Welcome to the business of wrestling. A micro podcast. In this micro podcast, we are going to cover the biggest mistakes you can make in your first two weeks of the season. So we’re going to talk about what you should do and what most coaches are probably doing and why. So there’s a systemic issue we’re going to cover.
I’m also going to talk about what we did our first three weeks of college wrestling and that was recommended CoachingBadminton. com By Ernie Monaco, legendary developmental coach with over 104 New Jersey State champions and 300 kids that have gone on to wrestling college. And so, first thing that you have to understand, systemically, when you’re starting a wrestling program, most people look at the fact that we have six weeks until we have to compete.
Right? Maybe if we’re lucky. Probably four weeks. So, kids come in, and I’ve got four years to turn a wrestler into a wrestler. So they come out as a freshman, and I’ve got four years to make you a wrestler. And that really means I have two and a half months, maybe three months, times four. So I have twelve months to make you a wrestler.
So, I’m looking at that timeline like, Okay, we gotta get ready for this first competition in four weeks. That means we gotta be in shape. You’re not a wrestler yet, we gotta get in shape. So, mistake number one is that their first two weeks of practice are just a ton of cardio. You know, I wanna compare this to like my son getting into gymnastics.
Peter’s getting into gymnastics and if he went in and all gymnastics practice was was running people telling him how hard he needs to work and he needs to do push ups and it’s two hours of conditioning and it’s grueling and it’s brutal and Peter would never want to go back so we do that over and over and over in wrestling where we bring kids in and our first two weeks are conditioning push it push it when you could be focused on Team building, community, getting each other, these kids to care about each other, getting them to know each other at a deeper level, so that they are eventually willing to work hard.
Because, to work hard, and to work really hard, you gotta have a purpose bigger than yourself. The second thing you could be doing is just setting team culture, right? Doing team building activities where the kids are defining the culture. You’re giving them a framework, but you’re creating core values together.
You’re figuring out what your team’s purpose is, what your individual’s purpose is, what my role on this team is, what I’m telling the coaches and my other athletes, Hey, this, this is what a good season for me will be this year. Instead of the coaches defining that, let’s let the kids define it. Alright, you’re going to really set a great culture this way.
And kids are going to keep each other accountable. And the second thing is, or the third thing is, we’ve got a lot of new kids coming in at this time, maybe 50 percent of your roster is new, whether that’s 10 kids or 50 kids. A lot of times, because it’s easy, we choose to have those kids do conditioning, right?
Hey, you guys are going to run, these guys wrestle, it’s just kind of easy. But the reality is it’s the opposite of what those kids need. These kids need to start learning to love the game. They need to learn to have a passion for play. They need to learn what wrestling is. And they don’t need to learn what wrestling is in a really boring, let’s watch a match where you have no idea what’s going on.
No, just get them into games, right? Number one game, sumo. Try to push them out of the circle. Oh, you want to be better? Stagger your feet, right? Oh, you want to be better at this? Lower your level. Now all of a sudden they’ve got a stance. Oh, you want to be really good? Put your hands out front. Okay, fight for head position, right?
Control their joints, elbows, wrists, shoulders, right? And teach them the skills from that, okay? Oh, you don’t want to get pushed out? Circle, right? So you’re building these skills, you’re building this athlete’s confidence, and they’re wrestling, and they’re getting better at wrestling, and guess what? They’re gonna be working hard because they don’t want to lose at these games, so it’s gonna be tiring, and they’re gonna be working their conditioning, right?
You’re getting better at wrestling, you’re learning skills, you’re building passion for it, and you’re getting in shape. What else do you need? Okay, second thing is, yeah, I mean, that’s really it. There is no second thing after the third thing. But let’s understand what you really are trying to do. You want to get these 50 percent of new kids so that in four years they are the team, right?
Because now if you can help them fall in love with it, they’re going to be willing to work hard. They’ll be willing to work at a new level. And you’re going to see Your program is going to flourish because by the time that kid’s a senior, they’re going to be, a captain. The other thing that we have to consider when we’re running a youth program is you don’t only have four years to get this kid better.
You have seven to ten years to help this athlete develop. And so let’s understand that timeline for what it is. So if I was running, say, a junior high team or maybe a junior varsity team in high school, I wouldn’t have those athletes compete if we started December 1st. I would, I would not have those athletes compete until probably January 20th, at the earliest.
If I’m running a rec program, I’m not going to have my first year wrestlers compete at all the first year outside of our rec program. We can do scrimmages, we can do match nights, but it’s probably going to be find the lock, sumo match nights, maybe a takedown tournament, maybe an escape tournament.
But I’m not going to throw them into the wrestling all around. So again, just understand what your athletes need, right? Your high performance guys. We’ve got that figured out, right? You know what to do. You’ve been coaching a long time. Your developmental level one wrestlers, they need to be games, sparring, playing, learning the skills, the technique to love it, how to move.
Okay. Let’s stay away from the traditional conditioning. If I have a 60 minute practice and I’m doing a level one or a newer wrestler program I’m probably gonna spend 50 minutes of that practice in some type of game Skill building educational environment. I’m probably gonna only spend 10 minutes of it doing strength and conditioning classically Maybe and that’s probably really just gonna be body control and athleticism.
So Anyway, understand the mistakes that most coaches make, come in, first two weeks, really really hard, runs a lot of kids out, they’re like, that kid wasn’t tough enough to be a wrestler. Actually no, you just brought him into the wrong environment. That kid could have became tough enough, because toughness and grit, as defined by developmental psychologists, starts with passion.
Passion for play, and passion for something bigger than themselves. So let’s help our kids find that first, then they’ll be willing to work hard for you.