I get a lot of questions from both the parents of wrestlers I coach and even from other coaches who have their first child and want help putting them on the right path for success in the grueling sport of wrestling. Ive done everything you probably should do and while developing my wrestlers and have also learned some things I wouldn't do again or have been a complete waste of time, energy and money.
I enjoy sharing the experiences and lessons I have learned as a parent and coach and figured I would combine that with my passion for writing. This will be my first blog post on our Lions Den site and I have chosen to start with a topic that comes up quite frequently in the wrestling circle.
First off, let me start off by saying there are 2 types of wrestlers in youth thru high school wrestling. The wrestler who competes and practices solely during the season and then the wrestler who wants to win and succeed in the sport. The latter will realize you cannot due so without training year round in some shape or form. It will be very hard to be successful in this sport if you only participate in it for a few months out of the year. My Blog posts are geared towards this group. Both of my oldest children enjoyed the sport the minute they got into it. We started at our local youth program in our school which only lasts 4- 6 weeks with practice being once or twice a week. Since they enjoyed it , I wanted to find a program where they could continue to do it and get better. I myself had zero wrestling background at the time and finally found a couple local clubs and chose the closest one. It ended up being a great choice because it was the smaller of the 2 and practices had a low number of wrestlers. This gave my boys lots of exposure to the coach. This is important especially in the early developmental stage while your wrestler is learning the fundamentals of the sport. Choosing the right wrestling club is super important! I will come back to this topic with its own Blog as so much goes into choosing the right club for your wrestler. What I do want to focus on in this topic is choosing the right school, program and coach.
Did you just read that correctly? Choose the right school? Who changes or picks a child's school based on its wrestling program? Well , If you end up having that wrestler who is serious about the sport , you will learn fast a lot goes into it. Its a slippery slope and it starts out like I did. A youth practice followed by joining a wrestling club , followed by competing in local youth tournaments .... followed by either winning or losing and at most times both. We as parents all want whats best for our kids so we are going to help them find ways to succeed. The wrestling community , you will find is a close knit almost cult like one at times. We all know who the best schools are with the best wrestling programs, the best coaches, the best wrestling clubs , who the best wrestlers are etc . You in time too will know these things along with what weight that other kid will be wrestling next season.
So let's get into this school topic. Man can I give you the ins and outs on this one. My first 2 kids started out in the sport at the ages of 6 and 7.They were pretty successful early on winning most of the time locally and placing high in statewide and boardering state tournaments. The better high school coaches are involved in the sport year round to some degree so if you have a good young wrestler they will usually be on the coaches radar by the time they hit 5th or 6th grade. They will see them at the wrestling clubs and tournaments over the years. Not all high school programs are created equal. The ones with these coaches who are more involved are usually the ones who take the sport more seriously. Just like we have 2 types of wrestlers as I stated when you began reading this blog we also have 2 types of coaches . The ones who may coach for money or casually and are involved in the sport a few months out of the year and then the ones who are involved to a greater degree and are involved year round. These guys get a paycheck by doing what they love. Do kids really change schools to go to a better program? I will tell you this , in my last 7 years in high school wrestling I have personally seen over 20 of our local high school wrestlers change schools to wrestle for a better program. Thats 3 athletes per year on average in our area alone.
How does this come about? It comes about when you are involved in a sport year round along with making friends with the other families involved in it with you. Conversations arise like , man Shen has another great team this year meanwhile your local team may stink. Your child may develop aspirations to wrestle in college one day and as a parent you may think your local school / team won't be able to help get them to that point and you are right. At that point many parents of top local athletes will consider changing schools to help them succeed. This is a super tough sport and a lot goes into it ,so the strong tend to gravitate to the winners. High school coaches will reach out to some and say " Hey come to our school" and drop seeds in your ear. There is nothing wrong with that. You will have others such as coaches from Private schools which may actually recruit your child to attend the school and wrestle for them. Then you will have coaches who reach out recruit and may even help you get a fake address to attend the school in another area. I would not recommend going this route, it is against the law and a pain in the ass. No transportation to and from school, people will turn you in as no one likes a school to get all the best wrestlers etc. At the time its easy to get caught up in this stuff. You have a child who has been working hard in the sport, you want them to succeed and then all these coaches want them. It's a great feeling and you think you'r doing the right thing.
If your going to make this decision, you better make it right and make sure its worth it. I can tell you the private school route sucks. Your wrestler is going to need two things to get into college. They will need good grades and to be a great wrestler. The private schools will tell you they have the best education blah blah blah. In the last 7 years , I have seen probably 10 local kids go this route and out of those 10 , 1 has stayed that route and gone on to wrestle in college and it wasn't due to their grades. You'r child will need to get good grades but a school is not going to do that for them. That rests solely on your shoulders and the support they get at home. They will have to learn good study habits , how to study affectively , how to prepare for a test and be structured enough to get the school work done on a daily basis along with going to practice and traveling to tournaments. You also may have the option of sending your wrestler to a private school abroad. This would be a school where they would live and go to school. We have 2 schools like that just outside of NY called Wyoming Seminary and Blair. These 2 schools have 2 of the top High School wrestling programs in the country and recruit wrestlers from all over the country to attend. I had 1 son get interest from one of these schools but the thought of him leaving the house any earlier than college was a bit too much for me. These schools however do produce multiple college wrestlers every year.
Knowing what I know , If I were to choose to move into a district based upon a wrestling program the only one I would consider would contain 3 things. 1. They know how to produce good wrestlers. Take a look at their past, how many section placers have they had, how many section champions, how many state placers and champions.Then look at THE MOST IMPORTANT THING how good are their other wrestlers who are not placing. Any program can ride the coat tails of a couple kids who do club wrestling and come back and win and make them look good. Good programs, have solid wrestlers from top to bottom. If you have kids who are starting who should clearly not be, thats a sign that the coach is not developing his wrestlers properly. 2. Be close to a club . Getting your kid to club practices is no easy feet . School, homework , dinner and traveling to and from practice can be tough. So if you can find a good club that is also close to a good program thats a win win. 3. Partners. It will be very hard for your wrestler to get much out of in season practice without good partners to drill with. There are a many of good wrestlers who actually get worse during the season because in the offseason they train with good partners at their club and during the season they may be in a bad practice without partners.
Taking those things into consideration , there are not many schools that contain all of those things. When it comes down to it not many wrestling programs are going to have what a top level wrestler needs so it will fall solely on you as parent to help provide that for your them. So , don't make the mistake that many of you before you have and go looking for the perfect school program . Most times it doesn't exist unless you really know the history of the school, coaches and program so you will come up short. The best thing you can do for your wrestler and family is understand that you will need to be the one to provide the things listed in this blog. 1, a good club 2, good partners 3, good grades and the ability to succeed in school. Other things you can do to help is invite other wrestlers from your school to your club. The better these other kids get, the more they can help your wrestler in the room.
In my future Blogs , I will outline exactly what you will need to help develop your wrestler along the way. Many of these things you wouldn't even think of as it has nothing to do with practicing or training. Check back weekly as I cover some of the topics listed below.
Mental Strength / Sports Psychology
How To Develop Your Wrestler - Day 1 on
Picking The Right Tournaments For Your Wrestler
How To Find The Right Club For Your Wrestler
Choosing The Right Weight Class For Your Wrestler
When Does Training Turn Into Overtraining?
Preparing For The College Process
Life Outside Wrestling
Supporting Wrestling/Outside The Box