I recently took my son Junior to a wrestling camp at the local high school here just 2 weeks ago. He (and I) was excited to start what I hope will be a long and rewarding journey.
In my opinion, its camps like these where kids get good.
This camp brought me back to one training camp in particular that I attended in Colorado Springs back in the late 90’s.
One of the senior level wrestlers took about 10 minutes out of his day and worked with me on a trapped arm gut wrench – a technique that I probably used 100’s of times and one that allowed me to beat kids that were actually much better wrestlers than me.
I always wondered …”what happened different during this camp – that allowed me to learn so effectively?”
Today, I’m going to talk about something that I just recently really understood … and something that you and your wrestler need to understand to win more matches.
Learning wrestling technique happens in 3 stages. Understanding that these stages exist and the goals of these stages will help your wrestler become a quicker study of the sport.
This means they will win more matches.
Here we go:
Stage 1 of learning a new move: The Cognitive Stage
This is where all wrestlers start when learning any new wrestling technique. The question to be answered during this stage is the following: “What actions need to be taken in order to achieve the goals of the task?” – according to Schmidt and Lee in the book Motor Control and Learning.
During this stage your wrestler needs to understand what to do … not so much how to do it. Most of the gains that happen during this stage are cognitive, but your wrestler will still make rather large gains nevertheless.
If your wrestler misses out on this one … the technique is lost and they will not ever move onto the next stage … which is …
Stage 2 of learning a new move: The Fixation Stage
The problem to be solved during this stage is the following: “How the skill is performed?” according to Schmidt and Lee.
Here, small changes in foot placement, head position, and body angle are important. This stage is also crucial to have a good coach who understands what the technique should look (and feel) like.
The worst thing that can happen is learning how to do a move that is actually incorrect in its application. A good coach can save your wrestler a TON of precious time.
Be patient here because your wrestler may be in this stage for months before transitioning to the next and final stage.
Stage 3 of learning a new move: The Autonomous Stage
Getting to this stage is the goal. During this stage, a wrestler can perform the needed technique without interference from other activities.
This means that the wrestler who is further along this path in motor learning will have a better chance of performing the way he wants to (ie. winning) … without being influenced by the crowd, his opponent, or other outside factors.
It should be known that this stage can take months or even years before reaching, and the improvements are also subtle and slow.
This is why high level wrestling like college or international might seem somewhat boring. Because it’s a game of small details and the wrestler who gets it right is the one who will usually win the match.
So there you have it, the 3 stages that your wrestler must go through to become good at a specific technique.
Understand that these later stages take more time but the more expert advice they receive, the quicker and more effective their learning.
Have a discussion with your wrestler so that they understand these stages. No matter how young they are, having a basic knowledge will help them be easier on themselves early on … and ultimately help them learn better.
Losing can be hard … especially when it comes from the same kid.
In high school, there was one kid who always seemed to have my number. To make things worse, I saw him at all of the summer tournaments. I would get close to beating him, but somehow … he would always squeak out a win.
In my head, this kid was just a better wrestler. It never crossed my mind that maybe (with some intention and lots of hard work) I could have knocked this kid off.
I’m guessing your son has had this experience also.
But, this is where you come in Dad.
With a little bit of work (and another chance) – your wrestler can beat that kid who has always dominated him on the mat.
Here are 7 steps to make it happen.
Step 1 – Record the match. Whether you use your iPhone or an old fashioned over-the-shoulder deal, just get the footage. This is going to lay the ground work for everything that has to be done in the future. This is going to be your roadmap.
Step 2 – With a knowledgeable coach, break down the video. I’m not talking about spending hours here … and a good coach can probably watch it once or twice and know exactly what has to be done. There are a few specific things we are looking for in the video.
Step 3 – Identify how your son is getting beat. This is going to be much harder if he got beat 10-0 than if he was beat 6-4. Either way, you can still get value out of doing this. Ask questions like:
- Is your son getting caught every time reaching for this kids head?
- Is your son not creating any movement or worse yet is he being moved around like a chess piece out on the mat?
- Or is your son getting dominated in the top or bottom positions?
Don’t stop watching the video until you can identify at least 2 situations where your son is getting beat by this kid.
Step 4 – With coach, drill these positions and eliminate these bad habits.
- For reaching, it might be making sure your son is still defending his legs with one arm while the reaching arm comes from the bottom up … not top down where he would be exposing his legs (and welcoming a shot from his opponent).
- If he’s not creating movement, then start working this in practice. Movement creates angles. Angles create opportunities. Opportunities create points. Points win matches.
- Spend more time getting into the finer details of top or bottom position and what your wrestler can do next time he finds himself there. The “fine print” is where moves are successful or fail.
This step is so important … and might take 2-4 weeks to become a habit. The key is not to move on to another move before closing down this gap in your son’s style.
Step 5 – Identify his weakness. This is the fun part. By now, we shut down the 1-2 big opportunities for your son to lose the same way he has in the past. Now, with the help of coach – we look for chinks in his armor. Places where this kid can be beat.
- Does this kid always lead with one leg? If so, what offense can your son work on to exploit this weakness?
- Does this kid like to stay heavy on the head? What are 1-2 offensive moves that
will take advantage of this? (I used to love it when guys were hanging heavy on my head because I had learned a slide-by that was practically unstoppable … and really slick).
- Or does this kid like to hop around, stand up straight, and generally get out of good wrestling position as the match wears on? This means his legs are tired and this can be easily taken advantage of with some work.
Step 6 – Drill these offensive techniques. This is the same as step 4 – but this time we are thinking offensively. Remember, closing down your son’s weaknesses and creating an offense that is effective will take some time. It takes time for a technique to go from something your wrestler hasn’t seen before to something that they do without thinking. Sometimes months. For offense, it will take time for your son to learn the small details of the setups, how a move feels, and the timing. Keep him motivated and focused because this is what wins matches.
Step 7 – WIN! By now we’ve reviewed video with a knowledgeable coach. We’ve identified the 1-2 major places (physical or situational) where he is getting beat and have corrected these. We’ve drilled them with perfect form and enough repetition. We’ve also identified this kids weaknesses – and have chosen 1-2 techniques that can exploit these weaknesses. We’ve worked through the setups and have gone over the finer details on where/how/when these moves work.
All in all, this process might take a good month or two from start to finish. There will be a lot of work that has to be done … but it’s worth it to see that smile on your son’s face.
Follow this process once and watch the world of wrestling open up to your son. He will see that he can control his wrestling destiny … and that hard work does payoff.
So right now, make a point to review that tape of your wrestler’s loss to that kid. Talk to the coach and get to work!
I want to hear about how your son felt after finally beating his arch rival.
Every once in a while, I remembered my high school wrestling teammates and I would start to feel sorry for ourselves. Especially when we were cutting weight or training hard.
Then my wrestling coach would put things in perspective by telling us that were weren’t in war … and nobody was trying to kill us.
His point was that things could be much worse.
I appreciate this now because life can be hard … and most of us hadn’t seen hard yet.
I’ve come to realize that the sport of wrestling (and a great coach) has helped me become more successful in more ways than one.
With the right coach, I’m confident that your wrestler will get these same benefits.
So here are 7 ways that wrestling will help your wrestler kick life’s ass.
(This is much better than the alternative … which would be your wrestler getting his ass kicked by life.)
- Wrestling helps teach about losing. It will happen … we all will eventually get a whoopin’ both on the mat and in life. In wrestling this might be much clearer cut than in life. Some of us learn to struggle, fight, and come back harder. Others learn to roll over and die. Those people were not wrestlers.
- Wrestling helps teach goal setting. I’ve heard that only 5% of the population has a goal. For wrestlers … they all want to win the championship. A good wrestling program (and coach) will look at strengths and weaknesses and get strategic about what needs to happen to reach that goal. This way of thinking is helpful for other areas of life too.
- Wresting teaches the value of having a mentor. A mentor is someone who has traveled the path you want to take. They have seen the pitfalls and know the risks and rewards. They know the shortcuts and the rabbit holes to avoid. We can all use some type of mentor in business, in marriage, in parenting, or in sport. Having a mentor will help your wrestler go further in life.
- Wrestling teaches physicality. Let’s face it, most kids nowadays ware so unaware of their bodies that it’s disturbing. I had a professor in chiropractic college remark that I was able to pick up chiropractic technique much faster than most … and this wasn’t because I was a gifted learner. And it wasn’t because I played video games a lot as a kid. It was because I was used to controlling my body in a way to produce a specific outcome. This is what wrestling is all about. This can be useful whether your wrestler becomes a surgeon or a mixed martial artist.
- Wrestling teaches self-discipline. We all know what this is. Watching your weight, training when tired, getting through tough practices or getting enough sleep. Many adults struggle with this because they’ve never had to perform at a higher level.
- Wrestling teaches delayed gratification. I once read a book called The Road Less Traveled. This book made the bold statement that delayed gratification was the sole reason why many adults struggle with their finances, their marriages, their health/weight, and their careers. What better time to learn this principle than as a young wrestler. Yes, the M&Ms might affect your weight later this week or staying up to play video games might make have a crappy practice.
- Wrestling teaches about pressure. Sometimes, it all comes down to that final test in school, that final business meeting, or that one shot to talk to that cute girl. A good wrestler is used to pressure and doesn’t freeze when they need to act. My college wrestling coach used to call this a sense of urgency. When the pressure is on, you act … and let the chips fall where they may.
So there are 7 ways that wrestling will prepare your wrestler for the real word. In reality, there are probably 700 ways … but these are a good start.
Wrestling legend Dan Gable one said “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
Let’s make life easier on our wrestlers.
If you liked this article then share it with someone who has a young wrestler … or is thinking about getting a son started in the sport. They need to see that the sport of wrestling teaches you about much more than wrestling.
My good friend Anton Dietzen (www.TrainingForWrestling.com) and I got to go to a Perform Better Seminar in Chicago this past weekend. While we were there, we were catching up about our families, our careers, and the “old days” back at University of Illinois.
Both Dietzen and I have followed very similar career (and family) paths. Likewise, we both have strong interests in trying to give back to the wrestling community.
Anyways, it was good to see this old wrestling buddy. It was also good to pick up some training tips from some of the best trainers and exercise scientists in the world.
You see, when I go to these things I am always thinking:
“How does this apply to wrestling?”
“How would I have used this principle when I was training?”
“How can I teach this to my son to make him a better wrestler?”
So here they are, 15 hours and about $300 worth of (what I felt) was the best wrestling “stuff” in this seminar. I hope you get something out of it.
- Wrestlers need to train how fast they relax. This tip was given by the world known back expert Dr. Stuart McGill – who has worked with top athletes (like George St. Piere of the UFC) to get them better. He found that the world’s most elite performers are able to relax 6x faster than lesser athletes. This way, they don’t fight their bodies when attacking their opponents.
- Running can really hurt your wrestler. This one hit home because I liked to run … and did a lot of it while wrestling. While running does add to your VO2 max (aerobic capacity) it will take away from your anaerobic capacity (explosiveness). Because wrestling is estimated to be 90% anaerobic – you want to train your wrestler to become an “anaerobic monster” … in the words of Dr. McGill.
- Strength is not all that important. What is more important is speed and impact of force. This ties back to takeaway number 1 – because how fast you are able to relax determines your speed. Impact of force is determined by core strength. One of the greatest wrestlers in history – John Smith is a perfect example of a wrestler who was strong enough but fast as lighting. I’d be willing to guess his core was second to none as well.
- Wrestlers need to “twitch” more often. Not nervous twitching, but purposeful twitching to train “fast neurology”. It teaches you to activate your muscles quickly and to relax quickly. In a wrestling match, the first person to get to an offensive position might just win because they did. I guess I never really realized that this was something you could train – and actually improve upon. McGill goes one step further and says that you should actually train twitching in positions that your wrestlers are often in.
- Wrestlers should not use an alternating grip when deadlifting. This is because this grip reduces how much hand grip strength is needed during the lift … and grip strength is kind of important for wrestlers. This one is obvious now, but somehow I missed this point during and even after my wrestling career. Going one step further, wrestlers should probably use a fat bar different for some lifts to further enhance their grip strength.
So there you have it. 5 training tips that I learned this weekend. For me, training the rate of relaxation is probably the biggest “ah ha” that I had. I know I will be working on this with my son.
What about you?
Which one of these principles can you use to make your wrestler better? Pick one and work on it with your wrestler. It might be the edge that makes the difference in the championship match.
I recently spoke with my Mom about my Dad – who passed away in 2002 from cancer. During the talk, my mom made a statement that blew my mind.
She told me that my dad wished he had worked less and enjoyed life more.
While this brought tears to my eyes (he died at 48) … it also lit a fire under me.
My Dad was never able to make this a reality – but with some discipline (and planning) you and I can. We can be there for our family, our kids, and (hopefully) wrestling.
There are a thousand reasons why I personally want to work less. I want to be around for the little things. I want to help my wife more with our 3 (soon to be 4) kids. I want to be able to put my kids to sleep and be home when they wake up. I don’t want wake up one day at age 65 (God willing) and regret missing out on my family.
To be completely honest, another big motivator is wrestling. I want to be around the sport with my son. I want to be there for his big wins, his losses, his questions, and his injuries.
So here is my plan to make this happen. Hopefully you will get something out of it.
1. I plan to push hard during my work time. Because my wife and I own our business – it is really easy for me to be relaxed on how I spend my time at work. My wife is my boss – and to be honest – she is way too easy on me. I’ve always found that the things that move the dial at work are the things that make me feel uncomfortable. I plan to get uncomfortable much more often.
2. I am going to work on what’s important and not just urgent. I recently read a book called The One Thing. The basic message was that you can get 80% of the results from 20% of the actions. I have found this to be true. In the past, I would like to check 10 things off my list to feel like I accomplished something and the only thing left was usually the one thing that actually mattered. No more.
3. I will say no more often. This sounds really selfish, but I think of this as also saying yes to my family – and spending time with my family, my wife, and my kids in sports … and eventually wrestling with my son. In the past, I have been a people pleaser and might my family’s needs behind that of others who need me. I want to be there for any and every one, but let’s face it … we just can’t do it if we want more time with our families.
4. I am going to watch our spending more. Because my wife and I are both very fortunate to make a good living as chiropractors – we have gotten sloppy in this area. Currently, we are in the market for a new mini-van (I never thought I would be saying that) – and we can spend 45,000 for something new or we can spend 15-20,000 on something used. This is a struggle for me because I think that because we work hard that we deserve nice things. This might be true, but I like time with my family more than nice things.
5. I plan to leverage myself and my time. This one is so exciting to me because it makes me see endless possibilities. Again, we are fortunate to have our own business and we are looking to soon bring on another chiropractor. If we find the right person – and have the right systems in place – then we might be able to work less while maintaining our income. Only time will tell but I am excited about the possibility.
So there you have it – my public statement about working less. For those of you who know me, you know this is going to be a change – I have been working 7 days a week for 3 years. Like my Dad (and many of you I’m sure) I work a lot of hours because I’ve always felt it’s what we are supposed to do.
For me, I think I’m supposed to be there for my family first. Yes, we need to make a living to cover the bills – but I need to honor my Dad and do what took him 30 years to figure out. Do what he wished he could have done if he had another chance.
What about you? I’m guessing you feel the same way about your family and your kids otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
What can you do to be more effective at work and hopefully be able to enjoy every moment of your wrestlers career?