1. All focus should be on getting better and giving a best effort (100%); not on winning. Wrestlers biggest obstacles are giving every ounce of effort during a match, win or lose. To do that the brain needs confidence and discipline, which helps push fear and doubt out of the brain. Developing a strong mind is the best and hardest thing for a youth wrestler. Pushing your child doesn’t develop their mental toughness; it hides their inner vulnerabilities.
2. Stop making them cut weight. Starving isn’t fun and kids shouldn’t be doing it. Spend that energy on developing athleticism, dynamic power and a stronger mind.
3. Don’t over compete. This is a complex topic and many parents don’t follow this advice.
• Why not sign up for any and all competitions to get them experience and some wins? Burnout. 99.9% of people have only so many competition hours in them and after they’re exceeded they are done – toast; and then wander away from the sport. This is why more than 50% of youth sports champions are out of the sport by high school. Did you hear that? It’s even worse: the majority of really good youth wrestlers aren’t really good or even wrestling in high school.
• Year round wrestling has severe limitations on development. Have you ever seen a kid stay in a phase for a bit? As a kid and grown up we hit road blocks that no amount of practice and competition will get a us through. Kids need time away to assimilate learning and mentally grow. This can’t be coached or wrestled through and without losing more than is gained. Take a break and do another sport.
4. Specializing at a young age leads to burnout, increased injury rates and kid focused sports lives. Resists the temptation to specialize. The average D1 athlete plays 2.1 sports though high school. NFL football players, Olympians and MLB players all average more than 3 sports through 10th grade.
5. Let your kid tell you how serious they are. Understand the possible outcomes with your child. A kid can either love or hate the sport. Contrary to popular belief this has nothing to do with wins and losses. Its mostly having fun with friends at practice and at competitions. Also the child will either love or hate the way you parent them through the sport, which can bleed over into the rest of your relationship. I don’t have all the answers but I want my kid to love the sport but our relationship is more important than wrestling.
6. Confidence is what your kid needs to excel in wrestling. In life this never changes, we do well when we’re confident. Build your kids confidence, not their doubt. Tearing your child’s confidence down, even unintentionally, is the exact opposite of what any coach or parent should be doing. Resist the temptation to pump them up before big matches, just be calm and help them relax.
7. Enjoy the process with your kid. Talk with your wrestler about what they are feeling at practices and matches. It takes a lot of emotional pressure off of them. Relieving the pressure removes some of the internal stumbling blocks. Tell them that you believe in them and are proud of their effort when ever possible. Feed their inner belief not the inner doubt.