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.

Good Luck!