• Post Season Evaluation by Parents (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016
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    Post Season Evaluation by Parents

    Program administrators for a youth wrestling program may want to have parents provide feedback on what went well throughout the season and what aspects of the program could be improved.  In addition administrators should ask parents to evaluate themselves in light of the sport parent code of conduct.  This is a good time of the year to get parents to reflect on their approach to youth wrestling and be reminded of the code of conduct as presented by the American Sport Education Program (1).

    Have parents use Survey Monkey or any other web-based survey instrument to grade themselves on the following:

    1.       Remain in spectator area during matches

    2.       Don’t advise the coach on how to coach

    3.       Don’t make derogatory comments to coaches, officials, or parents of either team

    4.       Don’t drink alcohol at contests or come having drunk too much

    5.       Don’t try to coach your child during the contest

    6.       Cheer for your child’s team

    7.       Show interest, enthusiasm, and support for your child

    8.       Be in control of your emotions

    9.       Help when asked to do so by coaches or officials

    10.   Thank coaches, officials, and other volunteers who conduct the event.

    Coaches and administrators can include evaluation questions with regard to the program philosophy, goals and objectives, and program policy and procedures.  Administrators can also submit open-ended questions to gauge what went well and not so well with the youth wrestling program.  And, always query the parents as to what suggestions might make the program function at a higher level.

    Check out the NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to conduct parent evaluation.

    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

     

    References:

    1.       American Sport Education Program (1994). SportParent. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu
     
     
     
  • Post Season Evaluation by Parents (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016

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    Post Season Evaluation by Parents
          A post season evaluation by parents can be a productive conclusion to a wrestling season.  Coaches can use SurveyMonkey or any other provider of web-based survey solutions to gather the insights needed to make more informed program decisions.   A simple survey that can be completed anonymously might provide valuable feedback for future seasons.  

         Hopefully, coaches held some type of a parent orientation at the beginning of the session.  The orientation topics should have included the program philosophy and objectives, rules, policies, and procedures for both practice and competition (1).   Also, hopefully a mode of communication between parents and the coach was established and outlined. 

         A survey form for parent evaluation might include a rating scale to grade the coaches in all of those above-mentioned categories.  Coaches should also include a section for open-ended questions.  For instance, parents should be allowed to state what they thought went well throughout the season.  And then the same for what they felt didn’t go so well.  A final section might be added in which the coach asks for suggestions they may have to improve future seasons.

        This type of season-ending evaluation will help to empower parents and make them feel like they are part of the program.  Additionally, coaches may get suggestions that will actually benefit the program in future years.  Check out the NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual for additional tips on how to include parents in the post-season evaluation.

     

    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:

    Martens, R.  (2015).  Successful coaching. Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu

     
     
     
     
     

  • Recognizing & Celebrating Athletes and Teams (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016
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    Recognizing & Celebrating Athletes and Teams

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

          Does your school recognize league championships with some type of a reward such as a ring, a jacket, or a t-shirt?  Do coaches make awards for most pins, takedowns, reversals, etc.?   Are there specific criteria for a person to get a letter?  Is there an award for most improved or most valuable wrestler on the team?  How best should coaches go about celebrating athletes and teams?  This is a topic that requires very careful consideration.
     
         Many wrestling programs offer some type of the above-mentioned extrinsic rewards. What effect if any do these extrinsic rewards have on a wrestlers intrinsic motivation?  We all agree that wrestlers should be motivated from within (i.e., intrinsically).  Cognitive Evaluation Theory suggests that if the awards are more informational in nature rather than controlling they can have a positive effect on intrinsic motivation (1). Thus, an award such as most takedowns can be conceived as informational since, “the more I score-the closer I get to that award.”  Thus, there can be merit in making these types of awards.
     
         However, coaches may want to proceed with caution when presenting awards such as the MVP and/or most improved.  These type of awards single out individuals and may cause some dissention within the program ranks.  Hopefully, everyone in the program improved, so what it the rubric for determining “the most?”  And again if two wrestlers were state champions, was one truly more outstanding than the other?  I am not condemning these MVP-type of awards; however, a program might be better served by presenting awards that can be shared by the whole team (e.g., winning a league title).  Just a little food for thought.
     
         Wrestlers do deserve recognition for their accomplishments.  However, coaches must use caution in determining the best manner for recognizing those accomplishments.  The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual offers additional tips on how to recognize the accomplishments of wrestlers and wrestling teams.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References
    1. Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M.  (1994).  Promoting self-determined education.  Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 38, 3-41.

     

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD

    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu



     
     

     
  • Recognizing & Celebrating Athletes and Teams (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016
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    Recognizing & Celebrating Athletes and Teams

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

       “I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise to boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better”  (1. James Harrison).
     
         I think that many in the youth wrestling programs should take a long and hard look at that statement.  I am afraid that we in the youth sport business may be going down a road in which our extrinsic rewards are in fact inhibiting higher level sport participation and contributing to the dropout rate in our sport.  I was in the state of Washington recently and stopped by a youth wrestling tournament and saw a ten-year-old receive a trophy that was nearly a tall as he was for winning two matches.  And, I would be willing to bet that the Washington scholastic state high school champion that year only received a small-sized medal or plaque.
     
         The extrinsic reward system seems to be upside down, getting smaller as the level of competition increases.  So what is the answer for recognizing our youth wrestlers?  How about some type of a social event such as a nice pizza party or a roller skating party at the conclusion of the season?  In terms of recognition, maybe call out the names of children who attended every practice?  Or how about a certificate for children who learned and could execute seven of wrestling’s basic skills?  But participation trophies-I side with James Harrison.
     
         If we truly want to eliminate the forfeit from scholastic wrestling, we must develop a solution to keep more competitors from year to year.  I have a three-point plan that may help with this issue; first, we cut length of the season, second, we limit the number competitive events in U10, and finally eliminate the giant trophies at youth tournaments.  We must make sure that kids have fun and want to come back for more year after year!  The NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to reward and recognize athletes and teams.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

    References
     
    1.  Harrison, J. (2015, August 15). Instagram post.

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu



     
     
     
  • Preparing for Setbacks (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016

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    Preparing for Setbacks

      
     by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD     
         
         It is important that coaches prepare wrestlers for encountering setbacks throughout the season.  The results of neglecting the possibility of a wrestler having a setback during a season can be catastrophic.  For instance, I once coached a wrestler who had the single-minded goal of becoming a state champion.  Yet when he was upset early in the state tournament he had no backup plan.  In the wrestlebacks, he faced a younger wrestler who he had easily defeated three times previously and lost.  The main reason he did not even place was that he had not prepared for such a setback and thus did not have a plan for that situation.
     
         Coaches might have their wrestlers employ a 2-P (positive and productive) refocusing statement to deal with possible setbacks (1).   These would be statements that could be used in certain trigger situations.   For example one trigger from above might include being upset in a tournament (“Dang!!  I got beat and can’t with the title”).  A refocus positive and productive refocusing statement would include, “Ok now I have to focus on coming back, wrestling hard, and placing to help my team.”
     
        This 2P refocus statement process could be also used for individual match situation.  An example here might include the trigger of being taken down mat side.  The positive and productive refocus statement would be, “No big deal-get a quick escape and I’ll score my own takedown.”
     
        The 2P refocus statement process can also be combined with positive self-talk and positive imagery to help wrestlers deal with potential setbacks in individual matches, tournaments, or anytime during the season. 
     
        The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual offers additional tips on how to coaches might help wrestlers to prepare for setbacks during the season.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

    References: 
    1. Johnson, D.A.  (2004).  Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind (Larry Lauer, p. 37).  Ithaca NY: Momentum Media Publishing. 
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD

    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


     
     

     
  • Preparing for Setbacks (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Apr 14, 2016
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    Preparing for Setbacks

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

          In the youth wrestling arena, I think it is important to identify who coaches need to really help when it comes to the topic of preparing for setbacks.  Is it the youth wrestler on the mat or is it the parent in the stands?  Parents of wrestlers have often been wrestlers themselves and sometimes take it personally when their children are defeated.  Thus a youth program wrestling coach must be prepared to help both populations in order to prepare for almost certain setbacks.
     
          First coaches should continually reinforce to both parents and wrestlers that the focus of U10 wrestling is to have fun and learn basic skills.  Remind the children that they are just attempting to improve their skills on a daily basis and from match to match.  Children will be defeated in matches and coaches should continually insist that they “learn the lesson” from that experience.  In other words, what could they possibly do better next time and/or what do they need to work on in practice?
     
         Parents need to be reminded to not let their perceived love for a child be tied to performance on the mat.  I’ve heard many parents say that their child wants to do this or that with regard to wrestling.  However, I always wonder if in fact the child really does want such and such or are they doing it to get a parents love? 
     
        Coaches need to help both children and parents deal with setbacks.  The best way for helping both populations is to utilize a task-oriented approach and encourage parents to be sure to separate their love of a child from the child’s performance on the mat.
     
       Children are very resilient and often times bounce back from setbacks quickly (e.g., win or lose-watch any little league baseball team at the ice cream shop after a game).  Parents on the other hand, may need a little extra help from coaches and program administrators.  The NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to help deal with setbacks.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu




     
     
  • Managing Your Nerves Under Pressure (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Feb 03, 2016

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    Managing Your Nerves Under Pressure (Scholastic)

      
     by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD     
         
         One of the most common methods wrestlers utilize to manage their nerves is to use some form of deep breathing and progressive relaxation.  This is another of the mental skills that hopefully coaches have taught their wrestlers to practice throughout the season.  If not and for the immediate future, coaches might stress that wrestlers simply be aware of things they can and can’t control.  And they might also instruct wrestlers to simply stay in the present, take a deep breath, and focus on the tasks at hand (e.g., using an arm drag to set up a leg attack) during practice and competition.
     
         However, going forward coaches can teach their wrestlers how to use progressive relaxation to remain calm and focused during a match or tournament.  In Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind, Dr. Larry Lauer discusses a four-phase cycle to learn progressive relaxation (1). 

    • Phase 1-Tense-Relax Cycle:  Complete tense and relaxation of muscle groups (feet, lower leg, upper leg, hips, core, upper arms, lower arms, face, etc.).  Complete these exercises 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times per week.
    • Phase 2-Relax Only Cycle:  Relax muscle groups individually without tensing.  Begin to use a cue word such as “relax” or “let go” and/or use a peaceful image (e.g., water flowing in a stream). Complete these exercises 5-10 minutes, 7 times per week.
    • Phase 3-Full-Speed Relaxation Cycle: Learn to relax muscle groups individually and the goal is to do so with a deep inhalation and exhale.  Complete these exercises 7 times per week 20 times a day.
    • Phase 4-Utilization Cycle:  Use relaxation technique in stressful situations, first in practice and then in competitive situations (1, p.50).
     
    The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual offers additional tips on how to handle pressure.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

    References: 
    1. Johnson, D.A.  (2004).  Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind.  Ithaca NY: Momentum Media Publishing. 

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • Managing Your Nerves Under Pressure (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Feb 03, 2016
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    Managing Your Nerves Under Pressure (Youth)

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

          We are short and sweet on this topic.  I have always felt that the Spaghetti Toes Relaxation Exercise by Terry Orlick is the ideal introductory strategy to help youngsters manage their nervousness (1). The brief version of this exercise is to have wrestlers pretend that they are a strand of spaghetti just out of the box, all stiff, hard, and brittle.  Coaches then tell them to pretend that they have just been put into a pot of boiling water.  Watch as the children become very limp and relaxed.   This works great!!!
     
         Coaches can also go more in-depth as the season progresses.  They can have the youth wrestlers begin to actually talk to different body parts and tell themselves to go soft and warm like spaghetti on a plate.  For instance one script might be, “wiggle one leg-stop wiggling-tell it to go soft and sleepy like warm spaghetti.” 
     
         Children can be conditioned to use this self-talk and relaxation technique when they become worried or scared like right before a competition.  The NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to keep youth wrestlers relaxed under pressure.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References
    1. Orlick, T. (2004).  Feeling great:  Teaching children to excel at living.  Carp, Ontario, Canada: Creative Bound.
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • The Importance Of Recovery (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Feb 03, 2016
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    Importance of Recovery (Scholastic)

      
     by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD     
         
         There was a time when coaches thought that the harder athletes worked; the tougher they would be in competition.  Examples such as Alabama football coach Bear Bryant not allowing his players to take water breaks in the movie Junction Boys were commonplace.  Work hard, work hard, work hard!!!
     
         However with the evolution of exercise science we now know that working hard all the time is not only inappropriate, it may even be detrimental to a wrestler’s performance.  Over working a wrestler’s body (i.e., overloading or over-training) can be good to a point.  Continuing to overload and the human body will at some point begin to deteriorate and lead to staleness and/or possible burnout.  The weight management plan may also add additional concerns with regard to the overload process.
     
         Therefore, coaches must allow time for recovery (1).  Practice times should begin to shorten as the season progresses.  Wrestling workouts might include days of active rest; low intensity training in a different sport.  For example going for a slow walk, jog, or swim in a pool.  There might also be a day programmed for complete rest and no physical training (say once every 10 days).  This will allow both the body and the mind to recover.

         Coaches must understand the principle of individual differences when planning recovery for their wrestlers.   Some wrestlers can handle larger workloads than others, but they all need time to recover.  The last thing a wrestling coach wants to hear a wrestler say is “I can’t wait for the season to be over" which is usually a result of over-training and a lack of recovery.
     
    The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual (1) offers additional tips on how to aid wrestlers in the stages of recovery
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • Importance of Recovery (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Feb 03, 2016
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    Importance of Recovery (Youth)

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

         Recovery may not be a huge issue with the youth wrestlers provided they have participated in a program that was designed with age-appropriate principles in mind.  Hopefully, practices have been scheduled for a short duration and meeting only two to three times a week.  That is, a qualified coach has designed practices with a games approach and the children have competed in a limited number of competitions based on individual abilities. 
     
        I have mentioned previously that children in the U-12 age groups should be encouraged to sport sample.  Wrestle for a few weeks, and then try gymnastics, swimming, soccer and/or other sports.  Sport sampling in and of itself with serve as a form of recovery.  Children typically will not suffer from overuse injuries, or burnout if this is the case. 
     
        However, for the youth wrestlers in the 12 and under age brackets that have been training seven days a week for two to three months and have they been sitting in a gym competing in tournaments every weekend, they may have some problems going forward.  If they have been following such a regime, they are or will soon be in need of serious recovery and/or they will be ready to quit the sport in the years to come.  Once children in these types of programs are old enough to compete in high school, there is a possibility that their name will read “FORFEIT” in the box score.
     
        Check out the Check out the NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to keep youth wrestler’s engaged and motivated through proper recovery.


    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj
     
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu



  • Mental Preparation for Post Season (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 20, 2016

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    Mental Preparation for Post Season

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

          A number of states host elementary and junior high championship tournaments.  USA Wrestlingand other organizations also host championship events for youth wrestling.  I have noticed that many parents and coaches seem to really emphasize the importance of these events to their children.  (For the purpose of full disclosure, I am not a huge proponent of these types of events for children in the 10 and under age groups.)  
     
         However, in terms of mental preparation for youth wrestlers, I might suggest teaching one or two basic mental skills.  One mental skill coaches might teach wrestlers is how to set practice and performance goals rather than outcome goals (i.e., I must win) throughout the season.  This type of goal setting may be utilized not only in post-season, but at any time during the season.
     
         Setting these types of goals are a component of a task-orientated environment (one in which a wrestler can focus on personal development rather than totally focusing on winning).  Practice goals consist of basic tactic or technique goals (e.g., I will score six single leg attacks using an arm drag setup during live scrimmage in practice today).  Performance goals are goals in which a wrestler sets goals designed for competition (e.g., I will successfully execute a near arm chop for a breakdown).  These types of goals can be measured and readjusted.  When the goals are achieved they build a child’s confidence, when not they can be modified in the future.
     
         Practice and performance goals are especially useful in the post season as the wrestler can focus on the task at hand without the worry or anxiety of winning or losing.  Look over the NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to prepare youth wrestlers for championship meets.

    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:
    1. Caslow, D. (2008).Wrestling coaches resource manual. Manheim, PA: NWCA

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • Mental Preparation for Post Season (HS)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 20, 2016
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    Mental Preparation for Post Season

      
     by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD     
         
         How much of a wrestling match is mental; seventy, eighty, or ninety percent?  We have all heard the scenario where two wrestlers of equal physical stature (i.e., strength and speed) and are equal in terms of tactics and techniques meet center mat.  Who wins?  And we as coaches all know the answer; the wrestler who is mentally tougher and has the better mental game.
     
         With so much of wrestling being mental, hopefully coaches have been working on a number of mental skills throughout the season.  Mental skills such as goal-setting, imagery, focus, and relaxation are just like physical skills.  And that means that mental skills, like physical skills must be practiced.  If these skills have been practiced weekly, they will carry into the post season.
     
         However, if mental skills have not been practiced then coaches should work with wrestlers to develop a mental game plan for upcoming post season tournaments.  The mental game plan should include a mental image of warm-up and the actual match complete with a variety of scenarios that might be encountered.  Wrestlers should also have a game plan for unexpected outcomes, for instance injury or a loss.
     
         A wrestler often will get upset and be forced to wrestle back for an advancement place to move on to the next level of the state championship series.  Even though, they plan to win, they must have a backup plan just in case.  I once had a wrestler that was totally focused on winning a tournament and didn’t have a backup plan for the consolation rounds.  He failed to place and did not move on to the state meet.  So help wrestlers develop a mental game plan and rehearse it on a daily basis.
     
    The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual(1) offers additional tips for more mental preparation for the post season.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj



    References:
    1. Caslow, D. (2008).Wrestling coaches resource manual. Manheim, PA: NWCA

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • High School Wrestling isn’t Important. It’s Crucial.

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 20, 2016

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       High School Wrestling isn’t Important. It’s Crucial.

                           By Amanda Stanec   |   


            Note:
     Some of you may have been reading my Tweets regarding #KeepOlympicWrestling and #SaveOlympicWrestling. It’s true, I never wrestled. I don’t approach this from an emotional view point, rather I approach this topic from a scientific and logical one. Below is something I presented last night to a local school district. I share here in case your school has this discussion (re: cutting high school wrestling). As an educator, coach, and public health consultant, I am concerned that the IOC’s recent decision will give unwarranted ammunition to high school athlete directors to cut this sport. You are welcome to modify, improve, build upon what I included below. #KeepHighSchoolWrestling

           
            My name is Dr. Amanda Stanec and I thank each of you for your service, and your time. I’m not a wrestling coach. I’m not a wrestling mom. I never wrestled. Yet, I am here. I’m here as a community member. I’m here as a health and physical education professor. And, I’m here as a public health consultant. Thank you for listening to why I strongly support that wrestling remains in the Parkway School District.


    Let’s start with what we know, as educators, regarding students in our schools:

    • We know that we work tirelessly in our classrooms to support our students growing as 21st century learners.
    • We know that the proposed NASPE (National Association for Sport & Physical Education) standards were developed with physically literacy as their foundation. Thus, we support students’’ development as physically literate individuals.
    • We know that today’s students are among the first generation with a lower life expectancy than their parents. (Journal of American Medical Association, 2005).


    Now, here are some facts related to the sport of wrestling at the high school level across the country:

    • Currently, wrestling is the 6th most popular sport among high school athletes with over 272,000 participants annually.
    • Currently, over 8,000 girls wrestle at the high school level and 22 colleges have women’s wrestling programs.
    • Currently there are over 350 college wrestling programs, with 72 new programs since 1999.

         
           Thus, the sport of wrestling is growing at all levels and membership and participation are at highs not seen since 1980.


    Why such growth in the sport of wrestling? Perhaps, it’s:

    • Cost to participate. Shoes. Headgear. That’s it. Wrestling is not expensive. Wrestling is accessible. I like that. It does not care what zip code a kid lives in. I like that even more.
    • Size restrictions? There is a singlet in every size. To compete in wrestling – at any level - you can weigh less than 100 lbs, over 200 lbs, be a female or a male, have one leg or two legs or even no legs. Wrestling is inclusive. In fact, just two years ago, a NCAA D1 Champion, Anthony Robles, won while competing with one leg against peers who did not live with a disability. THIS should be of particular concern to you all. New clarifications on a federal law [Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973] presented by the Education Department’s office for Civil Rights states, “A school district is required to provided a qualified student with a disability an opportunity to benefit from the school district’s program equal to that of students without disabilities.” Many are calling this law the Title IX for students with disabilities. Thus, it does not appear logical to cut a sport that would [excuse me - that already does] welcome students with disabilities in order to meet the law’s mandate - at no additional cost.


    Why such a big deal from a public health perspective?

    • Wrestling fosters health-related physical fitness in its participants. Student athletes don’t enter a game for 20 seconds, or play one half. They train hard. Each day. It’s a lifestyle. They develop their cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and keep check on their body composition percentages.


    Yet, this isn’t just good news for their health (which, of course, is reason enough alone to promote the sport).


    Wrestling can enhance learning.

          Dr. John Ratey - Harvard professor and medical doctor – published a book titled SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science about Exercise and the Brain several years ago. Dr. Ratey presents his research on exercise increases learning capacity. It presents research from a school district, Naperville, IL, on how they increased students’ learning with the only variable being increasing physical activity at moderate to vigorous intensities each day.

         
         Wrestlers receive this type of physical activity each and every day. Hence, to cut a sport like wrestling could leave many youngsters without opportunity to receive such activity, and in turn, hinder their learning.


    Ironically, given the age of the sport, wrestling provides schools with an amazing platform to support 21st century learners.
     Specifically, participants develop as:

    • Risk Takers. Have to step on a mat against one opponent. My legs were heavy walking up to this mic. I can’t imagine if I had to try and take one of you down.
    • Creativity. Wrestlers must come up with new technique constantly and apply creativity to experience success.
    • Problem Solvers. Wrestlers must think critically, and quickly, and respond through effective problem solving.
    • Collaboration. Teammates “drill” with one another each day. They work together to figure things out and to find ways to be successful. While an individual can move forward to states without peers, the entire team benefits when each wrestler is successful.


    Schools can’t do it all from 8-3. We all know the value of extracurricular activities.

    ALAS: If Parkway School District is committed to:

    • Developing physically literate individuals
    • Providing opportunities for all students (regardless of size, gender, economic status) physical activity opportunities after school.
    • Acknowledging the revolutionary new science on exercise and the brain.
    • Supporting students’ growth to be successful in our global 21st century community


    …we would collaborate and work tirelessly to grow the sport (for males and females) for the students attending Parkway schools. The purpose of high school sport is not to train Olympians. Less than 1% of high school athletes play sport in college/university and less than 1% of college athletes go on to play pro post -collegiately. Don’t take away opportunities from kids to develop their physical literacy, their physical fitness, and to learn optimally in our classrooms.


    Thank you for your time!


    UPDATE! New research on the adolescent brain and risk provides additional support for why wrestling belongs in ALL schools

          Dr. Daniel Seigle's new research on the adolescent brain examines dopamine levels during the adolescent years. Interestingly, teens have lower levels of dopamine when inactive than other stages of life and their dopamine levels rise much higher than during other stages of life due to experiences. Perhaps this is why adolescents tend to engage in risky behaviors. The good news is that the brain does not care if the risk is good risk (e.g., wrestling) or bad risk (e.g., drinking, texting while driving). The reality is, wrestling is risky. One engages in combat and sometimes does so during competition with fans in the stands. It makes sense, then, to support adolescents' physical and mental health by providing them healthy and good risk during these often difficult years.  Here is a great read on dopamine and teenage logic published by the Atlantic which highlight's Dr. Seigle's work.

    UPDATE! I’m so pleased to share that the Parkway School District has decided NOT to cut wrestling! I’m thrilled that our children will attend school in this school district (which has an outstanding reputation). It’s clear that the Superintendent and School Board have students’ well-being and learning potential guiding their decision making process. YAY Parkway!

  • Keeping Wrestlers Motivated And Engaged (Scholastic)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 05, 2016
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    Keeping Wrestlers Motivated and Engaged

         by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD

       
       The holiday celebrations are over and it is time for wrestling coaches to prepare their charges for a run toward individual and team championships.  Schools are back in session and the athletes are returning to a normal schedule.  However after six to eight weeks of practice, the wrestling workouts may have become boring and monotonous.   What is a coach to do to keep wrestlers engaged and motivated?
     
        There are several helpful strategies a coach might employ to combat the mid-season doldrums.  First, and these strategies are all based on the underpinning wellspring that coaches operate in an environment that is task-based.  That is, where wrestlers are encouraged to see success as improving their techniques and tactics and not necessarily as wins and losses.  (Personal note-I once coached a wrestler who was 1-7 at the Christmas break and ended up winning sections, placing in districts and just narrowly missed qualifying for the state tournament at regions).  The task-based environment enhances one’s intrinsic motivation, in other words-the joy of wrestling.
     
    The following are a few simple suggestions to help keep wrestlers motivated (1):

    1. Provide for successful experiences in practice and competition
    2. Be sure to provide wrestlers with meaningful praise on a daily basis
    3. Understand that there are individual differences among the wrestlers on the team
    4. Involve wrestlers in decision-making for certain segments of the daily practice   
    5. MOST IMPORTANTLY, mix up the daily routine!!!!  Rearrange the practice schedule, play some wrestling related games, and begin to cut practice time.  Coaches might even consider giving the team a day off from time to time (1, p. 142-143). 

    Check out the Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual at NWCA for more information regarding how to keep wrestlers engaged and motivated.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:
    1. Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2013). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.

    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu

  • Keeping Wrestlers Motivated And Engaged (Youth)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 05, 2016
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    Keeping Wrestlers Motivated and Engaged

          
      by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

        What is a youth wrestling coach or program administrator to do in order to keep wrestlers engaged and motivated?  Hopefully, adults involved with wrestling programs understand the developmental and individual differences between children involved and plan accordingly.  Remember, they are not miniature adults!
     
         According to Mike Moyer the Executive Director of the NWCA, the number one detriment to high school wrestling is the “forfeit”.   Therefore, program administrators and coaches in youth programs should be conscious of potential burnout practices and follow recommendations regarding age-appropriate practice time and length of season (1).  Research indicates that it is best for children under the age of 12 to engage in sport sampling (i.e., try a bunch of sports) and not to focus solely on wrestling.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to keep children motivated and engaged:

     

    • Provide the children for successful experiences in practice and competition
    • Be sure to provide children with meaningful and positive praise on a daily basis
    • Set realistic performance goals based on the child’s individual abilities
    • Games, games, games!!!  Play a lot of wrestling-related game and keep practices short  (1)

     Check out the Check out the NWCA Youth Coaching Manual for more helpful hints on how to keep youth wrestlers engaged and motivated.

    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:
     
    1. Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2015). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.


    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu

  • Team Cohesion

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 05, 2016
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    Team Cohesion

    by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 
       
      In the discussion of team cohesion, any sport coach should understand that there are two types of cohesion; one is social and the other is task.  The research is pretty clear that for a team to be successful, they must be cohesive from a task perspective.  Social cohesion is nice but not necessarily needed for team success (1).  However, wrestling coaches are in a position to make both happen.
     
         Social cohesion is determined by how much team members like being on the team and how they enjoy each other’s company.  Coaches might schedule activities designed to increase the social cohesion on a wrestling team.  For instance, the team members might all go to a skating party, play laser tag, or complete a high ropes course.  Other activities such as holding a team party, team dinner, and/or working to complete a community project can all contribute to building social cohesion.  However, social cohesion is not essential for success on the mat as exhibited by the poor personal relationship of Shaq and Kobe in their Los Angeles Laker championship days.
     
         Utilizing the Shaq/Kobe example, it should be noted that although not friends, they were always on point from a task cohesion perspective.  When it was game time and they were on the court, they executed the basketball skills together in which they needed to win.  Wrestling coaches must be sure that all team members are on point from this task cohesion perspective.  How can they make this happen?
     
         On strategy coaches might employ is to encourage drill partners to act as additional assistant coaches.  Wrestlers spend a lot of time with a partner drilling moves.  Often I have heard coaches structure a drill and assign one wrestler as the offensive (the person drilling) and one is defensive or the “dummy” (or the person being drilled on).  I suggest that one method of improving task cohesion is to have the wrestlers understand that the wrestler not executing the assigned move is actually an assistant coach.  If the wrestlers understand and accept that concept, they are in a position to applaud proper technique (positive reinforcement) and/or give positive constructive criticism to improve techniques during practice.  The ability of getting wrestlers to understand that they are important to the development of tactics and techniques should enhance the task cohesion of a wrestling team.
     
         Finally, as noted above a team does not necessarily have to be socially cohesive to be successful, however it is surely more enjoyable.  Once on the mat; the wrestling team must be a cohesive unit from a task perspective in order to be successful.  And coaches are in a position to develop both social and task cohesion.
     
    The NWCA Wrestling Coaches Resource Manual (Scholastic Edition) (2) offers some additional tips for building team cohesion. 
     
     “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:
    1. Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D (2015). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (sixth edition). Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.
    2. Caslow, D. (2008).Wrestling coaches resource manual. Manheim, PA: NWCA

     
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • #1 Reason Kids Play Sports: To Form Friendships

    by Morgan Whittemore | Jan 05, 2016
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    #1 Reason Kids Play Sports: To Form Friendships

     by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

         Although the number one reason kids play sports both in and out of school is to have fun, the concept of making new friends and/or being a part of a team is consistently listed as one of the top ten reasons why they participate when surveyed  (1).  When pressed further as to what constitutes fun, children often indicate that being with friends is part of the fun.  Thus, wrestling coaches and program administrators should promote having fun and foster the development of friendships within their programs.
     
        I believe that the first ingredient to fostering lasting friendships from wrestling is to create a positive environment in the practice setting.  I have suggested in the past that we in wrestling create a “we build up-not tear” down atmosphere.  And coaches must be intentional and actually have children practice being positive and giving positive comments.   Coaches might foster this environment by having wrestlers sit in small circles at the end of practice and encourage them to share their thoughts on someone in which they saw doing a good job that day.  For instance, “Johnny really hit a nice single leg on me” or I saw Jimmy tell Sam that he gave good effort.  This is an example of an intentional effort to foster a positive atmosphere that may result in forming friendships
     
        Additionally coaches might create a big brother program.  This is where older wrestlers are assigned to the younger wrestlers to help them get acclimated to the wrestling environment.   The older wrestler can show where they go for practice, where to go for the bathroom, and so on.
     
        In any event the coach should work to assure that there is absolutely no hazing or bulling occurring in the wrestling room.
     
       Check out the NWCA Youth Coaching Manual as it contains more discussions on creating a positive climate for wrestlers for the youth setting. 
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:
    Ewing, M., & Seefeldt, V. (1989). Participation and attrition patterns in American agency-sponsored and interscholastic sports: An executive summary. North Palm Beach, FL:  Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.


    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • Allowing Wrestlers to Enjoy the Holidays!

    by Morgan Whittemore | Dec 22, 2015
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    Allowing Wrestlers to Enjoy the Holidays!

           
          by: Dennis A.Johnson, EdD

    This blog is going to be short and sweet. 
     
    The holidays are a time in which I feel that should be spent with families.  The overarching theme is that of giving.  With that in mind, I will provide three suggestions for youth wrestling coaches.
    1. First, give the kids some time off to enjoy the season and please don’t have them attempting to cut weight!
    2. Schedule a family night where wrestlers, parents, and coaches can simply enjoy each other’s company.  Bring food, play games, and sing songs.
    3. Consider having your team give back to the community in which you reside.  Organize an event to “help others.”  Take the young wrestlers to a nursing home, food bank, or to a hospital and have them help to spread the holiday cheer.
    I wish everyone the very best for the holiday season and a very Happy New Year…see you back here in 2016.
     
     “Find a way and make it happen”….dj
     
    PS Also check out the NWCA website for your holiday shopping needs.


    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former Wrestling Coach & Author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu


  • Winners and Learners (HS)

    by Morgan Whittemore | Dec 15, 2015
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    Winners and Learners

       
        The ability to “win” in the sport of wrestling is pretty much a 50-50 proposition.  Further, each wrestler can only be totally responsible for his or her efforts, techniques, and tactics in a match situation.  I have come to understand that because we can only control what we can control; we should never be satisfied in victory, but more importantly never “lose the lesson in a loss.”  In discussion the topic of winners and learners, it is important to discuss the overarching concept of success which I believe is the underpinning wellspring of educational athletics.
     
       In discussing the concept of success, coaches might be well-served to take notice of the philosophy communicated by John Wooden the legendary college basketball coach at UCLA.  “I tried to convince my players that they could never be truly successful or attain peace of mind unless they had the self-satisfaction of knowing that they had done their best.  Although I wanted them to work to win, I tried to convince them that they had always won when they had done their best (1-page 95).  He maintains that at times he felt successful even in a loss his players had given their all and at the same time he felt disappointed in a win if they had not.  
     
       In reading the literature on Coach Wooden, you will notice that he never really talked about winning (as have other successful coaches such as Dean Smith and Tony Dungy).  I think wrestling coaches can be well-served following such a model.  I would suggest coaches take a task-oriented approach where wrestlers learn to control what they can control (diet, sleep, and practice time), learn to stay in the moment (not the past or future) and evaluate themselves as compared to themselves and not the other wrestlers. 
     
      A philosophy that has a total focus on winning can be detrimental in terms of competitive anxiety which can lead to a number of physical and/or psychological issues (burnout, staleness, loss of confidence, etc.).  We all want to win…but I’d suggest focus on being successful.
     
        In conclusion, I suggest that everyone reading this blog to check out one of the last interviews with Coach Wooden in this 17 minute video-your time will be well spent.https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success?language=en   Also check out the NWCA’sWrestling Coaches Resource Manual (2) for more information on the topic of winners and learners.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj


    References:

    1. Wooden, J. (1988). They call me coach. Chicago IL; Contemporary Books.
    2. Caslow, D. (2008). Wrestling coaches resource manual. Manheim, PA: NWCA


    Scholastic Program Wrestling Coaches:  Wrestlers and Learners
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former wrestling coach & author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu




  • Winners and Learners

    by Morgan Whittemore | Dec 15, 2015
    Blog Header

    Winners and Learners

            by Dennis A. Johnson, EdD 

         Do you or would you as coaches share your best tactics and techniques with other coaches during the off season?  I once had a video that captured a big-time Division I coach from the Midwest demonstrating the tricks of his low single leg attack to people in the wrestling room of one of his school’s arch rival.  I was taken aback and wondered why he would be giving up all of his secrets to his main competitor?
     
         To answer this question it is important to look more closely at just what is the meaning of competition.  Competition comes from the Latin word competo, which means “to strive after something in company or together” (1).  For us to have a wrestling match we must have a community of contestants in order to thrive and at what level.  Put simply, how good could we be if we didn’t have an opponent?  We would never know.  Therefore as a competitive wrestler, I can only be as good as what my opponent requires of me in order to succeed.
     
        I would like to propose a paradigm shift in the way parents and wrestlers in youth sport view wrestling competition and in particular the emphasis on winning.  Let’s teach our wrestlers that the handshake at the beginning of a match is a ritual designed to ask the opponent to give his or her best.  Then educate our youth that the handshake at the end of the match is to thank that person for their efforts is making them be as good as they could be.
     
       Simon’s concept of sport as a mutual quest for excellence (15) helps explain why cooperation is as important as competition for sport. Without the cooperation of a community of players, coaches, and supporters, a sport cannot thrive and, thus, neither can the athlete who participates in that sport. Although athletes and sports commentators may occasionally forget this, they cannot successfully continue to participate without some willingness to cooperate for the good of the competition.
     
    “Find a way and make it happen”….dj

    References:

    1. Cudd, A. E., (2007).  Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 2007, 34, 52-67 © 2007 International Association for the Philosophy of Sport Sporting Metaphors: Competition and the Ethos of Capitalism Ann E. Cudd That is the law which again and again throws bourgeois


    NWCA Sport Blog
    Youth Program Wrestling Coaches:  Winners and Learners
    Dennis A. Johnson, EdD
    Associate Professor-Jamestown Community College (SUNY)
    Former wrestling coach & author of Wrestling Drills for the Mat and Mind
    DennisJohnson@mail.sunyjcc.edu

     



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