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Helping the Coach Help You

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2013 by NMWA

Helping the Coach Help You

by Ted Witulski/USA Wrestling

Every wrestling coach in the country could use a little help. The title, wrestling coach, does not denote all of the tasks that have to be performed to just get through the day-to-day running of a wrestling team. A successful team is a goal for all coaches, but it is amazing how many things can get in the way. 

The progress and performance of the program can be at risk when the coach has to do it all himself and is stymied by numerous situations that arise. Coaches are full of pride and hesitant to ask for help. But, as wrestlers and coaches gear up for the start of the high school season, here are a few suggestions for the wrestlers to take note of so that the coach can get back to coaching wrestling and stop getting sidetracked with other concerns. 

Step One: Recruit hard for the team.

Every season the coaching staff of a team faces a new reality. Holes to fill, the four-year starter is gone, 14 weight classes to find a body for. The task is daunting, every weight from 103 to heavyweight has to have a wrestler. Of course the other reality is the sport doesn’t have an easy sell to teenagers these days. Hard work and dedication doesn’t scream fun to a high school kid who would rather spend their winter strengthening their thumb muscles playing Playstation. 

So with that kind of reality in mind, help the coach out. Get out there each and every day and talk up the great side of wrestling to all potential participants. Don’t size them up and think they don’t have potential. The wrestling season and their desire will determine the outcome. Get your friends on the mats this winter, a growing team will signal to your school that something good is happening with wrestling. 

When wrestlers make the “come out for wrestling” sales pitch, they should avoid the threatening language of tough practices and weight cutting. Instead sell the positives of the sport such as the values that it instills like commitment, and desire. 

Every high school wrestler that loves the sport should push hard to build a bigger and better team and that means helping the coach recruit. Between now and the start of the season put the full court press on for athletes to join the wrestling team. 

Step Two: No Team Member is a Punching Bag

High School is a tough time for almost everybody. Very often in schools a pecking order gets established. Unfortunately, it becomes acceptable to mistreat some guys on the team. Please remember that these teammates are out for wrestling for the same reason as everyone else. It’s not an easy choice to become a wrestler, so treat all that take their passion for the sport experience to the mat with respect. 

The coach can’t be there to protect everyone at all times and of course sometimes it might seem like some kids are just asking for it. But if joking around turns into horseplay that singles out one kid or a group of guys then the dissension and hurt that is caused can be a real barrier for the wrestling team. 

Leaders on the wrestling squad need to be the ones that tell teammates to “knock it off” and “we don’t need that on our team.” In today’s society slip ups in judgment can lead to serious repercussion that even lurch into litigation. 

Make a conscious effort to help foster the right environment amongst teammates, so that all participants will be proud of the time they spent on the wrestling team. 

Step Three: Hit the showers.

Years ago a coach would end practice with the phrase, “hit the showers.” With shrinking budgets for athletic teams, one of the first program cuts often made is a towel service for a high school team. More often than not, schools no longer provide essentials like towels and antibacterial soap to go with the phrase “hit the showers”. 

With these budget cuts many kids have decided that a shower can wait until they get home. In wrestling, the ultimate contact sport, this bad decision can give a coach nightmares. 

“I shower when I get home”, kids will say but in the meantime that choice leaves the team more susceptible to skin diseases. Once skin infections like ringworm, impetigo, herpes, scabies, and molluscum make their appearance, then the team can suffer all season long. For the coach it means getting kids to doctor’s appointments, juggling lineups, and making sure the skin-check paperwork is current. 

Quite simply, skin infections are easily avoided with the right precautions. So when the coach says, “hit the shower”---do it. Don’t risk the wrestling team’s season. 

Step Four: Leader on the mats---leader moving the mats.

Everyone wants to wrestle at home more often, except some coaches. If a coach is expected to do it all on his own, a home meet can be a ton of work. Those mats aren’t going to move on their own, but many wrestlers approach mat moving like it is a game where they compete against the coach. How long can we make it take? Or, how can I sneak out of here? 

When setting up for a meet or when the competition is finished wrestlers that are truly leaders are the ones that dive into tearing down the mats with the intensity of an Airborne Ranger. If the coach has to stand over the team to get the mats back to the practice room then jobs like media promotion and interaction with alumni suffer. 

Keep a smile on your coaches’ face and take a leadership role in the setting up and tearing down of home meets. 

Step Five: Promote with Don King’s Intensity.

It’s not too exciting to wrestle in an empty high school gym. The coach feels the same way that the wrestlers do. He’d love to see more people in the seats to watch the matches, after working so hard to field a competitive team. Be a wrestler that finds ways that get people to turnout for home matches. 

Be creative and be active in the effort. Make sure that everyone on the team is pulling together to jam the gym for those home duals and tournaments. If wrestlers attend basketball games then basketball players should go to wrestling meets. Always alert classmates to home matches. Type up a flyer for the home meet. Make an announcement in each of your classes and ask the teacher to write it up on the chalkboard. Go out of your way to ask all of your teachers and classmates to be at the upcoming match. Be prepared to give detailed answers on what time it starts. 

Once people attend a wrestling meet they can be hooked. So, push hard to help your coach promote the upcoming events. 

Step Six: On time with no whine. 

As the season gets to rolling at some point the coach has to deliver the bad news. “Everyone needs to be here at 5:10 a.m. so we can make it to the weigh-ins on time.” Of course the coach probably doesn’t enjoy the early start to the day anymore than the wrestlers do. But, whining and complaining about it won’t change it. 

Additionally, wrestlers that decide to go out the night before and have a good time won’t be effective on the mat the next day. Get your rest before the early start to these tournaments. Make sure that you make it to the bus in plenty of time, so the coach has one less person to worry about. 

A little thing like being on time and not whining about it will help the coach enjoy the wrestling season as well.

Step Seven: School is the priority----make sure you study.

With all of the things a wrestling coach has to take care of, probably the most frustrating thing that happens is a wrestler is not eligible to compete. Students who let their grades slip, put the team in jeopardy. 

Then, when the coach calls the kid on the carpet about it the excuses start flying. Excuses like “I didn’t know about the test” or “that teacher hates wrestlers” don’t address the real problem. Dedication to class work is more important than the wrestling season. 

Keep the priorities in line and don’t fall into the trap of acting cool or sleeping through study halls. Most students have at least one study hall a day, that when used effectively can keep grades to acceptable levels. Too often high school wrestlers decide to blow off class work for a mid-day nap in study hall. Don’t go down that path. 

The coach and the team are counting on all athletes to get the work done in the classroom. So, help the coach and follow through from your end. 

Step Eight: Represent yourself and wrestling.

Making it through high school is a minefield full of choices. Of course everyone likes to have a good time. And, a mischievous nature is not confined solely in a wrestler’s spirit. However, more than once a wrestling coach has been confronted by an administrator or fellow teacher with the phrase, “Did you hear what your wrestler did?” 

The pride that a coach feels in his program can be shattered by the poor judgement of one of his athletes. The foolish, prank or disrespectful statement to a teacher, immediately gets attached to the wrestling team.

Be careful, think twice, your actions reflect on the sport that you represent. A coach would much rather hear from another teacher about how well mannered his team is. Save the tough guy image for the time on the mat and spend the rest of the day showing everyone, from the janitor—to the Spanish teacher—to the principal why wrestling makes a difference in people’s lives. 

When a coach makes it through the season he’ll remember it as a successful year that he never wanted to see end, or a season he’s glad is over. Primarily, the coach will judge the year on the ability of his team to represent the sport of wrestling with pride. 

Step Nine: Clean your own room.

Just because wrestling is a war on the mat, doesn’t mean that the practice room has to look like a war-zone. A coach often becomes the team janitor as well. He spends much of his time picking up orange peals or the discarded Gatorade bottle or the abandoned sweat-soaked clothes and wads of athletic tape. It is his responsibility to clean the mats and empty the trash cans, and find whose head-gear is this? 

Coaches want wrestlers to take ownership and pride in their own practice facility. Help him out and pick up your own messes. When people walk by the wrestling room, it shouldn’t look like a mess, and wrestlers on the team can help assure that by taking care of their practice room. 

Step Ten: See the potential in every practice. 

Involve yourself deeply in the wrestling season. And, don’t rely on the coach to jack you up and beg you to practice each day. At the end of each practice ask yourself, “did I get as much out of that practice as I should have?” 

Also, remember to see your commitment to wrestling through the coaches’ eyes. At some point during the season the ho-hum of another practice starts to creep into the team’s mindset. Wrestlers will walk up to the coach and say things like, “I’m not feeling well…..I don’t think I should practice.” 

Of course the coach will tell you if you are sick or injured then you should sit out. But, the real question should be the one from yourself. “Am I really sick or injured or am I cheating myself out of valuable practice time?” 

The wrestling season will challenge you at some point. A long day of school will leave you wanting to head home early. When the season gets tough on you, the coach is counting on you to make the right decision. 

Don’t just wrestle when it’s convenient. Dig deep and challenge yourself daily. The rewards of a champion are earned through the day-to-day struggle to be the victor. 

The coach has many responsibilities and can always use a helping hand. Wrestlers don’t have to work overly hard to help in these ten simple ways. When the season is complete, wrestlers should want to know that the coach didn’t want the journey to end. Each and every day wrestlers will be presented with the opportunity to help the coach in the simplest of ways. He’s counting on you to make the right decisions. 

Article courtesy of Ted Witulski, USA Wrestling and The Mat

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