Thoughts on Wrestling, Business, and Life

Category: The Parent’s Guide To Wrestling

How can I help my child stay confident and motivated when they are losing?

Winning and losing are a part of any sport. While I was wrestling, I was fortunate to have a lot of wins both big and small. However, in order to get to that point, I also had my fair share of losing with losses both big and small as well. Losing isn’t any fun, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it sucks. The key to being a champion is to not let your losses get you down to much to take you off track of what your ultimate goals and dreams are whether that is to be a varsity wrestler or a state champion. Your goals as a parent will probably vary from your wrestler’s goals are. I am sure that you would love to see your child succeed, but you also want them to learn from the experiences that they are going through as an athlete and find a way for them to use those lessons to become a better human being and contributing member of society. Here are some ideas on how you can help your wrestler when things get tough.

1. Help your child focus on the process more than the outcome. I had a coach who told me that if I focused on the process and constantly improving, that winning and losing would take care of itself. You know what? He was right. Some of the most successful times that I had in my wrestling career was when I was focused on the process of improving. It didn’t make losing any easier, but when I felt like I was constantly improving, I really enjoyed the sport. During times of my career when I didn’t feel like I was improving, I would feel discouraged. If you can help your child to see the ways that they are improving, more than likely they will still enjoy what they are doing.

2. Find examples of others who failed but ultimately succeeded. Everyone loves a winner, and sometimes we forget that we too can be winners. By reading biographies or learning about other people’s stories who have struggled but then succeeded, it becomes more evident that the people who succeed are just regular people who committed to their goals and worked like crazy to accomplish them. If your child can understand that every success has to overcome defeat, it can help them to keep pushing forward even when times get tough.

3. Discover the power of affirmations and positive thinking. Affirmations and positive thinking are a great way to stay confident even when faced with defeat. Your attitude will definitely determine your altitude in life. If your child can get into the habit of repeating their affirmations to themselves on a regular basis, they will be able to gain the confidence and belief that they need to succeed. I can’t expound on the science behind it, but I can tell you that it works. Try to find the positives from difficult situations. By asking better questions, we will find better answers. A great question to ask from a loss is “What can I learn from this, and how can I use this experience to get better?” Your life will go where you focus it. Do your best to focus on the positive, and your child will see that and follow suit. It is amazing what good observers they are.

To summarize here is what you can do to help your child stay motivated and confident even when they are losing: focus on the process, find successful examples, and keep a positive mental attitude. If you are able to help your child implement these action steps, they may still find disappointment in losses and temporary setbacks, but they will learn to develop the skill of overcoming hardship and succeeding in the long run. That lesson is one that is much needed in life, and life is much more important to win at than a wrestling match.

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How can you teach your kids the importance of the decisions they make off the mat?

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.

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Why Does My Kid Think He Needs To Cut Weight?

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.

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Question: How or where did your kid learn how to wrestle that well and how can my kid get that good?

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.

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Question: How much should I push my young athlete to succeed without burning him out on the sport?

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!”

Son: “Aaargh!”

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.


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The Book

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:

  1. Questions about parents pushing their kids in the sport.
  2. Questions about coaching.
  3. Questions about weight cutting.
  4. Questions about why their kids should wrestle.
  5. Questions about mental toughness.
  6. Questions about training.
  7. Questions about building a foundation for their child’s wrestling.
  8. Questions about how to keep wrestling fun.
  9. Questions about injuries.
  10. 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.


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