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.