My thoughts on the NWCA Convention
I recently returned from the National Wrestling Coaches Association Annual Convention and, as always, I was blown away by the caliber of coaching development I was exposed to.
Hands down, every wrestling coach in the country should do whatever they can to attend this event every year. Quite simply, attending the NWCA Convention for the past several years has been the single best investment I have made, both in time and in money, in my 15-year coaching career.
Coaching education and professional development are the most important things we, as coaches, can do to keep improving. The crazy thing is the more experience I have as a coach, the more important this type of development becomes.
There are two big reasons why the NWCA Convention, even as a 15-, 20- or 30-year coach, is so critical:
To begin with, when you’re first starting out in your coaching career there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of sources of information available to help you improve: books, websites, DVDs, clinics, camps, other coaches. The list goes on and on. Here’s the thing though: while I truly believe I can continue to learn and grow by utilizing these resources, and know that I can almost always take at least one thing away from every exposure to one of these mediums, the more experienced you become as a coach the more nuanced the advice you need to continue growing.
Here’s an example: When I was a newer coach, I could watch a video of another coach breaking down a high crotch and learn tons from it. As I've gotten more and more experienced, it's become the smaller detail or teaching point that now really helps me out. These small nuggets of wisdom are fewer and further between and certainly harder to come by through “passive” coaching development: things like reading a book or watching a video, where there’s no ability to ask a question or foster a dialogue or an active exchange of ideas.
Now imagine an environment where you can watch one of the top coaches in the country teach that same high crotch, stop them to ask questions and then have ongoing discussions with dozens of other highly motivated wrestling coaches about how they teach the same technique and what works and doesn’t work for them.
The difference is night and day!
Secondly, it’s much easier to become complacent and stagnant as a coach the more experience you have. Our sport continues to grow and evolve and so we must too. It’s very easy to let the sport pass you by or to “wake up” one day and realize you’re that coach who’s been around forever and is still coaching his kids the same way he was 20 years ago.
These concepts hold true for any coach in any sport, but doubly so in a sport like wrestling. We all know how profound a difference this sport has made in our lives and can make in the lives of our athletes. The problem is that the rest of the world doesn’t.
Our sport has so much to offer and has made such progress but we still have so many challenges. We owe it to the kids we coach and the sport that has given us so much to make sure we continually strive to become the best coaches we can and further the sport.
They say that every day you are either getting better or getting worse - that you never stay the same. There’s no such thing as holding your ground.
So my question to you is: what did you do this week, this month, this year to keep getting better?
One of my “answers” is attending the NWCA Convention every year.
The educational sessions are always top notch. The beauty of the convention is that they don’t focus solely on technique but on other, often neglected, aspects of our coaching that are also of critical importance. Things like: sports psychology and motivation, nutrition and weight management, strength training, recruiting and retention, hiring and interviewing, job search skills, dealing with your administration, recruiting, engaging your alumni and community, fundraising, marketing your program, rule changes, etc.
Year in and year out, the NWCA brings in an amazing line-up of presenters and the NWCA staff and volunteers go all out to create an awesome learning environment for all wrestling coaches regardless of the level at which they coach.
These sessions are just the tip of the iceberg though. Probably the biggest benefit of attending the conference is the interactions you’re able to have with other coaches from around the country. To be able to meet other coaches, share ideas and ask questions and start conversations is the single greatest benefit I have received.
I now have a brain trust of coaches that I can reach out to anytime with any question - from coaches at top-tier Division 1 programs to high school coaches with over 30 years of experience. What better resource can you imagine?
I understand it's sometimes challenging and expensive to make the trip to the convention on a weekend in July, but it’s my personal belief that all wrestling coaches should do whatever they can to make it happen.
When I made the case to my AD and principal, my school happily agreed to pay the conference fees. I just have to pay for flight and hotel. But here’s the kicker: the convention is at a resort right on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. My wife comes along every year and it’s a great vacation for everyone with plenty of downtime and tons of restaurants, activities and shopping nearby. Fort Lauderdale is easy to get to and flights and hotel are not super expensive.
I’ll leave you with this thought: we’re always quick to complain about the challenges our sport faces - programs being cut, difficulty recruiting and retaining kids, rule changes - you name it!
This is one of those rare opportunity for each of us as coaches to do something about these problems!
As NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer likes to say we owe it to the sport to find three days each year outside of the competitive season when we can all get together as a coaching community and talk about how we can overcome the challenges we face. Here’s your chance to be heard and be part of the solution!
Don’t we at all owe at least that much to this sport?
I can’t wait till next year’s convention and hope all see a lot of you there as well!