Q&A With Coach Keith Almond
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I teach tenth and eleventh grade Bible at CAC and coach wrestling. My wife Angela also teaches and is a coach here. We have twins named Chase and Paige, who are both getting married this December. Our youngest son Shane is finishing up his senior year at CAC.
What’s your favorite part of your role as CAC’s wrestling coach?
As a coach at a Christian school, people expect you to act a certain way, but it’s hard to do that at times because of the competitive environment. I have grown to appreciate that and to enjoy the challenge of competing in a Christ-like manner and teaching our wrestlers to do the same. I tell our young men that I use wrestling to teach people about Christ, so I don’t want to do anything that would interfere with that opportunity. I want them to know that Christ is my life and it needs to be reflected in the way we compete.
I also enjoy getting to see a young man grow through the times he loses. I tell wrestlers that sometimes in life, we seem to lose more than we win. But if we can take that defeat and learn from it — it makes the winning times so much better.
Aside from physical discipline, what do you think students learn from wrestling?
They learn to have self-confidence, to be the best that they can be and to be satisfied with that — but also to continue working to improve. It’s very humbling to go out onto the mat with another wrestler and end up on your back. But when a wrestler starts making excuses, I always ask him “How did you get on your back to begin with?” Then I tell him to practice ways to avoid ending up that way. In life, if instead of making excuses we figure out what we can do to overcome, we are better people for it. If I can teach a young person that, it’s all worth it.
How do you think students can apply these lessons to everyday life?
I tell our wrestlers I can tell a lot about how they are off the mat by watching them on the mat. If they gripe and complain about every call, they probably do that to their parents and teachers. If they quit and lay their shoulders down, they probably give up studying for the better grade in the classroom because it takes too much effort. I’ve had parents call me and tell me their young son’s behavior is better because he started wrestling. They begin to have more self-confidence, which makes them treat their parents better, and the parents notice a difference. Wrestling can improve your self-image because you know you can protect yourself if needed, but you don’t have to fight to prove how tough you are. And in turn, that affects how we treat others around us.
As a coach, what is your ultimate goal for your team each season?
The ultimate goal is to give it your best and enjoy the journey. CAC has been blessed to win the state championship three times in the nine years we’ve had wrestling in Arkansas. For many people that is the ultimate goal, and many never reach that. I tell wrestlers all the time that if trophies and winning state championships are the most important goals, you will always be unhappy unless you win, and you will always be chasing the next trophy.
I just spoke to a senior who hopes to win a state championship this year. I told him that even if he doesn’t win it all I hope it has still been worth it. I hope that he, and all of our wrestlers, can find joy in all the running, weight lifting and extra practice — that they can find joy in the journey. But my ultimate goal is for our team to enjoy the journey and in the end, compete without excuses.
What’s your best coaching memory?
There are so many it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Most would think it would be winning state or receiving coach of the year, but I remember one instance that did not involve a lot of winning. I had a young man that came out one year and never won a match. He would get pinned every time he wrestled. One time, we went to Searcy to wrestle and he did not get pinned, but he still lost the match. When that happens, instead of your opponent receiving 6 points for pinning you, they only get 4 points for beating you. We ended up winning the dual that night by 1 point. I told the team it was because of the young man who did not get pinned. He helped us win the dual because he hung on and did not get pinned. When the state tournament rolled around that year, that young man pinned his first opponent and won his first match in the state tournament. I usually try to control my emotions out of respect for our opponents, but I was jumping up and down because he finally won a match. He lost the next two, but he won one and never quit.
I have also been blessed to coach both of my boys in wrestling. I remember when my oldest son was competing as a freshman in the state tournament. He was wrestling a senior that was better than him when he got hurt on an illegal move. In wrestling, if your opponent hurts you on an illegal move, you have a minute and a half to get better or you win. I told my son that if he was hurt and could not continue he would win and be in the finals. But if he could continue, he would probably lose the match and end up in fourth place. I asked him if he could continue and he said he could. That was a proud moment for me because he was honest. He ended up losing that match and getting fourth that year, but I don’t think he regrets that. That is what wrestling can do for you, and I love coaching young men through those moments and seeing them grow in those areas.
When you’re not teaching or coaching, how do you spend your time?
I love spending time with my family and just hanging out at the house or watching movies. I probably have to turn in my “man card” for this, but I like to watch the Hallmark Channel (most of the coaches just laugh at me). My wife and I are involved in foster parenting now, and I’ve found joy in taking in kids who need a home and using our resources to serve them. In the off-season, we like to camp as a family and go out on the wave runner.