Taking a team from struggling to national champions; Program Building with Mike Powell

On The Business of Wrestling Jeff Marsh explores the exact process that Mike Powell used to transform Oak Park River Forest from a struggling local high school program into a national championship team. He gives insight into how he learned how to run a great room, building a roster of assistant coaches, learning to motivate kids, your practice structure and the relationship you need with your wrestlers to find success and building a team culture of accountability.

Mike discusses leading Beat the Street Chicago from 50 kids to 1,000+, uncovering insights on program building, coaching philosophy, challenges, and strategies that have shaped and elevated wrestling programs across Chicago, impacting the lives of numerous young athletes.


In This Episode We Cover:

  • 0:01 Introduction – Jeff Marsh introduces Mike Powell, discussing his impactful work in building wrestling programs across Chicago.
  •  3:01 Learning and Mentorship – Mike discusses his learning curve as a coach, citing experiences with mentor figures and their influence on his coaching style and early mistakes he made as a high school and youth coach.
  • 7:53 The Philosophy of Coaching – Mike touches on the debate of specialization, emphasizing the impact of a focused approach in youth athletics.
  • 15:17 The Approach to Winning – A discussion on the evolving coaching mindset, moving away from a sole focus on winning and shifting towards holistic growth and development and how Penn State Wrestling does this well.
  • 18:53 Program Building and Infrastructure – Discussing the importance of infrastructure and culture in program building, touching on education resources for coaches.
  • 20:22 Cultural Elements – Creating a room culture that demanded intense focus, continuous learning, and discipline, where coaches and wrestlers were held accountable for their actions.
  • 28:34 Lessons Beyond the Mat – Incorporating life lessons into the wrestling program, discussing grades, respecting women, and instilling the belief that they do things better than others.
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“The key is to be prepared. We won a lot of matches that we weren't supposed to win in the postseason because our kids believed they were walking in better prepared. ”
Mike Powell
BTS Chicago Executive Director, World Class Coach

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