Another wrestling season comes to a close. What will I do with all my free time? More importantly, what might those little wrestlers do? Here’s a note I sent to the parents in my wrestling club, Palmyra Junior Wrestling.
We’re ending up another wrestling season. We had a great year — and a busy one, what with our practices, Grapevine matches, dual meets, tournaments, and events like our team trip to Drexel.
As we head into the spring, I wanted to say a word to you about off-season training.
Wrestling, as much as any sport, features a vast array of techniques. Our kids have seen a lot of me and the other coaches in our club. It would definitely be good for them to learn a new series, see how someone else executes a certain move, or develop a fresh training perspective.
One way to get those things is to go to a profit club. I have no problem with people charging money to work with youth athletes. But there are ways to do it – and ways not to.
If you don’t mind my saying so, I think our kids get good coaching in Palmyra Junior Wrestling. We certainly have had a good amount of on-the-mat success, and our kids seem to enjoy the tough, grinding sport of wrestling. Man, they seem to be having fun. Our staff, as you know, is volunteer: They coach because they love the kids. I’m sure many profit clubs have people who love their wrestlers too, but, based on the sheer volunteerism of our club, you should know that our coaches really care about your kids.
The profit clubs often aren’t inherently better, and while some of them are run by great coaches, in most cases you can probably get the same coaching expertise in other places, especially for younger wrestlers, but the profit clubs are full of, in general, kids who are focused on wrestling — or at least whose families are.
You gotta be careful with those kinds of influences, thought, because you can end up with a seven-year-old who wrestles 100 matches in a year. Whether they like it or not.
But there’s an increasing pressure in youth sports to shepherd kids into more competitive experiences. Do kids need that? Some. Maybe. Be careful of people who want to charge you to push your kid beyond what he/she wants to accomplish, especially in the off-season.
Last weekend, I watched the high school state finals. One of the champs was a kid I saw in one of my first youth matches with Palmyra. He was like six, and I thought, “That kid is going to be something special.” Ten years later, he’s a state champ. True story.
Of course, you have to put in the work to win a state title. That kid did that for sure. But he showed all the signs many years ago. That doesn’t mean your can’t-walk-and-chew-gum six-year-old is hopeless. In fact, one thing I love about wrestling is that kids can make the sport their own and find success. I was a kid kinda like that, in fact.
But don’t chase your own dream at the expense of your child. Don’t think writing a check to a profit club is going to make your kid a state champ, especially if that goal is yours, not your child’s.
I also think there are too many people taking too much credit for young athletes’ success nowadays. If you’re running a profit club, it’s to your benefit to make people think you made a kid a champion. I am struck when these clubs — or really, any one coach — takes excessive credit for a particular child’s early success.
And watch that you don’t get used. I am surprised when a kid spends a whole season with a town club and then attends one profit club practice, places in a tournament, and ends up on the profit club’s Website pictured with the coach. It makes me wonder who should be paying who.
I want to end by saying that I’ve spent many practice hours with your children. If your wrestler wants extra mat time in the off-season, please ask me. Many of our older wrestlers have wrestled around the area, and I assure you my answer will be based on what is best for your wrestler.
Now, there’s a difference here between a kid who’s 14 and a kid who’s eight. But we’ve tried to make it enjoyable for all, and I think that showed at our awards night on Saturday. Let’s keep it that way. Don’t drain out of them in the spring what they — and we — will need come winter.
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