Coaching Youth Wrestling

Ken Chertow
• 3X Academic All American
• 3X NCAA All American
• 2X Junior National Champion
• 2X Junior World Champion
• Midlands Champion & OW
• Elected to Midlands Hall of Fame
• Olympic Festival Champion
• U.S. National Team 1986-1993 • Gold Medal Wrestling School 1994-2001

I have been working with young wrestlers throughout my competitive and coaching career. During high school, I would stay after practice to work with our kids program. I encourage youth coaches to invite the varsity wrestlers to work with your local kids program. When training young wrestlers, the more feedback they receive the better off they will be. The varsity wrestlers can serve as role models for the younger wrestlers and will also benefit from helping the kids. Also, encourage the youth wrestlers to attend varsity matches and vice-versa. Perhaps even develop a big brother program.

Every summer during college, I ran my own day camps, worked at PennState Camps and took a team to Junior Nationals. I worked with kids in all different age groups, and these summers proved to be very beneficial and rewarding experiences for me. I enjoyed my work with the kids tremendously and saw how much the wrestlers benefited from their time on the mats. Summer is an excellent time for skill development. The kids are not busy with school and preparing for competition. The emphasis is on skill development, learning new techniques and having fun.

I encourage you to organize open mats and day camps in your community during the summer. Send your serious wrestlers to away summer camps. Summer training camps were instrumental to my development and have played an integral role in the development of my top students. Upon graduation from Penn State, I expanded my local day camp into overnight camps. I spent my entire summer organizing workouts for kids. This was much different than being a counselor. As a counselor, you only have to supervise the kids and do some instruction. There is no planning involved. As the coach/camp director, you have to plan the workouts and technique curriculum so that it is both well organized and interesting. This is a very important facet of coaching young people. I realized there is much more to coaching than just teaching moves. You must organize your instruction in a progressive fashion, not only during the course of a workout, but throughout the season. If you do not have a systematic game plan, kids will get lost. Incorporating periods of review into your practices and repetitively drilling what you have taught is of paramount importance.

During my 5 years coaching collegiate wrestlers at Ohio State and Penn State, I also conducted USA Wrestling Kids Clubs. I would work with my college age wrestlers throughout the day and my youth wrestlers in the evenings. Working with both age groups on a daily basis helped me learn the differences in the ways you should train and motivate wrestlers of varying ages. To run a successful "Kids" (14 and under) program, you must treat the wrestlers differently than you would when running a college program or even a high school program. High school wrestlers fall somewhere in between depending on the program and the individuals. The following are some basic suggestions for how to get the most out of your kids program.

I left full time college coaching in 1994 to devote more of my time to working with young wrestlers. I expanded my Olympian Summer Camps and local Olympian School so I could coach kids full time. I still work with wrestlers of all ages regularly, but I probably enjoy working with young wrestlers the most. I believe a big reason that I have been successful working with the little guys is that I truly enjoy being around them. I enjoy the challenge of getting kids to learn the game and develop a passion for our sport. Undoubtedly, the kids who excel when they grow up are the ones who love doing it. All work and no play at a young age, is not always a good formula for success later on. Don’t get me wrong, my students and I value winning. However, skill development and fun take on equal importance. The trick is to plan and conduct structured, reasonably intense practices, so that your students get good while still enjoying the training. Then they start to win and really enjoy the sport.

Let’s face it, no matter what the activity or age group, winning is more fun than losing. Our Olympian School Youth Program motto is " Work Hard and Have Fun on your way to #1!"

Good Luck on you quest for success!!

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