May 28, 2015
Obsession can be a good thing if channeled correctly. I don’t think that I ever met someone who was the best at what they did without being a little obsessive about accomplishing their goals. It’s the same in wrestling. A lot of the best wrestlers in the world are obsessive. They love what they do, and they are constantly looking for ways to improve their craft. However, just because you love something and want to do well at it shouldn’t be an excuse to give lack luster performances in other areas of life.
Our culture loves winners. When you’re a winner, you pretty much get a pass to be a failure in other areas of life. Who doesn’t know a high school teacher who gives A’s to star athletes even though they are terrible students? There have been various college scandals involving high profile athletes where they were given a free pass because they were good at putting a ball in a hole or carrying a ball from one end of the field to the other. I think this is even more apparent in professional sports. You have a few super elite athletes who do some pretty terrible things off the field. I love sports, and I respect all of the hard work that goes into developing into a world class athlete. However, anyone who has been involved in athletics knows that eventually the days of glory out on the field or the court or the mat will come to an end. Hopefully you’ve prepared your child for that day because it can be a rude awakening for some.
My high school coach is an amazing man. Of course he wanted his athletes to win. He wanted them to be tough on the mat and dominate their opponents. However, I still remember how often he would emphasize that it was important to be a good person off of the mat. I’m sure that he well understood that not all of his wrestlers would go on to wrestle past high school or even onto the next season for that matter. He understood that he wasn’t just building a championship wrestling team, he knew that he was building young men and preparing them to face the challenges of life that they would surely face in the future. He repeated this over and over again. I have no doubt that he was a positive influence for the hundreds of athletes that went through his programs. He was not shy about communicating how important it was to make good decisions off the mat.
I feel like a lot of parents don’t give themselves enough credit. I feel that sometimes they get used to repeating themselves so often, that they start to think that their kids aren’t listening, but they are. Sometimes parents want a celebrity or a coach or a teacher or someone else to teach their kids the important lessons of life, but the truth is that parents have a huge influence over how their kids think, talk, and act. Parents discount their importance. They don’t realize that they are often times their kids heroes. It’s too easy as a parent to think “I’m not educated enough. I don’t make enough money. I work too much. My kids don’t listen. I don’t know anything about xyz, etc…” Some of those statements may be true, but that doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t listening. More importantly your kids are watching. They are experts at testing the limits, and they can see what is important to you. If you give your a kids a free pass because they can win wrestling matches, they will take advantage of that. On the other hand, if you let them know that they won’t be competing if they don’t put in their study time, you can bet that your child will make studying a priority.
As the parent, you set the tone. When you think about it, parents are the head coaches of the family. They have the power to build the team that they want. Just like any other team or competitive season, there will be ups as well as downs. The best way to teach your kids that the decisions they make off of the mat are important is to communicate with them. Be creative and find examples of what to do and what not to do. You don’t have to be the star athlete. You just need to get good at helping your kids see different scenarios and how different behaviors can have different outcomes. If you can get good at that, not only will you pleased with your children’s athletic performances, you will be pleased with their life choices, and that will make every parent smile.
May 20, 2015
In the United States it is most likely that your child’s coach cut weight, his coach cut weight, and his coach cut weight. With that long history of weight cutting, it is almost guaranteed that your child’s coach is going to encourage them to cut weight. They will look at a wrestler who has probably never wrestled before, never done any strength training, knows absolutely nothing about nutrition, and tell them that they need to lose 10 or 20 pounds. It is a classic case of monkey see, monkey do, and it’s hard to blame coaches that do this. They are just doing what they’ve learned. Also when a new wrestler looks around and sees his teammates starving themselves, running around in plastics all the time, practicing with multiple layers of clothes on, and spitting in cups, it’s not hard to imagine that he will follow suit and do those same things.
As I traveled the world as an athlete, I noticed something that was very different about how other countries approached weight cutting. Sure at the senior level there were still athletes who cut significant amounts of weight, but they were significantly fewer in number who were trying to lose as much weight as some of the US athletes. Instead, I noticed more athletes that would wrestle up a weight class for most of the year, and then they would drop for the world championships or a continental championship. They just wrestled what they weighed for most of the year. I also remember seeing athletes who would decide to permanently move up weight classes. Instead of trying to kill themselves and stay down in a weight class that wasn’t realistic for them, they would just do more strength training in an attempt to get stronger for their new weight class. I imagine that rarely do youth, and high school coaches consider having their athletes just move up weight classes. You’ve got to be brave to wrestle up. At first, it is a challenge to wrestle bigger and stronger opponents, however, you will make the adjustments. Also if your’e being diligent in your strength training, you will get stronger. The body will respond.
There is definitely something to be said about proper nutrition. The American diet can be extremely unhealthy. Packaged and processed food is easy to consume on a regular basis. It is good for athletes to understand that what they put in their bodies will affect their performance not only in competition but in their daily training activities as well. There is also something to be said about having the discipline to lose weight. If you can discipline yourself to be in control of your diet, you can pretty much be disciplined about anything. If kids do want to drop a weight class, it should be a gradual cut. They should start dieting well before the wrestling season even starts. If they make gradual changes far enough out from the wrestling season even starting, they will feel much better and perform much better than if they were to follow the common crash dieting that takes place in various wrestling programs. If kids are very young and still growing, they should be getting what their bodies need to grow and develop. Making little kids cut weight is a terrible idea. If you have your little kid cutting a lot of weight while they are young, chances are they won’t be wrestling much when they are older.
The most helpful thing that a parent can do to help change the paradigm of needing to cut weight is to educate their child about proper nutrition. The parent can also help their child by working with their child. If you want your child to do things a certain way, show them how. Your example will be the greatest teacher that they will ever have. You can help them lose weight the right way by doing it yourself. You can help them with getting stronger by doing it yourself. You will feel better and your kids will respect you more for it. There are too many kids that quit wrestling too early because of bad weight cuts. The sport is hard enough without trying to do it while starving.
May 12, 2015
As a parent, it is easy to watch the kids who are winning and ask “How did that kid get so good?” The answer is simple: “He put the time in and did the work.” In this day and age, there are more and more kids who specialize in sports. I don’t believe that kids necessarily have to specialize at such a young age. They’re still young and growing, and there are many things that they could love to do or be really good at. If they don’t try, they will never know. However, with that being said, for every reward, there was a price paid at some point along the way.
I feel that it is easy for people to watch athletic performance and just assume that the athlete is naturally gifted. Even if they are gifted, there is still a lot of work that goes into retrieving and polishing that gift. Let’s compare wrestling to something else just to get a bearing on the type of effort that it takes to get really good at something. Let’s say that you put your kid in violin lessons. Playing the violin is challenging. If you don’t have your fingers in just the right spot, whatever you play is going to sound terrible. You can’t fake being a good violinist. Even untrained ears will pick up on sour notes rather quickly. Now if you wanted your child to play the violin well enough to play in front of a large audience on a regular basis, how much preparation do you think that they would need in order to play well? Would you sign them up for lessons a couple of times a week, and then expect them to perform at a high level? Let’s even say that you signed them up for lessons twice a week for three months, how do you think they would sound during their performance? Let’s also imagine that your child doesn’t do anything on their own at home. They don’t pick up a violin at all during the week other than the two times that they go in for lessons. Would you have very high expectations? If you would, you may need to re-evaluate those expectations, because they will only be met with disappointment.
Using this example, it is clear to see how ridiculous that it would be to expect your child to play the violin well with only a couple hours of practice a week. Well the scenario that I described isn’t too far off from the way that some kids approach the sport of wrestling, and let me be clear in saying that there is nothing wrong with that. It is perfectly fine for kids to practice a couple of times a week for a few months out of the year. They will still get something out of the training. However, you have to realize that the kids that are performing at a very high level, have put the work in. They train more than twice a week, and they are probably doing their training under the guide and direction of proficient and knowledgeable coaches. To think otherwise would be incorrect. Those kids who are the best are the ones who worked the hardest and the smartest.
Being good or great at anything comes down to this: consistently work hard over an extended period of time. There are no quick fixes, there are no shortcuts, there are no secrets. If you want to help your child be one of the best, then it would be wise to get them in an environment where they can grow and improve their skills. This gets a little tricky though. Your child has to be the one that wants to be good. If they don’t want to put in the effort, then it doesn’t matter if you put them in the toughest wrestling room with the best coaches and training partners in the world. The desire has to come from them. If it doesn’t, they may try to please you for a time, but they will eventually realize that it isn’t worth it and quit. Or worse yet, they suffer to make you happy. How terrible is that? If my child was making themselves miserable in an attempt to make me happy, I would be devastated. No parent wants that.
Do your homework. Find a good environment where your child can thrive, and then do what you can to make sure that your kid is having fun. If you can make that happen, you will be well on your way to seeing your child develop and enjoy the success that they have worked diligently to achieve.
May 7, 2015
Today I address the first question in a series of questions that were posted to me from various wrestling parents across the country. While conducting my research, I discovered that parents’ questions could be categorized into 10 different categories, the largest being that of a category that I like to call Parents’ Push. This first question deals with this topic.
The parent’s question was “How much should I push my young athlete to succeed without burning him out on the sport?” This is a great question, and it is very common among parents, especially those who have previous experience with wrestling. In a situation such as this one, perhaps a better question that the parent can ask themselves is “Why do I feel that I need to push my child to succeed in this sport?” By evaluating your own motives, you may come to the conclusion that your child doesn’t necessarily need to be pushed in the way that you were originally thinking.
There is a great deal of difference between leadership and dictatorship. Sometimes as a parent, it is easier to be the dictator. We are constantly reminding our kids to be nice and get along with their siblings, clean up after themselves, brush their teeth, and the list goes on. We are constantly telling them what to do, and sometimes they listen, other times they don’t. It’s more the nature of kids being kids than anything else. However, when it comes to wrestling, there is generally more effort that goes into a wrestling practice than goes into cleaning a room. Albeit, I have had to clean up after my children and it was very tiring. The point is that wrestling practice and competition can be much more painful than picking up a handful of toys. Not only kids, but adults as well are more apt to endure painful things if they have someone to do it with them. There is something to be said about having a partner to go through everything that you are. So instead of trying to push your child, perhaps, you could try leading them instead.
Leading your child is an effective way of using your influence to get them to do something that they may not otherwise do on their own. Let’s take for example a scenario that could play during a random evening at home.
Dad: “Hey son, why don’t you go to the garage and do some pushups and pull ups to get stronger. There are only a few more weeks before the big meet.”
Son: “I don’t want to dad. I’m tired. I want to watch the rest of my show.”
Dad: “You really should go workout. Don’t you want to win?”
Son: “Yeah I want to win, but I want to watch my show too.”
Dad: “Well, if you want to watch the rest of your show, then you need to go workout. You can’t watch your show until you do your pushups and pull ups!”
Put yourself in this situation. If you’re watching a show, and all of a sudden someone wants you to go do pushups and pull ups in the garage, how excited are you going to be about that? I know that even when I was training for the Olympics I didn’t want to drop everything at a random moment to go do pushups and pull ups in the garage. Not many people do. So forcing your child to go workout for the sake of working out doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, if you lead an activity and participate with your child in it, they will respect you much more, and they will put more effort into the activity.
Here’s the example switched around a little bit.
Dad: “Hey son, let’s go out to the garage and do some pushups and pull ups together. I am feeling pretty strong today. I bet I will beat you at pushups.”
Son: “I don’t think you can beat me. I’ve been working really hard this season.”
Dad: “Well I’m feeling pretty good. I think I have your number today.”
Son: “Ok! You’re on!”
After a few sets of pushups and pull ups…
Dad: “Good job champ! I can’t believe you beat me today! You will do great at the meet coming up in a few weeks.”
Son: ” Thanks dad. That was a lot of fun. Next time I’m going to do 100!”
Now this scenario may be a little too nice and neat, but I think that you can at least see the difference between a parent who is pushing their child, and a parent who is leading their child. Being a leader and setting the example is much more effective than sitting at the throne and demanding that your subjects comply. Even if it does require a little more effort and patience, it is worth it.
In terms of pushing your child too much, try to reframe how you’re looking at it. Don’t push them. Work with them, and see how far you can help them go. If your child gets to the point of burnout, they may be feeling bored with the training so change it up. Or maybe they don’t like the stress and anxiety of competition every weekend. The best way to try to get to the root of the problem is to ask good questions. If your child seems like they are burned out, ask them what is it specifically that they don’t like about wrestling right now. They may not even know, but by going through a series of questions, they may actually be able to discover what it is that is bothering them. At that point, you can try to help them find a solution to their problem. If you run out ideas, ask the coach or other parents. They may have had a similar experience previously that they can share with you to help you work through the burnout with your child.
Wrestling is a tough sport. By being a leader to your child, you can help them progress beyond where they are now, and hopefully help them to avoid any burnout as they continue to advance to higher levels of wrestling. By working with your child in these areas, you can both find a way to enjoy the sport and strengthen your relationship with one another.
May 5, 2015
Over a year ago, I got excited about writing a book. I had it all planned out. I did an ask campaign to find out what some of the deepest questions were that parents had in regards to how they could help their kids in the sport of wrestling. I organized all of the questions, and surprisingly, I was able to categorize the questions into 10 basic categories:
- Questions about parents pushing their kids in the sport.
- Questions about coaching.
- Questions about weight cutting.
- Questions about why their kids should wrestle.
- Questions about mental toughness.
- Questions about training.
- Questions about building a foundation for their child’s wrestling.
- Questions about how to keep wrestling fun.
- Questions about injuries.
- Questions about college.
A lot of parents tended to have the same questions worded in a different way, and I was so excited to get down to answering all of these great questions that many parents had been kind enough to share with me. As I set out to write the book, I came to the stark realization that there was a lot of material to cover, and I was extremely busy between work, club, and my family. My plan to write the book fell apart, and all of those questions just sat there on a spreadsheet gathering cyber dust. I told myself that I would get to answering all of those questions after my life got a little less crazy. However, as anyone with kids can attest to, life doesn’t get any less crazy. So I’ve decided to take a different approach.
My new approach to answering all of these questions is to just answer them one at a time in the form of blog posts. It won’t be as cool or flashy as a book would be, but at least I will get the content out there for parents and wrestlers to consume. I know that it would have been very helpful for my parents as well as me to have a little more information out there regarding what to expect as a wrestler. My dad never wrestled so he didn’t have any idea of what was going on, and my mom didn’t have a dad or brother who wrestled either. They had no idea what they were getting into. I didn’t either.
I find it interesting and slightly entertaining that there are so many sports that you can play, and for the most part, you have a pretty good idea of what you are going to have to do within that sport. I played soccer as a kid. No surprises there. I knew that I would chase around a ball and try to kick it in the goal. I played volleyball in junior high. No surprises there either, other than the fact that I was terrible at bumping and setting, which really wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I am sure that it frustrated the coach. I even played basketball, and who doesn’t know what to expect in basketball? You dribble, you shoot, you score. How much more explanation do you need for basketball? But wrestling, wrestling is crazy, weird, intense, fun, heart wrenching, exhilarating, and the list goes on. Wrestling is something that just sort of smacks you in the face, and for the crazy ones, it’s a sport they fall in love with. I will help parents and wrestlers alike to be guided through the craziness, and by the end, I hope that you have some useful information that you can implement. No other sport will prepare you for what it feels like to get caught in a headlock and stuck on your back without any chance of escape.
I have time scheduled to write on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but that is subject to change. I have made it a goal to write at least twice a week on my blog, and for the last couple of weeks, that has worked pretty well for me. I am excited to get working on this project, and will be even more excited after I have the finished collection of blog posts. Perhaps then, I will be able to compile all of those blog posts into a book, and parents will at least have a better understanding of what to expect as their little warriors go out to battle on the mat.
April 30, 2015
We live in a busy world, and it isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, life and society will continue to get faster and faster. It is easy to get sucked into everything that is going on around us and forget about doing those things that we really want to be doing with our lives. What are the things that you love to do, but you haven’t because you haven’t had the time? Here are some suggestions that may help you to find the time.
1. Realize your time is a valuable finite resource. There is a saying that goes, “If you want something to get done, give it to a busy person.” There are some people that seem to be able to find more hours in the day and get huge amounts of tasks accomplished. No matter what gets put on their plate, they seem to find a way to manage it all. I am confident that you may know somebody like this. When people are loaded up with tasks, they realize that there is no time to waste. They understand the value of their time and they also realize that if they spend time doing or working on one thing, that they can’t do or spend time on another. Because they see the value of their time, they are able to focus and get those things done that are urgent and important as opposed to spending time on things that are not urgent and unimportant.
2. Wake up early. There is a certain time of the day that I can pretty much do whatever I want. My kids don’t need my attention, my wife doesn’t need me to do anything, my coworkers aren’t depending on me, there are no phone calls or email notifications at this time. This time is 5 am. At 5 am, I can set my own agenda, and I can do whatever I want to do without interruptions. This is usually the time that I take to go over my goals, make plans, write posts for this blog, etc… Until everybody starts waking up at 5am, I am pretty much free to do what I want to do.
3. Stay up late. This is similar to number 2, and I am not very good at this one. It may have something to do with me waking up early. I have a friend that thrives on staying up late. After his kids go to bed, he stays up to the very early hours of the morning working on things. His creative mind is most active at this time. It works for him. I don’t like how I feel when I try to stay up too late to work on things so this strategy doesn’t work well for me. I get too crabby. My friend, on the other hand, is a millionaire so obviously the stay up late strategy is working well for him.
4. Schedule your time. I have noticed that time is similar to money for most people. If it isn’t budgeted, it is going to disappear very quickly. By having specific definite plans for when things will be accomplished, it is much more likely that those things will get done. For example, if I hadn’t scheduled time for myself to wake up and write this blog post, it would never have been written. If I don’t set time aside to exercise, it doesn’t get done. By being deliberate with your plans, you can greatly increase your productivity. Find the most productive person you know, and ask them how much time they spend planning their days. I am sure that you would be surprised to see how well they plan out how they will spend their time.
5. Make a list of what’s eating up your time. If you don’t know your enemy, how are you supposed to fight them? Many times we don’t even realize where all of our time goes. With all of the cool smart phones and the internet, it is so easy to get caught in a time trap. You start scrolling through your feeds, and before you know it, you have just spent a half an hour looking at all of the cool and exciting things that your friends are doing or maybe just looking at everything they’ve eaten in the last 24 hours. Either way, it is easy to get sucked into. By making a definite list of seeing where you don’t spend your time as effectively as you would like to, you are one step closer to avoiding those time wasting behaviors.
By being mindful of the time that you have, and making a focused effort on spending your time the way that you would like to, you can avoid wasting time doing the things that you don’t particularly enjoy doing and spend more time doing the things that you love. I have never talked to anybody that has said “I wish I had spent less time playing with my kids as they were growing up.” or “I wish I would have spent more time watching TV.” You only have today. It is the most precious gift that you have. Make sure to take full advantage of it.
April 28, 2015
Life is about relationships, and the quality of your life is basically the quality of your relationships with others as well as your relationship with yourself. Think about it, you’ve probably been with someone who you love to be with, and the time that you spend with them seems to pass so quickly. While on the other hand, you’ve also probably spent some time with some real jerks who you can’t wait to never see again for as long as you live! Obviously all of our personalities and personal likes and dislikes affect the types of people that we like to spend our time with, but from my observation, there are at least things that you can do to improve your relationships with others.
1. Play together. There is something about engaging in play activities with others that helps to form a special bond between the people that are playing together. Think back to your childhood and some of the fond memories that you have of playing with your best friends growing up. It was easy to lose track of time playing with my friends until my mom called and told me it was time to come home. Those were some good fun times.
If you’ve participated in any type of sport, think about the joy that you experienced and the close bonds of friendship that you developed while you were working together to master the individual skills and techniques that you needed to perform at your best. Now think of the times when you played games for fun to add variety to your training. How great was that? I still remember some of the games of frisbee and soccer that I played with teammates. They were legendary.
2. Laugh together. Laughter is the best medicine. We all know somebody who can make us laugh and we love them for it. Laughter helps us to not take ourselves too seriously and lets us feel full of life and joy. One of the easiest ways to destress is to listen to or watch something that makes you laugh. It’s no mistake that if I know that my wife or daughters are mad at me that I try to make them laugh. I know that it’s hard to laugh with someone and be mad at them at the same time so I try to use this situation to my advantage.
If people can make you laugh, you will even let them make fun of you and have a good time while they do it. What do you think some comedians do? They make observations about some of the funny things that are a part of all of our lives, and they point out how ridiculous those things are. They are essentially mocking our human behavior, and we love them for it.
3. Hate things together. You may think that I am crazy by putting this on a list, but think about this one for a minute. Love is a very strong emotion. They say that love can move mountains. Well hate is a very strong emotion as well, and hate can boil your soul. The thing is that if you hate things together, you can actually bond over your hatred. Think about the last time that you talked to one of your friends about something that you like and also about something that you hate. I can go to one of my friends and start talking about how I like pizza, and the conversation won’t last long. Of course your friend loves pizza, and? I really love food so I might be able to draw out the conversation a little bit longer by pointing out how the sauce to topping ratio and the crust density can definitely have an effect on your pizza eating experience, but for the most part, that topic will quickly be changed. However, if I hate something equally as much as a friend does, we can spend an hour on the topic and the emotion, and the passion, and the rage will build until it becomes overwhelming. Then you reach a point when you’re drained and you have to change the subject for your own benefit.
This can be seen right now in the world today. Think about the riots that are going on in Baltimore. Do you think people are going crazy because they have a deep love of crocheting afghans? No! They are acting out on their extreme hatred of xyz. There are people who do love crocheting, but it is highly unlikely that those people are going to impulsively band together to make an afghan that encircles the city with love, ponies, and rainbows. However, there are people that get angry and start spontaneously breaking other people’s stuff. Notice that they break other people’s stuff. Rioters don’t break their own windows and throw their TVs out into the street. That would totally break adherence to rioting convention.
Yes hate is a powerful thing, and it can bring you closer together. However, I would highly recommend that you focus on points 1 and 2, as they are much more productive and leave a feeling of peace and love rather than a feeling of a boiled soul.
They are many things that make this crazy, exciting, wonderful experience that we call life significant. However, it is our relationships with others and ourselves that we need to focus on if we are going to find true happiness. No man is an island. We must connect with others to fulfill our deepest needs. In doing this, we not only bring joy to ourselves, but we bring joy to others. Have a wonderful day.
April 24, 2015
During my competitive wrestling career, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a wide variety of coaches including Olympic, World, NCAA, and State Champions. Some coaches were exceptional and some of them weren’t. When I got into coaching, I wanted to be a good coach so I took the time to think about all of my coaches. I then wrote down things that I liked about them as well as the things that I didn’t like about some of them. I came up with a list of the things that my coaches did or things that I wish that they had done that I felt made the biggest difference in me as an athlete and a person, and I put the characteristics or traits that I felt were most important onto my list. I tried to implement these qualities into my own coaching, however, I will be honest in that I didn’t always live up to the list. I feel like if I can live up to these qualities as a coach, or as an employee, or as a business owner, or as a friend, or as fill-in-the-blank, then I will be successful in whatever I do in life. Here is the list:
1. Be positive – You will always catch more bees with honey.
2. Be honest – Always tell your athletes the truth or follow through on your word.
3. Seek to understand – Spend time trying to understand your athlete.
4. Really care – Wrestling, school, personal, etc… they’re all related.
5. Insist on goals and a game plan – A well prepared athlete is a confident one.
6. One on one – Take time to work specifics with the athlete. Build the relationship.
7. Be excited in the wrestling room – The energy is contagious.
8. Get in your workout – Athletes respect a well conditioned coach.
9. Wrestle with the athlete – Give them the feel of what it should be like.
10. Be positive in the corner – When David fights Goliath he can use the encouragement.
11. Add variety – Keep the training fresh and they will always be willing.
12. Don’t yell from anger – This doesn’t motivate anyone.
13. Don’t take it personally – Don’t take an athlete’s loss personally.
14. Don’t speak ill of your athlete – They may never forgive you.
15. Stand up for your athlete – If they know you are fighting for them, they will always fight for you.
I am sure that there are other qualities that can go on this list as well. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think that they are.
April 16, 2015
It’s tough being a dad. Nobody gives you a manual on the best way to do it. Most dads aren’t psychologists who specialize in childhood development. Most dads are just trying to do the best that they can with what they know. So I hope that any dads who are reading this don’t take offense to this post. I am not writing to be critical. I am writing to shed light on a situation that I have observed countless times over.
In the sport of wrestling, and I’m sure that it is similar in other sports, dads are crazy. They want their kids to win so badly that they push them. They yell at them. They are harder on their kids than anybody else, and I get it. They want their kids to succeed. They want them to win. They want them to know what it feels like to get the satisfaction of accomplishing something after they have worked very hard to get it. But, sometimes, I look at the way dads coach their kids, and I look at the way dads talk to their kids, and I look at the way dads treat their kids when they don’t feel like their kid is working hard enough or executing technique correctly, and all that I can think is “If I coached these kids like that, or talked to them like that, I would not have any kids to coach.” Let me share a story to illustrate this point.
I was coaching a pair of young kids in an individual workout one day. They are both around 6 years old. I spend a lot of the time just working on body control and athleticism more than delving deep into the finer points of technique. They’re 6 with short attention spans. One of them comes in on a regular basis, and the other does not. The one who does not come in regularly was struggling to master some of the tumbling that we were doing. We were limited in time so we kept advancing fairly quickly through the routines. As this young boy struggled, I saw his father get increasingly agitated that his son was unable to go through the routine as he continued to do things incorrectly. Eventually this concerned parent stepped out on the mat and tried to show his son the finer points of the routine. Pretty soon the dad was trying to do a headstand, but his son couldn’t get it. I didn’t expect him to. He hadn’t been in enough to do it, and that was fine. What was important for him to do was just to make the attempt. I knew that he couldn’t keep up, just like I couldn’t keep up if I decided to run a marathon tomorrow.
I felt like this well meaning dad had started to take his son’s athletic ability as a personal issue. Like as if his son not being able to do a headstand was a poor reflection of his parenting skills or something. I had the feeling that the dad wanted his son to do well to impress me, the coach, and that if his son wasn’t doing as well as the other boy that I was judging him. I sent the boys to grab a drink, and this gave me a minute to chat with this well meaning father. I let him know that he didn’t need to worry that his son wasn’t able to do everything perfectly. I let him know that the most important thing was that his son enjoy the practice, otherwise, he would never stick with it long enough to even get good at it. I told him that if he encouraged his son and let him know that he was happy to be there with him that it would be more beneficial than trying to fix his headstand. I reminded him that he’s six, and that there is a lot that happens between 6 and world class athlete.
After our conversation, he seemed to be content to watch quietly. His son did fine throughout the rest of practice, and he had fun wrestling with his friend. Practice was a success.
So dads, the next time you are trying to coach your kid, think about how you’re doing it. Would you coach all of the other kids in that room similarly to the way that you are coaching your child? If a coach was coaching your child the way that you coach them, would you be happy with that coach, or would you want to ring their neck for being so hard on your kid? Would you enjoy a practice being coached the way that you coach your child? Hopefully by asking yourself these questions, you can coach your child effectively and have an opportunity to grow closer together doing something that you both enjoy. They’re only young once, and it goes by so fast.
February 18, 2015
How do I know if my child is old enough to wrestle?
One thing that I see parents do quite frequently is wonder how soon that they can get their kids signed up to compete in a sport. One of the biggest questions that a parent should ask themselves when they are looking to get their child enrolled in a sport is “Why?”. “Why am I signing up my child in this sport? What is the end result that I want to see from them participating in this sport?” If the answer is “Because I want them to compete and be a champion.”, then you are probably not doing it for the right reason, and you must remember that you don’t have to actually do the work involved with becoming a champion. It is less physically challenging to drive your son 5 miles to practice than it is to actually practice. If your response is more like, “They seemed interested in trying it out.”, or “They have some friends that do it, and they wanted to give it a try.”, or “They asked me what I did as a kid, and they want to try it out too.”, or “There are some good kids in that group, and I would like my kids to be around some positive influences and learn some positive lessons.”, then I think it is a good idea to get your child involved in that sport. So step number 1, remember it’s not about YOU, it’s about THEM!
Now that you have figured out that you want something beneficial for your child, figure out how much they are going to be able to pick up at this age, and then find a good team for them to be a part of. You will want your child to be with kids around their same age and skill level, and there is a good reason for this. If your child is 3 and you throw them in with a bunch of 5 year olds, they will have a tough time. They aren’t as developed as 5 year olds meaning they aren’t as strong, they don’t have the attention span of the older kids, and they will not seem to progress as much as the other kids in the group. Even the public education system has this one figured out, so don’t try to break the mold by throwing your child to the wolves from the get go. As they have a better understanding of the sport and how to train, then it is good for them to start going with kids who are a little older because it will help to speed up their development, but everything in good time.
So you haven’t answered my question. How young is too young?
From my experience, I have worked with kids as young as 3. I will tell you that 3 and 4 year olds attention spans is not something to write home about. You should make sure that the practices are short and fun. 5 and 6 year olds do a much better job of paying attention as long as the group doesn’t get too big. The bigger the group, the harder it is to keep the children focusing on what the coach is covering. By 7 or 8 kids can learn quite a bit of technique. One of the most useful things that you can do for the young kids, or really any age for that matter, is to get them individual coaching. When your child is able to have private lessons, they will get much more attention, and the coach will be better able to assess what your child needs to work on. During a normal practice, it is challenging for a coach to meet every individual’s specific needs. They are trying to do what is best for the group. By investing in private or small group sessions, your child will have more specific things to work on during the group practices that they are involved in.
Children are very resilient, adaptable, and intelligent. The sooner you start teaching a child something, the more time for mastery that they will have as they grow up. Let your child try new things and focus on overall development. Remember it’s not about all the trophies that your child can amass while they are young but more importantly, the skills and attributes that they will develop along the way.