Ok Wrestling Parents, this can be a pretty important topic and decision when helping your child develop as a wrestler. Over the years I have cringed when I see come coaches and parents send their kids to National level tournaments when they are no where near ready for it and it ends up killing their confidence as well as killing their development as a wrestler.
I get just as many questions from other coaches on a parenting level regarding wrestling as I do on a coaches level and it always comes down to what did you do with your kids. How did you develop them? Anyone can get lucky and get 1 good wrestler in a school , family or club here or there. When you start developing numerous ones, people take notice as something more must be going on than just dumb luck and having a tough kid fall in your lap. Choosing the right tournaments to send your child to is a huge part of their development , so we are going to dive into this topic. We will cover youth through High School.
It does not matter if a wrestler is at the Youth level or High School age , when choosing tournaments for them it should all be the same. If you can find some novice tournaments for them their first year or so, by all means do it. You do not want to throw anyone to the wolves when they are just getting started and they are usually taking their licks in the wrestling room with partners anyway. Some clubs are going to prepare your wrestler better than others for competition and you want to be sure your club is doing plenty of Live wrestling in practices. If they aren't, find one that does. This goes for youth right through to high school. Ive been lucky enough to be in and around many different wrestling clubs over the years and after seeing the results of their wrestlers over time, the ones not doing as well usually don't push as much live wrestling in their practices. Also notice Im referring to "wrestling club" a lot here. Because , its gonna be real hard to find success in wrestling without one. Do not think you can be successful in the most difficult sport there is by practicing and doing it for 3 months out of the year and taking 9 months off. Not gonna happen. By all means, play other sports but you need to practice to some extent during the offseason in wrestling to be successful.
OK, so what tournaments should you choose? When your wrestler is starting out , stay local!! Stick to the local tournaments , let them get their feet whet in the sport and get comfortable competing in front of people , in a singlet , in a tough match etc. Their are sooo many mental components that go into this sport that are often overlooked and a coach or parent will say " just go wrestle " .My personal thought on it ,is that we need to teach our wrestlers to win first. In local competitions you will get other kids who are just starting out and developing as well. Local seasons for Youth usually run for a few months out of the year and if your looking for tournaments outside of those months that is great but again, stick to the smaller tournaments not labelled as a state championship or national tournament. Once your wrestler is winning the local tournaments regularly then and only then would it be time to start looking into those others or larger tournaments. Remember , there are other ways to make a small local tournament challenging for your wrestler such as moving them up an age group or having them do multiple divisions. This will save a parent a lot of money over the years and help you keep your wrestler challenged and progressing without spending big bucks traveling to tournaments states away.
Once your wrestler is winning in their bracket most of the time at the local level , then it might be time to branch out. Being from NY , the thing to do would be to hit some tournaments in NJ or PA to mix things up and find new opponents. You will find tougher competition in these areas as well as new opponents for your wrestler that they probably haven't faced yet. You can also start seeking out some of these tournaments listed as State or National tournaments. There are more than just one of each, just so you don't get confused . You will find numerous tournaments listed as the state or national tournament . The important thing is , is that you let your wrestler develop throughout this whole process. Do not constantly put them in over their head in tournaments. One exception to this would be the emergence of female wrestling. This and only in this case would you want to seek out all girl tournaments abroad because they are more scarce. However, do not get caught up in the Girls nationals money trap. You will see tournaments listed around the country or even world listed as a national tournament in bright lights. These tournaments will cost you thousands to get to and once you are there, you will be facing the same level of competition and number of competitors you would in your own back yard. I would expect this to change over the next 10 years as things grow but right now, that is the case. In the meantime be sure those girls get in and compete with the boys too.
This is rare but if you find a coach that is telling you to go to some big tournament and spend thousands of dollars for it and you think you may not be ready for this, be wary. Not everyone may have your best interest in mind or care about how you develop as a wrestler. Some coaches think that by SENDING all their wrestlers to a big tournament that it makes the club itself look better. In the meantime none of these kids are doing well at these tournaments and as a result are wasting their money and again hindering their development. Wrestling just like any sport can be expensive when you start doing it in the offseason. You will have club fee's , Tournament fee's , travel fee's and you may even want to attend a clinic , camp or receive private training. We all have a budget or amount we can spend on our children so think before you throw thousands of dollars into traveling or sending your child to a tournament . In most cases that money can be better spent elsewhere. I see local kids spending thousands to go to Fargo every year meanwhile the same kids cannot win a regional or even local tournament . If you have the money to blow or just want to send your kid on a vacation with friends that is one thing but if you have a budget and are trying to develop your wrestler it is another. Be smart and make sure you are putting your money in the right spots to help them get better. Those kids can get their butt kicked right at home, they don't need to go across the country to do that. This Blog again is about how to develop your wrestler, it is not meant to put anyone down but to simply inform parents of wrestlers on some of the do's and don'ts. This stuff can be just as important as the practice they go to and don't forget the mental aspect of this sport. Your kid needs to find a way to win and you have to put them in the right positions to do so. This sport isn't all about winning and losing and every match will have a loser. If you want to be on the winning end more than the losing then these are some things that should be done and find a coach that puts the time in to get you into the right tournaments and positions to succeed.