10 Ways to Be a GREAT Wrestling Parent!
1. Verbally & Nonverbally communicate that you believe in them. Great parents believe in their kids and communicate it regularly. You can TELL them and SHOW them that you believe they can do anything!
2. Verbally & Nonverbally communicate that you accept them, love them, & are proud of them NO MATTER WHAT. Let them know that their fun, happiness, and enjoyment are more important than winning and perfection. If you focus on their happiness and enjoyment, it might increase their success rate anyways because they are having a more positive experience.
3. Praise their performance, not their outcome. You want to compliment any skills they did particularly well or any new skills that they have mastered. For instance, if your kid gets a takedown or has a better sprawl, but they still lose the match, don’t even focus on the outcome – instead compliment and praise their improvement. You want them to remember that they are improving and have them focus on how much better they have gotten. Plus, complementing or giving them too much feedback for winning teaches them that winning is all that matters, and by default losing disappoints you. Kyle Dake a 4X D-I NCAA Champion at four different weight classes, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest college wrestlers of this generation, said “When changed my mindset and focused on improving as an athlete in specific positions instead of focusing on winning or losing that’s when I made a big jump as an athlete.” Your child constantly improving in wrestling and in life is the most important thing they could get out of sports. Focus your feedback on their effort, performance, and improvement rather than their wins and losses.
4. If you do want to give your child some constructive criticism, ask them first. You can simply say, “Would you mind if I told you what I think?” This gives your kid a sense of power in the conversation and prepares them to hear some criticism.
5. Avoid always talking about wrestling at home. Instead, let your son or daughter bring up the topic. That way, you know they want to and are open to talking about it. This way, your home can be seen as a place of peace, positivity, and mental recovery, especially after a tough practice or match.
6. Just be positive and supportive at all times, most importantly when your child has a tough match or experience. Most of the time that is what your child wants and needs.
7. If you read news articles about other teams or see rankings of other teams or opponents, try to avoid talking about it with your son or daughter. They don’t need to know if the wrestler that beat them is ranked in the state or won tournaments prior in the year. It’s just not necessary and doesn't do anything positive from a mindset standpoint.
8. It’s really important to know your role. The athletes compete, coaches' coach, the officials officiate – and as a parent, you should parent. Try to avoid overlapping these roles. Let each adult and kid involved play their role and it’ll be more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
9. Don’t make a particular match or tournament “special” or hype it up too much. This adds extra pressure on your son or daughter especially because they pick up this mentality from you. The goal is to treat all types of competitions the same, so that a “more important” match or tournament won’t psyche out your wrestler too much and they can stay focused.
10. Finally, when in doubt of what to do, just give your child some space. This might be hard to do but most of the time it’s the right thing to do. If your wrestler just lost a match, they will need some time and room to process it. If you want to initiate a conversation but are unsure if they are ready you can ask them, “Do you want to talk about it?” and if they do, then they will tell you. But if they don’t want to, it is important not to push them into it. Just tell them, “I know you’re upset right now, but I just want you to know that it’ll be ok.”
Note: These tips are important to remember because even athletes at the highest levels are aware of their parent’s judgments and critiques and because we all want to make our parents proud. But just know that your role in their athletic career is the most important if all! Most of the time you are their biggest fan but can also be their biggest critic. Just keep these tips in mind so that you can stay a fan instead of a critic.
Match-Side Etiquette for Wrestling Parents
Watching your child compete in wrestling is different from most other sports because of the inherent physical nature of competition. Furthermore, there is typically a lot of commotion going on during a wrestling match, which makes for an intense atmosphere that a parent simply may not be used to. This guide will give you a glimpse of what to expect at a competitive wrestling match, and how you fit into the equation as a wrestler’s parent or guardian.
Calm is Key
It’s perfectly acceptable — and encouraged — to get psyched up about your child’s performance. However, some parents have a tendency to become too intense, or even aggressive, while watching their child fight it out on the mat. Although it may be a bit nerve-wracking, it’s always best to remain as calm as possible while watching your child wrestle.
The most important reason for this is that your child may become influenced by your energy. Being overly excited or aggressive could have a negative effect on some wrestlers, causing them to become overexcited and lose focus. Keep your child in mind whenever you cheer, shout, boo, etc. If you think that any of your actions could possibly have a negative effect on his wrestling or his person, its best if you simply don’t do them.
It’s a good idea to talk to your child and see how he feels about how you carry yourself at his competitions. Maybe he wants you to cheer more, or perhaps less. Either way, creating this dialogue is invaluable. At the end of the day, it’s all about your child and his needs. Lastly, understand that for your child, simply knowing that you are at the event is encouraging and supportive in itself.
Don’t Sweat Injuries
Watching your child sustain an injury is not easy, to say the least. This is generally when a wrestling parent feels most helpless. However, knowing that most injuries in wrestling are very minor should ease your mind. Don’t worry if your child gets a bloody nose or a black eye; he stepped onto the mat by himself, which means he can deal with these issues on his own.
In the case of major injuries, which are obviously the scariest for parents, it’s perfectly acceptable to join your child on the mat if he is immobile. It’s your job to make sure he is safe and to support him. However, you are limited to what you can do in these situations. Do your best to remain calm and don’t get in the way of his medical treatment. Again, here is where your demeanor is critical: Your child will feed off of the energy that you put out.
Hot Tip: The Referee’s Responsibility
In wrestling, the referee’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the wrestlers are kept safe and free of dangerous holds and positions. Although accidents do happen, knowing that the referee is specifically keeping your child’s safety in mind during the match should calm your nerves.
Be a Parent, Not a Coach
Your role as a wrestling parent is to do what you can to support your wrestler and help him succeed. If you are a parent with some wrestling experience, this may involve working with your child and teaching him techniques, strategies, etc. However, at a wrestling competition, unless you’re sitting mat-side in the coach’s chair, you shouldn’t coach no matter what your level of experience is.
The main issue with this involves shouting specific techniques or commands at your child. Wrestling competitions are notoriously loud, and of the many voices your child hears through his headgear, he may choose to listen to the one shouting an incorrect technique or action. Cheering for your child is great and obviously encouraged, but let the coach make the calls and advise him what to do; he knows your child’s wrestling the best.
An incident may arise where a referee makes a bad call, or where your child is put in a dangerous position. Although these situations are displeasing for a parent to watch, do not ever approach the mat to argue with a referee, coach, or anyone else. Let your child’s coach handle any wrestling-related situation.
Know Your Place
Generally speaking, the best place for you to locate yourself at a wrestling match is in the bleachers. You will have a good view of your child’s match and you’ll be able to stay out of the way of the chaos on the gym floor. In most cases, it is be perfectly acceptable for you to want to root for your child from the side of the mat. However, do understand that some competitions have specific rules against individuals other than coaches being on or around the mat(s); so be prepared for this.
Hot Tip: Mat-side Etiquette
If you would like to videotape your child, ask the coach if it would be possible to sit or kneel beside him on the coach’s corner. If you are allowed to remain mat-side, be courteous of the individuals around you and sit or kneel.
Wrestling is an intense sport, and rivalries and matches can get heated at times. But at the root of it all, wrestling is healthy competition. Despite all wrestlers being extremely driven to win, there is still a great amount of respect between competitors. Most of the time, competitions are filled with positive energy.
As a parent, you should act in a similar fashion, treating your child’s competitors and their parents with utmost respect. Most experienced wrestlers will tell you that their sport produces an extremely tight-knit group of individuals that often transcend even the most heated rivalries — so you also have to realize that it’s just a match.
Some parents take their child’s wrestling far too seriously and bring a selfish aura of competitiveness upon themselves. It is not uncommon to see or hear a parent yelling at a referee, coach, another parent, or even their own child. It’s best to stay away from these individuals and avoid all potential conflicts with them. Remember, at the end of the day, all that matters is that your child is enjoying himself at his competition — not if he wins or loses.
Enjoy the Experience
You should now have a better understanding of how you fit into the world of competitive wrestling. After becoming more familiar with the sport, you will quickly see how the suggestions in this guide come into play. Generally speaking, though, if you keep your child and his wrestling in mind, you can’t go wrong. At the end of the day, your job is to simply support and enjoy your child’s participation in the sport — all else is irrelevant.
Is Yelling in Youth Wrestling Ever Appropriate?
Everyone who’s attended a match or game in youth sports has experienced it—someone directing loud comments at a player, coach, referee, or even another fan. And while cheering on youth athletes has many positive aspects and should be encouraged, it can be a slippery slope from engaging in constructive morale-boosting to dishing out intrusive, verbal abuse.
A good rule of thumb is to ask would yelling be appropriate in a normal situation, says Mike Clayton, Manager of the National Coaches Education Program (NCEP) for USA Wrestling. If a child is doing something that could imminently injure him/herself, for example, that would warrant yelling to keep the athlete safe. But such cases, he notes, are rare.
“Unfortunately, most yelling isn’t designed to help the young athlete as much as it is to allow the adult to vent their frustrations,” Clayton says. “While that isn’t what the adult intends to communicate, the child still feels shame and fear. Kids release that shame and fear by often underperforming or by being angry in matches or practice.”
As parents and coaches get excited while watching a competition, Clayton explains that their bodies can release hormones to make them hyper-alert and energized. This physical change cancause otherwise calm and rational people to say things that don’t fit the situation.
To combat this, Clayton says adults should try to carefully watch both their words and their tone when interacting around young athletes. Improved awareness will make for happier youngsters and improve retention, he adds.
Jim Harshaw, a former Division I coach and wrestler and author of the ebook How to Successfully Deal with Sports Parents, also says that the emphasis should be on tone, rather than volume, of the voice when dealing with young athletes. “You may have to yell to get your point across or to ensure that your voice is audible over the noise in the competition venue,” Harshaw notes. But he says studies have shown athletes want more positive reinforcement during competition. “Yelling can be positive and a motivator or yelling can be negative and detract from motivation.”
The question really comes down to what you are trying to achieve by yelling.
A coach that yells a lot could be trying to compensate for a lack of experience and teaching skills, says Jim Moulsoff, head coach of the 2015 NCAA Division III national champion Augsburg College wrestling team. Effective teachers and coaches can still get their message across in other ways without yelling, and can even do so with intensity, says Moulsoff.
“Coaches who yell often lack the skills to be effective communicators and struggle to hold their athletes accountable for their actions,” says Moulsoff. And he notes that, many times, yelling in youth sports is a learned behavior, modeled on how coaches and fans act at professional or college sports events seen on TV.
“It’s what they think good coaching is, but isn’t what is needed at the youth level,” Moulsoff says. The human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, he notes, so young athletes often perceive yelling in a way it isn’t intended. “Youth sports are for development and should be fun,” he emphasizes. “Winning is fun, but so is learning how to win and be successful. When both the coach and athlete learn to trust each other, they will understand the expectations.”
Few kids in youth sports end up being great athletes. Most participate in sports to help discover who they are as an individual and to learn about life skills like teamwork, commitment and sacrifice. The number one reason why kids—especially kids who aren’t in it to be great athletes—quit youth sports, Moulsoff says, is because of people who ruin the fun atmosphere by focusing only on winning and losing.
David Jacobson of the Positive Coaching Alliance says yelling during youth sports must not be about negative, personal attacks. “There is never any excuse in a youth or high school sports environment for demeaning others,” he says. Doing so can have extraordinarily adverse effects, such as humiliation of those targeted, which may lead to their quitting the team or sport, withdrawing from the social network of the team and depression, he says. Demeaning behavior also hurts the reputation of the team/school/organization, causing it to be looked at poorly by members of the community. Finally, he adds that yelling rarely works as a sustainable motivational force on athletes.
“Research shows that young athletes participate in sports because their friends do it and it’s fun,” says Harshaw. “Winning is certainly fun too. But yelling isn’t the best way to drive an athlete to peak performance.”
Resources from the Positive Coaching Alliance and the PCADevZone.org: