Staying current: Coaches look for ways to evolve, improve

Posted by Craig Sesker on Apr 22, 2019 12:16:58 PM
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Wrestling is no different than any other sport.

It continues to change and evolve.

And for coaches, that means staying current on techniques and tactics from the developmental level to the Olympic level.

With so many technological advances, and easy access to it, the landscape certainly has undergone a significant transformation.

If a coach needs a quick scouting report on an opposing wrestler or wants to study and learn a specific technique, online videos are readily accessible on their phone or computer.

"I think in wrestling there is a non-stop evolution of technique, and there is probably the most diversity of individual styles and techniques in all sports," said T.J. Miller, head coach at NCAA Division III power Loras College. "If you watch David Taylor, Kyle Dake, Kyle Snyder, Ben Askren or Jordan Burroughs, they are all extremely successful and all have completely different styles.

"There is a ton of content you can watch online. A lot of times, I will be watching a match online or on TV and see a wrestler hit a similar move that my own athlete has been performing. From there, it's just seeing if your athlete can make the small adjustments to have the same result, which I have found to be very effective."

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Dalton Jensen, head coach at Division II power Nebraska-Kearney, said the sport "is constantly evolving and getting better."

"Just in the past decade, you have seen how much better the athletes have gotten as well as the technique," Jensen said. "It's important to watch not just high-level wrestling domestically, but internationally as well. The things that are working on the world stage are things that will work at our level. It's important for not just our coaches to be studying our sport on that world level, but for our athletes as well. We live in a time where we can watch any tournament or any match we want just on our phones."

Braumon Creighton, a top high school and club coach in Palo Alto, Calif., said he routinely seeks input and perspective from other coaches to enable him to excel.

"I think the best way to stay current is to study video and then have intellectual debates with other smart wrestling coaches about what you see," Creighton said. "We don't all have access to the top coaches in our sport, but you'd be surprised at how willing most of these people are to help or just share an idea. I talk to Ilias Diakomihalis (father of two-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis) at least twice a month in order to get fresh ideas. And there's 10 other coaches I call regularly to do the same. Yes, go to clinics. And yes, watch as much wrestling as you can tolerate. But I think it's most important to challenge your own ideas about wrestling and then have thoughtful discussion about what you think you know."

Attending camps and clinics in the spring and summer remains another important vehicle for coaches at all levels of wrestling to learn and improve.

"The most important thing to do to stay current is stay involved," said Mike Schadwinkel, who coached Grand Island to five Nebraska Class A state titles. "You have to study the sport, talk with experts, watch especially high-level wrestlers, pay attention to what others are doing, and figure out how to translate to your level or your athletes. Most advanced techniques are like a foreign language to youth or even high school athletes – it needs translated or it has to relate to something they already understand."

Eric Whitcome, who led Waverly-Shell Rock to the Iowa Class 3A state championship in 2019, understands the importance of staying current as a coach.

"It's imperative for a coach at any level to continue to learn and develop technique," Whitcome said. "I believe there are two parts to why that has to happen. 1. As a coach you have to be a student of the game. Finding ways to improve yourself, your athletes and your program is an absolute must. 2. Whether you are identifying ways to score more points, or defend against techniques being used, a coach has to be willing to engage themselves in what athletes are doing to be successful.

"I think it's important for coaches to be involved in wrestling after the high school season ends. During the spring and summer, you have the best opportunities to work with other coaches from high school up to the college and international ranks. Meeting those people, picking their brains and developing a relationship that you can call them at any time and pick that brain some more is the key to staying up with the times. I have been fortunate to make a lot of relationships with people that have helped me stay up with technique and share ideas I have used to change our program or training cycles."

Even with all of the technological advances and changes in the sport of wrestling, some of the same old-school principles remain.

"I think the best way to stay current with wrestling technique is watching what successful wrestlers do," said Nate Engel, an assistant coach at Stanford. "I also think getting in the practice room and working on it daily helps as well. Our sport changes daily, but a single leg is still a single leg."

Topics: Coaching

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