girls have other girls to go against.

14:26 - So they get more of a realistic measure. - [Jason] Yeah.

14:28 - - And I think more girls will stay ‘cause it’s like the gap is not so huge.

14:31 - And so they’re like, it feels more attainable.

14:34 - Oh, if I just do a little bit more and a little bit more, I can be a state champion.

14:37 - I can be a national champion. Where for me it was like, oh the like the standard was set like so high, but it also created a type of belief in myself that was like probably bordering delusional in a very good way.

14:53 - (Sara laughs) - [Jason] Yeah. - So I was like, every time that I was against a guy I was like, okay, he took me down three times, this next one, I’m gonna get.

14:59 - You know, like only a crazy person or idiot would keep believing in themselves despite all evidence to the contrary.

15:06 - But I did. And like… And I think that belief like it built inside of me carried over into MMA.

15:12 - It carried over into other endeavors in my life.

15:15 - It carried over like far beyond that. And so I’m super appreciative of that.

15:18 - Even though it was like, it probably weeded out some girls that might’ve loved wrestling, but they just didn’t want to hack it against the guys, you know? - Yeah. Yeah.

15:27 - Well, I mean, you know, and I live in a religious state, right? Really, really religious.

15:36 - And not everybody is, but just that vibe here in Utah, right? - Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

15:42 - - So when I was wrestling in high school, we had some girls on the team and we embraced them.

15:50 - And luckily there was at least two. So they would wrestle with each other, but I know we’d go to tournaments.

15:59 - And other boys would refuse to wrestle them because they just…

16:06 - - They didn’t want to risk it. - Yeah.

16:08 - - So some of it is religious reasons and I used to respect that.

16:11 - But if it’s like, you don’t want to lose to a girl, it’s like, come on, nobody likes to lose in general.

16:17 - - Yeah. - You know, like you might lose jobs to a girl.

16:21 - You might lose, you know, potential mates to another female.

16:25 - So like you can’t just like avoid girls everywhere, you know? - Yeah.

16:31 - - And it’s not sexual touching, it’s just a sport.

16:34 - - Yeah. And that’s where I think- - I have a wrestler that’s gonna come into the room soon.

16:39 - I don’t know how much time I have left before…

16:41 - - Okay. - ‘Cause I have to start my practice.

16:43 - - You’re good. You’re good. You’re good.

16:45 - - Okay. - So when we have to stop, we’ll just, yeah.

16:48 - When they come in there. - Okay. - But, I think that’s the hard thing for some of the people is differentiating that, right? Like what… - Yeah.

16:58 - - Like what you said, the sexual touching. I mean, there’s like wrestling, you’re going hard.

17:03 - So obviously there’s none of that. - Yeah.

17:07 - - But I think it made some of the boys uncomfortable and maybe some of that just an excuse, right? Because they knew the girl they were gonna have to wrestle would beat them and- - Yeah, or could beat them.

17:20 - - Yeah. - Yeah. - Yeah. Well, ‘cause you know, there was a couple of girls that were really, really good and- - Yeah.

17:29 - - And I think some of the boys in that weight class were pretty intimidated by that fact.

17:36 - It’s a real macho thing for that mentality in high school for a high school boy, right? - And college.

17:44 - It’s absolutely… It’s tough. It’s a hard pill to swallow, you know.

17:49 - But we all have to cope with stuff. So I don’t feel like any pity because you know- - Yeah.

17:55 - - I’ve had to wrestle people that I was supposed to beat or I you know, on paper had the advantage and so I had to put everything on the line too, so.

18:03 - - Yeah, yeah a hundred percent. - We all have to do it.

18:06 - It’s a valuable skill to learn. - So, with all the ups and downs that happen in a professional athlete’s career, how do you keep going on those…

18:18 - On the low moments? ‘Cause I know you’ve had super high moments, you know, but like anybody would be naive to think that you’ve never had a low point.

18:28 - So how do you get through that? - So it’s different for each circumstance, but I try the best I can to look at whatever happened, try to kind of compartmentalize and like look at it just for the learning experience I can gain from it and then put it away and never look at it again, you know? ‘Cause like I think that things kind of…

18:52 - Things cut you in life, you know. - Yeah.

18:55 - - Like you’re going to get that and they’re gonna kind of cut you and wound you emotionally.

18:58 - But, if you keep going back to it over and over, that’s like you picking up the knife and you cutting that scar open again.

19:05 - So I try to like realize that it happened, accept it, understand it and then try the best that I can moving forward, not to allow that to happen again.

19:15 - - Gotcha. That’s great advice. - Yeah.

19:17 - - Great advice. (Sara laughs) - Thanks.

19:20 - - So, I think just because of who you are, we’re gonna get a lot of people watching this who are wrestlers or into MMA.

19:31 - Do you have any advice on when you were training for the Olympics.

19:36 - What did your training look like for wrestling and what advice would you give somebody going up in the ranks to help them be a better wrestler? - I guess the thing I would say is that, plan more for your recovery and try to recover well, so each practice you can push a hundred percent.

20:00 - And just expect that you’re gonna be far more tired and far more sore and things like that than you thought you could be, but you can do more.

20:09 - You know like, you can do more. You know, like your…

20:12 - Our minds often are like biggest limitation.

20:14 - But that being said, make sure you get good sleep, get good hydration like that and recover very, very well.

20:21 - It’s super important ‘cause then when you come back to the next practice, you’re not like an 85% athlete.

20:27 - You’re as close as you can get to a hundred percent every time.

20:30 - So you can get quality practice every single time.

20:33 - And that’s what separates somebody who’s good, from great.

20:36 - Is those… All those great practices back to back to back to back.

20:40 - So- - Love that. - Yeah and it’s gonna hurt, but it’s okay.

20:44 - (laughs loudly) It’s worth it. - Nice.

20:47 - So, I know it looks like you might have some people coming into the wrestling room.

20:53 - So, we’ll end this, but I got two questions for you.

20:58 - - Okay. - So, the first one, do you have a favorite Olympic memory when you were in Athens? When you competed in Athens? - Yeah. So the one…

21:09 - The only one I let sneak in (laughs) was during the opening ceremonies.

21:15 - That was by far my favorite part. And luckily we competed like towards the end of the games.

21:20 - So like walking out for the first time with that crowd and hearing your national Anthem and people like so happy their tears were just streaming down their face.

21:31 - Like it was like probably one of the most amazing moments of my life.

21:34 - So, it’s definitely in there in like the top five.

21:36 - So that was like my like moment where like it hit me, that I was like in the Olympics. (laughs) - Awesome.

21:44 - All right. Last question. How has you USANA impacted your life as an athlete? We actually got this question on Instagram.

21:53 - - Yeah so, like what I was saying about recovery being like one of the most important things like the convenience and the availability of things.

22:06 - Getting the best nutrients and getting them as quickly as possible after you train, is a super important thing.

22:14 - So being able to get, you know, like the replacement bars…

22:18 - Meal replacement bars, the protein mixes, like all of that stuff and having all those stuff like available.

22:24 - The probiotics, like everything, it takes care of everything nutritionally in that way and it’s like the most bioavailable form.

22:32 - - Hmm - It allows my body to get back to a hundred percent so that my next practice is great, you know.

22:39 - Not good, but great. And so that is what allows me to keep doing this at the age that I am.

22:45 - - That’s funny you say that because I don’t think most people think about the USANA products in the recovery aspect of it.

22:55 - But whenever I talk to athletes, I hear that all the time.

22:58 - Recovery, recovery recovery. ‘Cause like you said, the more you’re able to push your body in practice, the better you’re gonna be during a match or a fight or a game.

23:09 - Whatever it is you’re participating in. - And push yourself well.

23:13 - Not just like struggle and survive, but like attacking the practice.

23:16 - It makes a tremendous difference. - Yeah.

23:19 - Sara, thanks for taking the time. I love chatting with you.

23:23 - I know you’re super, super busy so I really appreciate you taking your time out…

23:28 - Taking the time out to spend with us and- - Yeah.

23:32 - - Yeah, look forward to seeing you in the future soon, hopefully.

23:36 - - Yes. All right. Take care.

23:38 - Thank you. - Okay thanks Sara, see you. .