I heard of a movement called “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here.” The concept, as I’m sure you’ve already gathered, is that no matter how you ask or tell people to do something, if it doesn’t mean much to them, your comment is probably falling on deaf ears. The fix? Find a way to word it that hits home. “Drive like your kids live here.”In 15 years of collegiate coaching, my goal was tougher than an astronaut or deep sea explorer. You see, those professions know the distance to Mars or to the bottom of the ocean. A coach doesn’t know the depths or heights of a young person’s mind, soul or spirit. There is no measuring stick for a child’s future.
I’ve witnessed many parent/coaches belittle their child at a tournament. I’ve seen kids driven to tears, not because they even comprehend what winning and losing is all about but because they fear letting down mom and dad (the average child doesn’t cognitively understand winning and losing until age 12). So I don’t want to advise you to “Coach like it’s your kid.”
I’ve watched parent/coaches push, slap and verbally abuse their own children right on the mat after a match. Some of the things we do to our children would never be tolerated outside of an athletic event. We would never allow another person to talk to our child the way many of us have talked to our own wrestlers in the heat of the moment.
And that is where the true issue lies. The heat of the moment. Reading this article right now, your heart rate is probably around 60-80 beats per minute. I’ve tracked my heart rate as a coach and have seen it spike to 180 beats per minute just because a call doesn’t go “my way.” Once I realized that acting like a baboon was related to how I was handling the stress of coaching, I was able to better choose my outbursts. Yes, an occasional outburst aimed at motivating a team or an individual can be effective … but you’d better be pretty selective about when you use these that tool.
1984 Olympic gold medalist Steve Fraser speaks to professional organizations, Olympic athletes, and grass-roots wrestling campers around the nation. I had an opportunity to ride motorcycles with Steve from Colorado Springs to Fargo in 2014 to run some practices for Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota’s national teams. What Steve almost always includes in his talks is an amazing insight into what made him the most successful Greco-Roman wrestler and coach in American history is that when things really start to stress you out, you need to be able to find a calmer “you.” You need to be able to take 2-3 deep slow breaths when you go out of bounds after giving up a takedown on the edge before you re-engage with your opponent. When we allow our mind time to process, even for just a few seconds, we can regain proper perspective and make better choices. This serves not only the athlete but most importantly the coach.
One of my best friends moved to Colorado Springs at the same time as I did just two years ago. I’ve known this friend since high school. We wrestled together through prep school, college and even for an Olympic cycle in 1996. I consider him family. The opportunity to work with his boys in the room at the Olympic Training Center was a dream come true. To share the knowledge I’ve been lucky to learn about our sport with one of my best friend’s boys was an amazing feeling. Something that I cherish even more since his family had to move away this year. Coaches, please don’t coach like it’s your own kid … coach each young person like they are your best friend’s kid.
Mike also provides wrestling training tools and clinics from www.Session6wrestling.com.
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