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Clint Gard

Class Wrestling/Team State/Growing Wrestling

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There have been a ton of interesting topics and threads about the subjects listed in my title...every year they come up.  We are a very passionate group and I think we all agree that wrestling needs to grow.  From my little perch in Rochester, Indiana here is my 2 cents...which my step-dad always used to say "Wouldn't buy me a cheap cup of coffee"...so take it as you will.

1. I am a class supporter...both individual and team.  I don't think it will solve every problem but I do believe, in my heart, it will affect the numbers of our sport and more kids will participate and benefit from wrestling.  Yes basketball is classed and viewing numbers have dropped BUT, at Rochester, basketball still has a full varsity, a full JV, and a full freshman team.  People may not attend as much as they used to, but kids are still playing.  No offense to our basketball coaches, but we aren't very good and about 5-6 of those kids should really be wrestling.  I believe that those individuals wrestling in a state championship tournament from a Class 1A or 2A school, will bring notoriety to their school, be talked to by college coaches, and ultimately attract kids to give it a shot...especially at the younger levels.

2. We are fighting a bigger battle than class wrestling and that is a societal change from our youth programs to the HS Seniors.  I love kids, love teaching them, and love coaching them...but the fact is there aren't has many kids to choose from now days that are willing to do what you have to do to just be on the team.  I'm not talking about wrestling varsity.  I'm talking about just being on the team. Very few young men want to endure the physicality of wrestling to wrestle JV.  Kids are used to getting it now or hitting the "reset" button and being able to start over when they lose.  Wrestling requires a ton of work to get what one wants.  Kids don't want to do the work and wait around for 2-3 years to earn their spot...they especially don't want to wrestle year round to have to earn it.  While I don't understand that way of thinking, I do recognize it as an issue.

3.  I'm going to get crucified for this...We, coaches and lovers of wrestling, have done a really bad job of making our sport fun, marketable, and fan/family friendly to the masses.  I include myself in that as well.  

  • We wrestle too many all day super duals, two-day 10 ways, and too many matches.  At Rochester, we have adjusted our schedule to make it more marketable to kids, families, and fans.  This year it helped with attendance and numbers.  We had a dual with Northwestern and brought in our elementary and MS teams to wrestle before the HS dual.  Had a DJ and spotlights...each kid had their own walk-out song.  Nothing but positive feedback.  We also took some long Saturday's off of our schedule and put in some week night Quads so kids could have their weekend back. That was a hit with parents.  HS season is long...even longer for the elite kids that go year round.  Can you imagine how long it is for those kids with a .500 or losing record wrestling every Saturday and going 0-5, 1-4, 2-3 and maybe earning 1-2 wins or getting forfeits?
  • How many more youth events can we host in a year...especially in Folkstyle?  We got HYWAY, ISWA (From November to April), Elementary Friendship meets, etc.  Yep, I'm guilty as a Coach and a Dad...we take advantage of it. But that doesn't make me right.  I started wrestling at 14. Wrestled the HS Season, went to Freestyle and wrestled as much as I could, but it was over in April. Nothing from May to November unless you made a Fargo team.  Now there is something EVERY single month of the year to choose from.  We want kids to be kids and play other sports but there is something for wrestling EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH.  We don't stop.  The argument is, and it's valid, the family or coach has to choose and know when to back off.  An argument to the argument, and it's valid, is that if it's not available then the family or coach doesn't feel like they need to do it.  Our kids also don't feel like they have to choose.  I'm NOT advocating that we throw the baby out with the bath water, but coaches and our associations should take a look at how we can retain kids, give them experience, and not have an event EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH!!

4.  Bring back the Freestyle and Greco season after the IHSAA State Tournament.  If the ISWA won't give up Folkstyle State, then at least look at a different date.  HS kids don't have to be included in that.  They just wrestled an entire season of folkstyle.  Once IHSAA State ends, have 3 weeks off with no tournaments.  RTC's open all over Indiana and train exclusively in FS and Greco.  Starting in Mid-March, have 5 tournaments on a Saturday or Sunday.  One in the North, South, East, West, and Central for 2 consecutive weeks.  Then 2 weeks of training.  First week within in your RTC, then the second bring 2-3 RTC's together to train.  1 week of tournaments...same as before.  Then the State Tournament.  Be done in April instead of May.  I'm sure this would need tweaking and my weeks might be off...but the idea has merit.

5.  This kind of goes along with #3 and all of the folkstyle events for our youth, but I believe we need a true youth season.  I'd like to see us go November Practice, December Compete, and have Folkstyle State the same weekend as the ISWA Elementary Duals and then be done with Folkstyle.  Janauary...OFF...no wrestling.  Start them training in FS and Greco in February, no tournaments. Tournaments start in Mid-March and go to Freestyle State in April.  This stuff of going November - December with duals, wrestling state duals over break, then coming right back to the "individual" season from January to March, then freestyle (for those that can't control themselves and just have to do it :)) from March to May...it's kind of ridiculous.  We tell our kids that they shouldn't play tackle football year round, we tell our baseball players that they really can't throw year round...but we have kids at 8-9 years old wrestling from October (most practices start) to May.  Before you tear me up...just think about that...from October to May.  Why is that ok for wrestling but not ok for other sports?

I know there are arguments against my points and we have some kids that want to train all the time.  I get it.  If there would have been year round wrestling in Richmond, Indiana when I was 14, I would have done it.  I love it that much.  I would have hit the RTC's, the tournaments, everything.  But I don't coach me and the majority of our kids and families can't afford to, don't have the time to, or just don't want to train/compete as much as the die hards do.  Do the kids who want to train/wrestle year round deserve the chance to do it, yep, and I'm sure we can all find a way for those killers to do that...heck they will anyway.  But as a group, wrestling can do better to attract and retain those kids and families that don't.  We have pretty much given the masses the ultimatum of either do this to be great or quit...unfortunately I think too many quit.

Side note: This doesn't include summer camps, academies, and off season open mats. :)

Just my 2 cents...

Ready...GO!

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For those who don't want to take the time to read all those words..

It sounds to me like your strategy to get kids more interested in wrestling and more opportunities to wrestle in college is to wrestle LESS.  Eliminate opportunities and this will somehow make more kids want to try the sport and more college coaches want to give opportunities to Indiana kids?

 

   

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Not at all. I think we need to have better defined off seasons, I think we need to practice and train more...wrestle in competitions less.  We need to get away from everything being folkstyle.  I think we need to do a better job of eliminating all day Saturday/Sunday events.  We aren’t losing the kids who are all in.  We are losing the kids and families who aren’t.  There are lot more kids that are middle of the road than killers. We keep losing them...look at the FF data from 2015 to 2018.  

A lot of people get on here and argue or complain.  I offered up some solutions.  Sorry if that’s too much reading for you. If we continue doing what we are doing, the data will continue the same trend. 

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18 minutes ago, Clint Gard said:

We are losing the kids and families who aren’t.  There are lot more kids that are middle of the road than killers. We keep losing them...look at the FF data from 2015 to 2018. 

This point isn't stressed enough, and is maybe the biggest difference between a full team from a big school and one from a small school.

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Completely agree about losing the middle of the road kids. The kids that are balls deep and all in are the ones that love the sport and are going to keep on keeping on. We have to keep it appealing to the kids that are multi-sport athletes and kids that maybe "like wrestling" but haven't fallen in love with it yet. I was always football first, but my football coaches encouraged me to wrestle. I stuck with it after getting beat on as a frosh/soph and then it became a lot more fun and I fell in love with it when I started to make that jump and be the one hammer instead of the nail. Keeping kids interested until they start to have success is harder and harder because everyone wants things handed to them. That's one of the great lessons of wrestling is that you aren't entitled to anything.

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9 minutes ago, CoachGaff said:

Completely agree about losing the middle of the road kids. The kids that are balls deep and all in are the ones that love the sport and are going to keep on keeping on. We have to keep it appealing to the kids that are multi-sport athletes and kids that maybe "like wrestling" but haven't fallen in love with it yet. I was always football first, but my football coaches encouraged me to wrestle. I stuck with it after getting beat on as a frosh/soph and then it became a lot more fun and I fell in love with it when I started to make that jump and be the one hammer instead of the nail. Keeping kids interested until they start to have success is harder and harder because everyone wants things handed to them. That's one of the great lessons of wrestling is that you aren't entitled to anything.

This is a very valid point, especially with this "want it now" generation.  I'll never forget my oldest son's first wrestling tournament in the 6th grade.  His first match he got pinned in 25 seconds and his second match he lost 17-2 and he didn't earn either of his two points.  I remember telling myself, dang, maybe this sport isn't for him as he was always successful in baseball and football.  Then one of our coaches calmed me down and said focus on development vs. results. 

Fast forward a year later and now I'm heavily involved with our club.  I decided that I would make it my personal mission to set reasonable expectations for parents new to wrestling in all the parent meetings I held for our club.

Let's be honest, kids recover from losses much easier than we think.  By the end of the day, my son was laughing on his xbox with all his friends, while I was deeply contemplating why I got him into the sport to begin with.

I believe the key to growth in the sport is to get involved in other sports (especially in small towns), go help coach pop warner or baseball and grab those committed parents/kids and bring them into the sport.  Then the next step is the most crucial.  YOU MUST DISCUSS REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS WITH PARENTS NEW TO THE SPORT.  Here are some things we cover in our club for new parents:

1.  Expect to lose matches and probably a lot of them, especially if you start at an older age (I know I'll get roasted by some, but truth is very few come out of the gates winning everything).

2.  Set aside your ego for the development of your wrestler - Demand not wins vs losses, but instead fight and aggressiveness.

3.  Get involved - volunteer your time, come help coach during practices even if you know nothing about the sport, become a sponge, get copper certificed, etc.

4.  Mat time - get your son to as many tournaments as possible, regardless of the outcomes.  Keep encouraging him to compete.

5.  Remember, wrestling is and always will be deeper than wins and losses, if you remain focused on this one point, your son/daughter can't lose.

 

I know that all seems mushy, but this is the generation we live in.  Instead of complaining about "soft" kids, how about we take their strengths and develop them. 

 

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