Winners and Learners

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


  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


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