November 2021 Scholastic Coaches Update

By George Way, Scholastic Director

What Do Our Kids Need Today and How Can Wrestling Help

The kids we’re coaching today have never known a time when there was no access to the internet, cell phone, extensive social media outlets, and gaming options at their fingertips. They no longer need adults to access information, and they are very good at finding it. What they need is how to interpret the information they access. Additionally, kids have fewer and fewer personal or meaningful interactions with their parents, other adults, and even other kids or classmates. That’s why it’s imperative that, as teachers and coaches, we spend quality time with our student-athletes and help support them through their adolescent years. We can and should teach and guide them during the most impressionable times of their lives to make good decisions. These kids are isolated even though they appear to be well connected socially. The COVID-19 epidemic has accelerated and exacerbated this issue to even greater heights. Teen depression and suicide rates have increased while motivation to reach adulthood has been delayed. So, what does all this mean to the coach? In the paragraph below, I have compiled a few thoughts relative to these issues. More than ever, coaches have a unique opportunity and responsibility to establish and promote programs and experiences beneficial to this generation. As you will see, I’ve tried to identify some good reasons for our students to participate in our co-curricular programs. We all know that wrestling teaches so many life skills and creates the desired skill set to be successful, all the while establishing personal relationships and interactions with classmates and adults. I hope you will agree that these are well worth your efforts.

So, how can we challenge our kids? By attempting to remove failures and defeats for them, we will minimize their opportunity for future success. Challenge them instead. Support their growth for resiliency and determination. Develop their grit through a learning process. Their understanding of a process and improvement plan is more important than short-term success. Convince them that their goals and desires are much more important than what others have planned for them or how they measure success. It’s about the athlete and what they want from the sport. Help your athletes discover and define what it is that they want out of the experience. No matter what actions we need to take to keep our sport fun, exciting, and relevant for our athletes, we need to make that happen. If they lose any of these, we may lose them. It might be a good idea to have a conversation with your team and perhaps even individually with your athletes to arrive at a consensus about what those look like and how they can be achieved through hard work, commitment, and dedication to themselves and the program. Another lesson to be learned by our athletes is accountability. Actions produce outcomes, both in the form of reward or consequence. We strongly need to convey this message. Inappropriate behaviors have negative consequences, and positive behaviors usually produce rewards and gratification. Your athletes need to understand how these are handled by the coaching staff consistently and fairly. Let’s face it, this is life, and isn’t that what we’re preparing them for later? Having said this, we need to be sure that our kids understand that THEY determine their potential success. They need to do the work to earn the results of the commitment they make and not make excuses for their shortfalls. Dealing with a loss, an injury, or adversity should be viewed as an educational opportunity to develop all those skillsets and characteristics that we want to instill in our children. Things like perseverance, grit, understanding, resilience, a never-give-up attitude, and a strategic and analytic thought process, just to name a few.

As a coach, we must continuously and intentionally focus on being consistent and honest while exemplifying and modeling effective leadership. We should first and foremost work on developing future leaders by providing the necessary characteristics for all our athletes to achieve this outcome. Trust and Respect are paramount for this to happen. Our athletes need to feel safe and valued to be an integral part of our program. Our goal should be to nurture over time a strong independent problem solver who takes responsibility for their actions and work ethic. If they can rely on others to get the job done repeatedly, they will come up short. Certainly, it’s better to mold our kids into highly extrinsic motivated adults doing the right things rather than a mindset to get by with a lazy attitude and one who is unmotivated to take control of their life.

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