. . . on Varsity & Junior Varsity Groups and Dealing with Late Arrivals to the Practice Room
by Bill Welker, EdD
Every wrestling coach must develop practice plan which will be the most beneficial for wrestlers at all ability levels. Furthermore, they often have to deal with wrestlers who participate in fall sports and start practice after the season begins. The following will give the coach some recommendations for better organizing their practices.
The Varsity Wrestlers Group
First and foremost, your varsity competitors are the "prime beef" of the wrestling squad. Since your most important goal as a successful coach is to develop winning teams, the bottom line is that more individual attention must be given to your varsity wrestlers.
The varsity performers should always receive additional attention during practice. In fact, their workout sessions must be more comprehensive and intense than the rest of the wrestling squad. This does not mean you are intentionally neglecting the junior varsity participants. However, because of the limited amount of daily practice time, your focus must be on the varsity wrestlers.
The Junior Varsity Wrestlers Group
Although less practice time is devoted to the junior varsity or reserve wrestlers, this does not mean that you, as coaches, ignore these participants. In truth, they are the wrestling team's future.
When I began coaching as an assistant coach, I was put in charge of teaching the junior varsity wrestlers. My job was to keep them busy, and most importantly, motivated in their efforts to improve wrestling skills.
The first matter I undertook was to find a vacant room or area in the school to work exclusively with these lesser-skilled participants. I accomplished this task. In doing so, I was able to spend valuable mat time, which these wrestlers so desperately needed.
Secondly, the majority of my coaching time was devoted to teaching the "basics" or essential wrestling skills. This individualized instruction kept them actively involved in skill improvement. They also realized that the coaching staff sincerely cared about them and their efforts.
Finally, I fashioned a very aggressive schedule for the junior varsity team members. There was always a complete junior varsity dual meet schedule prior to the varsity meet. If an opposing team had few reserve wrestlers, I invited novice wrestlers from other schools to fill in the open weight classes. Rival coaches were elated with the offer to give their wrestlers more wrestling experience.
We also hosted and competed in several junior varsity tournaments throughout the season. Our goals for these wrestlers were achieved. They were kept busy and very enthused with their competitive schedule. The ultimate result was that many of them went on to become future state champions and state place winners.
There are many factors that lead to the creation of a successful wrestling program. An understanding of the significance regarding the areas previously discussed will provide for a rewarding coaching experience. It will also be an enjoyable and positive adventure for the most significant members of any wrestling program - the wrestlers.
The Problem of Fall Sports Athletes Starting Late
In most schools throughout the country, football and soccer season, as well as other fall sports, end anywhere between one to three weeks after your wrestling practices have begun. Should they make the state play-offs, their absence from practice is often even longer.
Thus, a number of your multi-sport wrestlers have missed hours of vital wrestling instruction time. To combat this dilemma, have your assistant coach(es) take these late arrivals aside and review skills already emphasized in practice. Of course, you must understand that this "quick-study" approach will not be as detailed due to the limited time element. Still, at the very least, the fall-sport wrestlers will be brought up-to-date with the rest of the team.
There is another matter that must be taken into account. Although these fall-sport athletes are in fairly good shape, it is definitely not the same as wrestling (nothing is). They will need, at the very least, a week of intense conditioning skills and drill work before they can commence with all-out wrestling. It should also be noted that most state high school associations have a required amount of practices that wrestlers must have, who start late, before they may compete.
As is often the case, some of your best wrestlers participate in fall sports. It would be disappointing to lose a good wrestler for the season to injury because he was not given the proper amount of practice time to fully condition himself for full-speed wrestling.
These practice strategies will make for more smooth running practices and keep injuries to a minimum.
Wrestling Words of Wisdom
"Try not to be a man of success, but rather a man of value."
- A. Einstein
(Excerpt from The Wrestling Drill Book, 2E by Bill Welker. It can be purchased at www.humankinetics.com or www.amazon.com.)