What makes a great wrestling clinician?
Posted by Matt Krumrie on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 11:13 AM UTC

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Summer camp season is fast approaching. Wrestling camp directors across the country are lining up clinicians and guest speakers to attend their wrestling camps.

Brian Anderson has developed his Wabash College wrestling program to one of the top NCAA Division III programs in the nation. Anderson led the Crawfordsville, Indiana program to a fifth-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, its fourth consecutive top-five finish and fifth consecutive top-10 finish.

While Anderson has built a top tier wrestling program, he’s also developed the Little Giant Wrestling Camp at Wabash College into one of the better wrestling camp systems in the country. Anderson leads three different camps: a youth commuter camp, team/technique camp, and intensive/team camp.

One of the highlights of the Little Giant Wrestling Camps at Wabash College is the who’s who list of wrestling greats lined up as clinicians, including these 2018 clinicians:

Tom Brands, John Smith, Kyle Snyder, Kenny Monday, Tom Ryan, Richard Pauliukonis, Riley Lefever, Mike Krause, Cliff Fretwell and Ben Askren. Past clinicians have included Cael Sanderson, Dan Gable, Jordan Burroughs, David Taylor, Aaron Pico, Rob Koll, J Robinson, Brandon Slay, Kevin Jackson … and more.

Anderson takes pride in providing campers with the opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names and best clinicians in the sport of wrestling.

“For our camps at Wabash we work hard at bringing in the best clinicians in the country and sometimes outside the U.S.,” said Anderson. “Why? Because we want our campers to learn from the best in the sport. Most have won world and Olympic medals, nearly all have won NCAA titles. The combination of what they have accomplished and on top of that being great teachers of the sport is huge and makes an enormous impact on our camps.”

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What makes a great wrestling clinician?

Below, Anderson provides 6 keys to being a great wrestling clinician:

1. Big name never hurts, but isn’t everything: A clinician that has accomplished a lot and won NCAA, world and Olympic medals in their wrestling career and that kids today know of, or have name recognition of, is huge. But more so, a clinician that have the ability to excite, show energy, and grab the attention of campers, while showing sound technique, is the key.

2. Genuinely love working with kids: You can tell who truly care and that are truly trying to help the kids understand the technique and make them better.

3. Great at breaking down what they are showing: Veteran clinicians that can really teach/break down and slow down what they are showing make great clinicians.

4. Teach the basics, and some advanced moves: Great clinicians excel at teaching things that work and that you don’t have to be an Olympic Gold medalist to hit. “It’s important to campers and coaches to come away from camp with moves they can realistically add to their arsenals/programs, drills shown at camp are always sought after by the coaches at camp,” says Anderson.

5. Being an entertainer and having fun! Clinicians that love teaching and mixing it up with the kids. Some are unreal at getting the kids going and fast. Great ones put on a show while showing their technique and really captivate their audience.

6. The ability to tell stories: Clinicians who share stories of what they did to become successful, or how they achieved their goals, on and off the mat, always captivates an audience. Letting the campers know they were once just like them and everyone is capable of greatness makes a great impact.

Business side of wrestling

Working as a clinician is a great opportunity for wrestlers to make some money for sharing their expertise and talent. It’s no secret that top clinicians make some nice money working the summer camp circuit. And they should. Top names in other sports make great supplemental income working the camp/clinic circuit and so should those who work wrestling camps/clinics. Many have honed their craft and become experts at what they do.

That’s why it’s even more important for clinicians to put in maximum effort. The better a clinician performs, the more opportunities they can get — the more they can supplement the business side of wrestling. So how much does a clinician get paid to work a summer wrestling camp? It varies greatly based on the clinician, camp, and relationship the clinician has with the camp director. Other considerations include travel and time. In most cases all travel and room and board is covered by the camp hiring the clinician. Clinicians can earn anywhere from $500 per day up to $10,000 per day or per clinic. Some clinicians stay at the camp for a few days, rooming in the same area as other campers, and some come in for a day and head out the same day. Some bigger name clinicians also have agents that negotiate terms for them.

Camp directors work hard to find top clinicians, but also to find clinicians who have good reputations and fit the goals of the camp or clinic.

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Connecting with kids is key

Josh Nolan is an assistant coach at the Legends of Gold (LOG) Regional Training Center in Beresford, South Dakota. He’s also Camp Coordinator for the popular Legends of Gold Summer Camp program. LOG camps include a variety of options, including commuter camps, outdoor camps, intensive camps, a national champ camp, and camps led by successful college and international wrestlers from the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University, and another led by former University of Iowa and international standout Matt McDonough.

“The biggest thing a clinician can do to leave their mark on any camp or clinic is connect with the kids and make sure they enjoy the experience,” says Nolan. “Most campers are going to see hundreds of variations of single legs, but they will always remember that moment they got to laugh or joke with one of their wrestling idols at camp.”

Nolan said when deciding on who to hire for the Legends of Gold camps or clinics, it’s also extremely important “that we provide a variety of styles and approaches to the sport,” said Nolan. “We seek out athletes and coaches that dominate in specific positions so that our campers are able to see the best teach their strongest skills and techniques.”

The best clinicians have these intangibles, says Nolan:

• Relatable to his/her audience
• Enjoys teaching
• Enjoys inspiring
• Ability to share their own unique approach to wrestling, competition, training, mentality, and more

How to make an impact as a wrestling clinician

Dan Struck is the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association (IHSWCA) Clinic Coordinator, and the Indiana State Wrestling Association (ISWA) State Coach. As state coach his main job is to provide education to coaches around the state by conducting USA Wrestling Bronze and Copper clinics.

As IHSWCA clinic coordinator, he runs Indiana’s spring and fall clinics. Struck has put on more than 45 Bronze/Copper clinics and has run the IHSWCA clinics since 2011. Struck offers these 10 tips for clinicians and coaches looking to hire wrestling clinicians:

1. Know who you are talking to: You can’t give the same clinic to kindergarteners as you do high school students, or to kids as to coaches. When coaching kids you might be teaching them how to drill, but for coaches you might be showing them how to keep the kids drilling.

2. Create an agenda for the coaches: Coaches like when other coaches have outlines to hand out: It makes things easier to follow, even if taking notes. It also allows you to just listen and watch, and not have to take notes as most of them are done for you.

3. Look to make an impact off the mat: If coaching kids make sure you leave an impact, not just in their wrestling, but in their life. If you’re doing the clinic only for a paycheck, go get a job. Money is an added bonus to impacting lives, so tell your story and do it to impact the kids.

4. Focus on the present When coaching coaches, make sure you leave with some things they can immediately go use. “Many clinicians show a lot of flashy moves that are cool,” says Struck. “But there is nothing better than learning something simple, in one minute, that I can go use with my team and make an impact.”

5. Stick around, answer questions, and mingle with attendees: Be prepared to stay after the clinic for a bit. People have questions, hopefully you sparked questions, be ready to stay after. Don’t be in a rush. “The moments after could get you hired for another clinic, or be the real moment of impact,” says Struck.

6. Learn from others: If you do a clinic, watch the other clinicians. Have something unique or build on theirs. Don’t repeat the exact same clinic. Watching the other clinicians is an added bonus to being a clinician. You learn too. Many people love to give you suggestions or ideas as you give your clinic/presentation. Don’t be offended. In fact, have a notebook ready to write down their idea. You just got better by teaching!

7. Keep things exciting and fresh: Remember when giving a clinic to kids, to keep things exciting. You can stop for a quick game in a clinic, you can add pushups and “work” if your clinic is to be a practice style clinic — then do just that, run it as a practice.

8. Preparation is key: Have a plan. Before agreeing to work as a clinician, ask the person you are conducting the clinic for what they would like to see — about the audience, and if there is something specific they want you to highlight. You can deviate from the plan by reading the crowd, but have a plan in advance.

9. Be real. Talk about failure: Share your best and worst experiences. Let them know you have failed — everyone has — and people learn from failure.

10. Provide contact/follow-up information: Have contact information for yourself ready to pass out or show in your presentation. You will make a lot of lifelong colleagues when working a clinic that can help you learn or come present at your clinics later on.

A coach/wrestler’s perspective on what to look for in a camp clinician

Rob Schoner has attended several wrestling camps as a participant and now a coach throughout his career. Schoner competed for — and is now the head coach — of Wisconsin’s Hamilton High School wrestling program. He also wrestled at the University of Southern Maine and then the University Wisconsin Whitewater.

“As both a coach and a competitive wrestler I have experienced amazing camps and clinics, as well as had a few experiences that left me wanting more,” said Schoner.

Find out what type of experience a clinician has working as a clinician or presenting to groups before hiring. Get references and ask others how they did.

“There are a lot of other contributing factors that determine whether your experience with them is positive or not,” says Schoner. “Some people are great athletes but not the best coaches. They have trouble communicating or transferring their knowledge to others. Other than attending a camp or clinic and finding out for yourself, find out if the clinician has any coaching or previous experience as a clinician. This is why camps run by major university coaches are so great because many of them were amazing wrestlers like Cael Sanderson or John Smith, but they also have been amazingly successful coaches.”

Schoner encourages all wrestling clinicians to put in time and effort preparing to lead a clinic — just like they would put in time and effort preparing for a wrestling match.

“Follow the simple practice of creating your technique outline and be prepared,” says Schoner. “Be open minded and willing to change. You may get a in front of a group of kids that have no interest in what you initially planned so be able to change on the fly and try to get them interested. Just pay attention to the wrestlers and you will be able to tell if they are engaged and you can adapt from there.”

Allowing time for a question and answer session is also beneficial. All kids are curious and have questions. Don’t focus just on your success. Talk about failure, such as how you handled a loss, or dealt with a setback. Discuss your pre-match routine — things that kids can take away and try themselves.

“I have seen wrestlers walk away better because of those types of real conversations more so than I have by a session on technique,” said Schoner.

Clinicians should also be open-minded, and focus on what the campers need, says Schoner.

Schoner’s high school team traveled to do a clinic with world champion and Olympic silver medalist Dennis Hall’s World Gold Wrestling Club that was highly successful.

“He was awesome because he looked at our kids and asked them, ‘What are your problem areas, what do you want to work on?'” “And really was able to nail down what the kids needed. Yeah, he has a nasty front head lock and we did cover that, but he also was willing to listen and adapt his instruction to what our wrestlers needed.”

Attending summer wrestling camps and learning from clinicians from throughout the country is an important part of improving as a wrestler and a coach.

“The bottom line is wrestlers need to be exposed to other coaches and styles of techniques,” said Schoner. “It helps them develop as wrestlers.

That being said, keep in mind, that just because a clinician may not be a big name, or it may not be a big-name camp, local camps are still great opportunities to learn. They still have a lot to offer. Maybe more than some so-called big names.

“Don’t be afraid to go to a camp or clinic not run by a huge, spotlight name,” says Schoner. “Odds are the clinicians will still have awesome wrestling and coaching experience but because they aren’t those big names their camps may be more affordable, or smaller and you usually will end up with a better value with a situation like that.”

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Focus on fun and philosophy

Robinson “Prebes” Prebish is the assistant wrestling coach at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Va. Over the past three years, St. Christopher’s has placed sixth, fifth, and fifth at the National Preps tournament at Lehigh University behind Blair, Wyoming Seminary, and Malvern Prep. In 2017, Prebish was an assistant coach for the USA team that competed in the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel. Prebish was also a Greco-Roman coach for the 2014 UWW Cadet World Team and on the Virginia National Teams coaching staff and will be in Fargo this summer for his 17th year coaching at Cadet and Junior Nationals.

When he’s asked to lead a clinic, Prebish focuses on fun while still educating attendees.

“I try to inject some humor and keep everything on an even keel,” says Prebish. “I’m a teacher by profession, so I read the room as the kids are warming up to see where they are in terms of technique and training. I can be intense, if needed, but for a clinic it is better to make things fun and interesting. I may tell some stories along the way, but will try to keep on task.

“My goal is for every kid to get something out of what I show; even if it is something as simple as adjusting where they put their head on an underhook. I will show technique that has been successful for me or for the teams that I coach. I don’t feel it is necessary to show fluff or flash in a clinic; solid technique that works at all levels is most important. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some flashy moves that have been successful and I will instruct the group, but again, it all comes down to what will actually work.

“I’m also big on teaching my philosophy of wrestling, especially when I’m doing a Greco clinic,” says Prebish. “Most wrestlers and coaches have a very simple and fearful background in Greco, so I work really hard at dispelling all of the negative connotations associated with Greco. I talk about position and patience, while perfecting technique. Too many people think that Greco is only about the big throws, but I show them that simple things — like an arm drag and slide-bys — are the best way to score from our feet and add in how they can transition right into a gut wrench. Again, it all comes down to making things fun for the wrestler; it builds confidence. I love running into wrestlers or parents who have attended one of my clinics and then watching the kid compete, especially if they use something I have shown them.”

If you’re working the summer camp scene, follow these tips to make the most of your opportunity to work as a wrestling camp clinician. If you’re hiring a clinician, or attending a camp based on the clinicians in attendance, follow these tips to find the wrestling camp that’s right for you.

Matt Krumrie is a MatBoss contributing writer, and author of the book The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps.