I love hearing people’s stories. Not necessarily stories about how they trained, competed, and eventually won – but more stories about how they became who they are.
George St. Pierre’s story in his book The Way Of The Fight was awesome.
Here was a kid who grew up in St. Isidore Canada. He had very little, got bullied, and eventually found a coach who believed in him.
Believed in him so much that he started bringing in much more experienced fighters (including UFC veterans) to train with George at the young age of 16.
As the story goes, George would beat them every time.
These grown men would walk away thinking “Who the hell is that kid?”
This is a story that I think we can all pay attention to.
Here are 5 big steps that St. Pierre took – that I feel were instrumental to him reaching his potential.
Steps that both you and I can take with our sons.
Cultivate a close relationship based on love and respect – For me, this is why wrestling is even on my radar. I want it to be an opportunity to bond with my son while also teaching him discipline and preparing him for a tough world. St. Pierre had both of these with his coach. A fatherly love – where he knew his coach truly cared for him and a respect where he would give 100% and never question his intentions.
Make gymnastics a staple in his training – I’ve thought about this since my days in gymnastics and read about it again in St. Pierre’s training regimen. He considers gymnasts to be superior athletes … and I agree. Pound for pound, there are no athletes who are more explosive, have better control over their bodies, or who have more relative body strength. If you lay solid wrestling technique on a gymnastics background … you will have a dangerous wrestler. These are kids that can throw you on your head and land on their feet when you go to throw them.
Seek out the best mentor and technique – This is obvious but yet not too many people do it. St. Pierre found the best coach in his town and literally parked his car in the middle of the street and ran after him one day when driving by. I am amazed by the sense of urgency that this 15-16 year old kid had… and the awareness of how vital a coach was to reaching his potential. Depending on how old your son is, you may have to be the one to “run after” the coach. Personally, I am looking for the best clinician with the best attitude. A few people I know who fit this bill include Mike Eiermen, Bryan Medlin, Adam Tirapelle, and Alex Tsirtsis. All of these guys were phenomenal wrestlers – but more importantly, they live for wrestling. If you are in central Missori (Eiermen), central Illinios (Medlin), central California (Tirapelle), or NW Indiana (Tsirtsis) – you are doing your wrestler a disservice if you don’t reach out to them.
Teaching a positive attitude and a learning mindset – I’m reading a book now that is called Positivity. The book talks about the power of a positive mindset and how there have been many recent studies that show a positive mindset leads to success. St. Pierre talks about this many times in his book. In one example, he talks about how he trained with much less skilled fighter who kept hitting him with this funky looping jab. George says it broke all of the rules on how a jab should be thrown – but he didn’t discount it. He actually decided to learn from this guy – who was a nobody but was landing these punches on George. I love this story because it really shows how keeping a positive and learning mindset is so important. It would have been easy for George to have gotten pissed and smashed this guy – instead he learned from him. George later reveals that he used this awkward jab to catch opponents off guard while defending his belt in the UFC championship.
Mental Toughness – It’s a given that St. Pierre was mentally tough. You don’t go on to win the UFC championship without having this quality. The book actually explains a lot on how this came about. His days with being bullied and roughhousing with other kids during the cold winters near Quebec Canada. I am always looking for glimpses of mental toughness in my son. Here are two quick stories. My son recently started kindergarten. On day 2 he was stung by a bee. No big deal – it happens. I found it interesting however that he decided not to tell anyone. He didn’t tell the teacher, a nurse, nobody. My wife and I asked him why … and he said that he didn’t want to disturb the class. The next day, he’s climbing on this jungle gym and misses the footing – cracking his temple on a metal bar and fell 4 feet to the ground. This was around the time recess was ending so he got back in line and acted like nothing happened. It wasn’t until the teacher found the goose egg on the side of his head that they sent him to the nurse and then called my wife to bring him home. Even then, he didn’t want to come home because he still wanted to ride the bus. We never want our sons to get hurt – but there will be many opportunities to see where they stand with regards to mental toughness.
So there are 5 takeaways from St. Pierre’s book The Way Of The Fight.
I think that we can all learn a lot from his journey and how he interpreted his personal and training circumstances.
Hopefully, with lots of hard work (and some good fortune) – soon people will be asking the same question about your son ….
“Who the Hell is that Kid”.
I was at a practice recently with my son and had a parent come up to my wife and me.
She asked us if we knew what we were getting into ….
She started going on about all of the travel, all of the time, and all of the costs involved with competing in this sport.
My wife and I asked who her child was – and she pointed up to 2 National Championship banners hanging from the ceiling.
Her daughter had won the national championships for her age division … twice.
I’m guessing she was 12.
While it seemed like her daughter enjoyed what she did, I’m guessing this won’t be the path for my son.
I wanted to tell her – This is only part of his journey … not the destination.
It got me thinking, what other sports could round out a wrestler. Better yet, what could make them a hybrid athlete – dangerous on multiple levels?
Here are my thoughts:
Rock Climbing – My good friend Dr. Anton Dietzen (www.trainingforwrestling.com) was an avid rock climber before coming to University of Illinois. It was rumored that he had never really lifted up a weight before college … but his strength was superhuman. I remember seeing him do sets of 10 pull-ups with 100lbs hanging from his waist. He eventually translated this into a mean front headlock series. His poor opponents had no chance of getting their heads out from under his massive arms and lats. Rock climbers generally have grip strength that is superhuman. These guys can hang for minutes from 2-3 finger tips. I plan to get my son involved with climbing, even if it’s just a fingerboard trainer (here) in the garage.
Olympic lifting – Obvious right? But isn’t it dangerous? The answer to that question is no … with proper supervision. There are still a lot of people who believe that weight training will stunt a child’s grown … but this has no evidence. My goals with lifting are not to get my wrestler strong as much as get him used to using proper technique. Young children do not have the hormones (testosterone mostly) to really build muscle. That being said, there are changes that happen to the nervous system that are worthwhile. It’s almost like the nervous system gets more familiar with the muscles they are activating – which will help in any sport … not just wrestling. I like Olympic lifting because of the power they learn to develop. Which wrestler can’t use more power?
Gymnastics – If you were wondering which sport I was talking about in my intro, this was it. We were in a gymnastics gym. I’ve heard gymnastics be referred to as the “apex of athleticism” by George St. Pierre in his book The Way of The Fight (link). I agree 100%. Gymnastics teaches balance, core strength, air sense, full body coordination, strength, upper and lower body explosiveness, and flexibility … just to name a few. It’s my belief that gymnasts who transition to wrestling have an unfair advantage – almost like cheating. What is even better is that my son absolutely loves practice – which is 2.5-3 hours per day for 2 days out of the week. I don’t think he would be having as much fun (or working as hard) in any other sport at this age.
And don’t think that I don’t want my son to try other sports.
He’s already done soccer, basketball, swimming, and t-ball … and he will continue.
He has even golfed with the neighbors.
I think our role as fathers is to expose our sons to a variety of other sports.
I just plan on spending a bit more time in rock climbing, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics.
I can’t say I’m ready to drive across the country for my 5 year old to compete in a trampoline contest … he’s already a national champion in my eyes.
I’ll hang the banners in his room.
I’ve saw a lot of talent come into the room while walking on to the University of Illinois wrestling team in 1998.
Multiple time kids, state, even national and world place winners in the Cadet and Junior divisions.
Some of these kids started later (like me) and some had been wrestling since they were in diapers.
In most cases, those who started younger were more advanced than those who had started later … but not all the time.
What always rattled my cage was when a good wrestler would quit … seemingly out of the blue.
Thinking back, these are some of the top reasons these wrestlers decided to leave their shoes on the mat too early … and what we (as father’s) could do to prevent this.
Injury – I’ve seen wrestlers be forced to quit because of multiple concussions, shoulder injuries, and back injuries – just to name a few. Being a chiropractor, I know that these are often preventable … but this prevention starts years before your wrestler has the opportunity to get seriously injured.
Solution: My top suggestion to prevent injury from forcing your wrestler to quit is to enroll them in gymnastics. They will be less likely to land on their head (concussion), ruin their rotator cuff, and their core will be much stronger.
Feeling No Progress – This goes back to what motivates a kid to work hard and I was actually threatened by this one in college. Feeling like everyone around you is getting better … except you can be hard on wrestlers self-esteem. This is especially hard when the room is really talented.
Solution: Short and long term goals. Small progress made daily or weekly makes a difference. Not just in your wrestlers’ ability, but in his motivation. Touching a great wrester’s ankle won’t be considered a win unless you make it one. Your wrestler needs to develop the habit (and patience) to set and pursue goals.
Few strong relationships at college. Again, this one goes back to what will make a kid “intrinsically” or self motivated. We’ve all found ourselves in a new environment … knowing nobody. Some kids naturally do better while some struggle.
Solution: Know your wrestler. Is he an introvert or extrovert? Introverts will likely have difficulty establishing those close bonds initially while extroverts often thrive on meeting new people. If your son is an introvert, it might help to reach out to other incoming freshman (or even the coach) to try to forge some connections early. It really just comes down to feeling comfortable.
Forced weight loss. I cut more weight in high school than I probably should have. I made my mind up that I was done once I got to college. I always compared cutting weight to jail without bars. Think about it. What 10, 15, or 20 year old wants to be the only one who can’t eat.
Solution: If your wrestler (really) wants to cut the weight, then I think it’s alright. By “really”, I mean wants it for himself and doesn’t do it because of pressure by his coaches or his parents.
No faith in themselves. I’ve come to find out that something seemingly small like believing in yourself can make all the difference. This is what fuels motivation and can even influence your wrestler’s choices. I’ve seen killers on the mat struggle with this problem.
Solution: Don’t wait until it becomes a problem in wrestling. My son is 5 as of this writing and I am always trying to build him up. Actually I do this for my daughter also because I think that self-esteem is the reason why kids often make bad choices. For good read on this topic, check this book out here.
No strong home base. I look at kids as buildings. If their home (foundation) isn’t strong they will be less likely to reach their potential. There are always exceptions, but I’ve seen it over and over that the most successful wrestlers have stronger family dynamics than those who struggle.
Solution: Have your family be a sense of pride for the wrestler. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Sandersons, Stiebers, or Tirapelles have found so much success? They were fueled by a loving and supportive family.
No time for fun. Again, just thinking logically … who wants to work all day and have no fun. I’m an adult (usually) and I don’t. What’s worse, to be competitive today you need to be active year round. With a schedule like this (and all the other demands) … some kids get burnt out.
Solution: Keep your wrestler craving it. I personally think that a wrestler who is driven to compete will always have the upper hand … even versus a more experienced wrestler. Striking the right balance between work and play is a very unique to each wrestler. I personally want to know how my son is feeling when the going gets tough.
I don’t think that these are the only 7 reasons why a wrestler might quit before reaching his potential.
However, I’ve seen these 7 reasons get played out in one form or another for a while now.
I know that both you and I won’t have it.
Together, we can raise motivated wrestlers who win … on and off the mat.
I’m a big believer in goals now as an adult.
I can’t say that I have always been however. It’s hard to believe in something that you have not personally experienced.
These were goals for me.
Something that other people did … that really didn’t apply to me.
Then my wife and I started giving them a try in our business.
Year after year, we started hitting these (seemingly) random goals that we would set for ourselves.
Before long, I was sold on the power of clear and decisive goals.
I don’t want my wrestler (or yours) to have to wait 30 years before figuring this out. Better yet, I already have a few goals on my mind for him.
Here are 5 for starters:
- I want my wrestler to be able to kick my butt by the time he is 18. This one makes me laugh because now my son it such a little peanut. He’s maybe 45lbs soaking wet. I think all parents want their kids to be better than them – and not just in sports. I estimate that he’s got about 6 months before he passes me up in gymnastics … so he’s already way ahead of schedule. He’s also got a stiff right hand that could have probably knocked me out as a 10 year old. (He’s only 5.)
- I want my wrestler to love fitness. I recently read a statistic (here) that this next generation (our kids) will be the first with a life expectancy that is actually less than ours. A big part of this is lifestyle induced. In my opinion, a wrestling lifestyle is the antidote to this problem. I still find myself making time to exercise – even with a business and 3 (almost 4) kids. This is 100% due to wrestling.
- I want my wrestler to seek out challenges and growth. I think that it is natural for us to want things to be easy on ourselves and our kids. I’ve come to realize however that challenges are how we get better. In wrestling, we know this. It was always the tougher matches where our weaknesses were exposed. I’ve found the same thing to be true in life. When our wrestlers try things and fail – the world will give them feedback. My goal as a father is to help them see that feedback as advice and guidance to get better. This starts with the right mindset.
- I want my wrestler to see the connection between effort and outcome. This is another life lesson that I can’t say I really understood until I hit my 30’s. Life is funny. Sometimes, you work on things for seemingly ever … and don’t see anything as a result. Other times, you reap rewards from what seems like little work. This view is dangerous … and just flat wrong. Recently read a book new by Dan Gable that seemed like an awesome solution to this problem in wrestling. He says to give a new habit at least 30 days before deciding whether or not to scrap it. By then, he feels you can make a smarter choice – and hopefully see some of the results of your new practice. 30 days is a good start.
- Last, but certainly not least – I want my wrestler to see the value in a good coach. I was very fortunate to have a high school coach who believed in me more than I did myself. A good coach does this. A good coach also cares about us outside wrestling, holds us to our word, and can help us come up with a plan to improve. I think that we can all use a good coach … even as adults. I think it’s a great idea to get started young.
What are your goals for your wrestler? Take a few minutes and write them down and discuss them with your son.
Then, send me the one that you are most excited about.
I would love to hear about it.
Maybe it’s just my personality, but I’m always looking for an edge.
When it comes to my kids, this is even more true.
In wrestling, there are a few things that most people know will help an athlete get better.
The right gear, good coaching, and an adequate training facility are things that most people think of. The beauty of wrestling is that there isn’t a ton of expensive equipment that is needed to get going in the sport.
I come from a blue collar background and consider wrestling to be a blue collar sport.
There is one “secret weapon” however that I’m guessing most people don’t initially consider.
One that can open up a new world to your wrestler.
Simply put, one that will help your wrestler win more matches.
I recently purchased a FlowPro annual membership. I figured, my love for the sport of wrestling isn’t changing anytime soon – so let’s do it for a year and see how much I use it.
Initially, I purchased the membership more for entertainment. I soon realized that my wrestler could also benefit from this membership.
Here are the 5 ways FlowWrestling.Org can help your wrestler as well:
- Technique – This one is obvious. Remember, the stages of learning wrestling technique. (If not, see my previous blog post here.) Your wrestler can work through the first stage of learning (the cognitive stage) by watching literally the best in the world demonstrating technique. These are the best – often showing their best. My suggestion is to pick 1-2 wrestling techniques every few months and take them into the room and go to work.
- Community – I’ve stated this already – wrestling is a tough sport. Being around other wrestlers, supportive parents, and fans of the sport only helps. As for increased motivation, it’s been shown that having a strong social network will motivate them more. (See my previous article here on how to increase motivation.) I think every wrestler should understand how many fans and how much support there is out there for the sport of wrestling.
- Mindset – This is one reason you absolutely need Flow. I’ve come to realize that the mindset of a champion is very different from your recreational wrestler. And Flow goes deep – sometimes asking questions that penetrate to the heart of what drives these wrestlers. The documentaries are absolutely perfect for learning how to think like a champion.
- Mentors – Any wrestler who succeeds is going to need a mentor. A good coach is essential – but the fact is that all wrestlers have a way that they were trained. In an awesome training video (here) Mark Perry contrasted the “Okie State” style to the Iowa Style. FlowWrestling allows you access to coaches in California when you live in New York. This is awesome.
- Scouting/video – Not long ago … there was no FlowWrestling. It was nearly impossible to see what the best wrestlers in the country were doing. Not any more. With the click of a button, you can see what the #1 guy in your wrestlers weight class is doing and be informed. Obviously, it takes a TON of work to be at the top … but it starts with awareness. I think every wrestler should be aspire to beat that #1 guy. This makes it possible.
So there you have it. If your serious about wrestling – and want to give your wrestler an (almost) unfair advantage – purchase an annual membership with FlowWrestling.Org.
I’d love to hear any other ways you (or your son) uses Flow.
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.