Coaches: 3 Steps to Guarantee a Successful Wrestling Team this Season
Pop quiz. Which of these answers do you think is most common?
The most critical factor in a successful season for your wrestling team is....
A supportive team
The right training
If you picked answers A or B, then you're coming from the mindset that willpower is what wins matches.
Choosing C or D means you attribute success to the right environment.
I'm going to be candid right now:
Willpower is a load of crap.
I hear from so many wrestlers that if they just had more willpower, then...
They wouldn't fail!
They wouldn't struggle to maintain weight.
Instead... if they had enough willpower..
They would win state championships.
They would be the most aggressive guy or girl on the mat.
The would dominate Fargo.
Sorry, but I'm calling BS here.
And I know what you’re thinking: Willpower is important! How can you say that? Wrestlers need willpower.
Sure, to a certain degree.
No one is going to argue that willpower and mental toughness aren't important.
But you know what's way more important for success (and sticking to your goals?)
Being in the right environment to support them.
It's like saying you're going to eat more fruit instead of candy because it gives you a stomach ache...
...And then passing Linda the receptionist's giant bowl of candy 27 times a day at work...
Yeah, you might avoid it for a while...
But I'd bet my money that at some point you're going to find yourself unwrapping a Reese’s.
You know what would be way better though?
If Linda's bowl of candy was a basket of apples.
No candy? Check.
Fruit, right in front of my face? Heck yeah, don't mind if I do.
If you can set up your environment for success...
It's much, much more powerful than willpower will ever be.
The same thing goes with your wrestlers...
If we can set them up for success every step of the way...
We can shift our wrestler's environment and mindset into one of a champion.
Sounds kind of cool, right?
So... how do we do that?
You can create success with your team by incorporating 3 simple strategies.
Change their environment (and mindset) around wrestling and improving performance.
1. Promote an authentic and informed discussion about weight classes with your wrestling team in the preseason
..or risk your wrestlers hitting the self-destruct button on their season..
Most wrestlers believe that the smaller they get, the more competitive they're going to be..
...and this is far from the truth.
And guess what? Most coaches I talk with tell me something along the lines of...
"I don't encourage my kids to cut large amounts of weight by starving or sweating for days on end.... So I hope they're not doing that."
Leading me to ask: "Great. How do they stay on target for matches?"
And.. it's usually met with an astounding "I don't know."
(or something about doing running drills)
At some point, we get far enough into the conversation where I learn that the coach doesn't talk to his team about making weight...
Or what to do (and not to do).. and hopes that their kids are getting the right advice from somewhere.
90% of the time it's because the coaches were wrestlers 15-20 years ago. Where cutting stupid amounts of weight was encouraged.
By the way, there is zero blame on any of these coaches.
They don't know what to discuss, or how to discuss it...
Because they know the old school cutting methods they used are seriously not healthy...
They aren't sure what else works.
If you're a coach, does this sound like you?
If it does, here's a surefire way to make your wrestler's season more successful (and more fun).
Make the wrestling team environment include candid discussions about weight classes
Have the talk with them about the pros and cons of moving down (or up) a class for the season.
If your wrestler weighs 170 and they decide they're going to compete at 138 for that 'competitive edge'..
They're in for a rude awakening.
And a hungry one.
And a tired one.
(An irritable one too, most likely.)
Here's a summary of what happens when picking a weight class way below their 'natural' weight:
Getting down to your goal for certs is going to be extremely stressful
Your strength is going to take a long, permanent vacation. You're going to be eating so little that your body is using your muscle tissue for energy instead.
It's going to feel like a constant struggle because you're trying to keep yourself at a weight that is far from natural... and don't even get me started if you have a growth spurt during the season.
You're probably going to be restricting food, feeling deprived, stressed and a lot less confident... it'll eventually be so nerve wracking that you'll 'binge' on food between match weeks... and then starting the entire cycle all over again
If that's not enough, most athletes on a wrestling team who are trying to pursue a weight class 15-20 pounds below their natural weight...
..Spend an average of 15 hours per week during the season thinking about their weight..
...and weighing themselves 3-5 times per day...
Time that could be spent focusing on practice, enjoying the sport, paying attention in class...
...Or having some fun.
And there's a pretty good chance that they're going to get burnt out by the end of the season.. and decide that this great sport just isn't for them.
Any wonder why the number of athletes participating in wrestling has been going down each year?
Statistics retrieved from Statista.com
And.. I get it...
Sometimes, kids get stuck in weight classes that are a bit below what their natural weight is...
Another wrestler is in their 'ideal' spot for the season...
So, they need to be a little flexible.
How do you know if a kid is going to be successful, assuming they must move up or down?
There isn't a one-size-fits-all method to figure out the right weight-class.
..Which leads to some confusion and stress
You might feel like the process is the same as closing your eyes and throwing a dart at the wall...
..And hoping you hit the right number on the board
(or.. any number.. because you may very well miss the board .)
But if we can take some of the guesswork out of figuring the right class out...
Then our wrestlers will be ready for success.
2. Four factors that impact picking the right weight class:
Age of your wrestlers
A 17-year-old senior going into his last high school season and needs to go down 6 pounds for a weight class? That might be realistic. A 12-year-old that's growing, whose body requires more nutrients.. and time to physically mature..? Yeah, heck no.
Anyone who’s not at least in high school shouldn't even be contemplating cutting weight.
2. Maturity level of your wrestling team
There's a big difference between a 17-year-old who is mature and one who isn't... and it's easy to gauge by having a conversation with them or watching them in action for a few minutes.
3. Stature & body composition
Losing 5 or 10 pounds looks very different for different people. For someone who competes at 106, 10 pounds is 9% of their total body weight. Which is a very significant amount of weight to try to be cutting for the season.
For someone whose 190 pounds, losing that much weight is a little more realistic.
The same issue need to be considered with body fat percentages. You don't want to have a wrestler who’s at 7% body fat to be dropping weight.. because there's very little body fat to lose.
Which means.. they're going to be losing their muscle mass instead. Seriously uncool.
But, if you're 15% body fat-- then yeah, there could be a little room to work with to improve performance.
4. Personal preference
None of these other factors matter in the slightest if your wrestler isn't on board. It doesn't matter if they're a senior, very mature, or sit at 20% body fat.
Your wrestler may feel more comfortable competing at their natural weight. They may not want to move up or down... And they also might not tell you that's how they feel. Which is why an open, candid discussion is so important.
If your wrestler does need to lose weight before certifications... use the 1.5% rule:
Make sure it's done in a healthy way that's not undermining all the hard work they did over the summer putting on muscle mass...
The max amount of weight a wrestler should be losing is 1.5% of their total body weight in any given week.
More than that and they're losing significant amounts of muscle mass. While holding onto their body fat.
In other words,... they're going to be a weaker wrestler and have a hard time keeping up with opponents who are operating at 100%
Read more here about the 1.5% rule and how it can help your wrestler go from starving and panicking for certs to having an easy-to-follow plan.
So how can we make this discussion easy, fluid and positive?
Go grab your calendar. Sit down and pick a date/time where you can have a team meeting.. and include the parents in on this too. Make it a team wide initiative.
Discuss the pros & cons of picking a weight class with your wrestler
Promote healthy, balanced nutrition throughout the off-season and preseason