3 Tips for New Youth Wrestling Coaches
Wrestling is more than just a sport. It’s a time-honored tradition and one of the oldest and purest forms of martial arts. We’ve been grappling with one another for far longer than we’ve been fighting with our fists and feet. Wrestling is an extremely sophisticated sport that helps young people not only to build strength and endurance but discipline, sportsmanship and character development. Yet, it is no surprise to anyone that new coaches begin their careers with some trepidation. They worry that, as with any contact sport there’s the potential for foul play or at the very least horseplay. They may also worry about injuries, altercations, unhealthy competition or a failure to take this time-honored sport seriously; mistaking it for the choreographed dance performed by men in tights that they see on TV.
With this in mind, here are some great tips for new wrestling coaches to help them to calm their anxieties and start their coaching career off in the best possible way…
Leave it at the Door
As with any sport, wrestling requires as much mental and psychological commitment as it does physical commitment. As such, it’s essential that young wrestlers get into the right headspace as soon as practice begins. They may have had a rough day at school, an argument with a friend or an altercation with a parent. Establish from day one that troubles belong at the door and that whether they’re on the mat or not, as long as they’re in your gym they will give the sport their full attention. Some coaches like to play some fun games before they start drills. This is both a good ice breaker and a good way to leave egos at the door and instill a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
Never neglect the warm up
Wrestling is a dynamic and explosive sport and while young bodies may be naturally more limber than our own, they are still prone to sprains, strains and injuries when they take to the mat without properly warming up.
A warmup raises body temperature and makes muscles more pliable, facilitating better performance on the mat and mitigating the risk of injury. Some great ones to start off with include:
- Knee lunges with a twist
- Toe touches
- Russian marching (kicking the legs up over the head)
- Neck and shoulder rolls
- Side squats
Set Goals and Give Your Wrestlers Support
All of your students will have taken up wrestling for different reasons. Some may do it because their parents feel that they need discipline. Some may do it because they want to get in better shape. Some may want to build confidence or because they’re being bullied at school. As their coach, it’s up to you to determine what they want to get out of wrestling and provide them with personal and team goals to help them get it. Competition is a great way to do this, as are annual awards and trophies. Recognizing the different needs of your wrestlers is what will make you a great coach!