Better Answers Need Better Questions


September 21, 2010 by David Gillaspie


What do you tell a wrestling parent who says he has a freshman son?

“He’s real skinny and not very strong, but he’s flexible,” they say.

I asked if their kid was a wrestler like their other son?

“He’s not, but I want him to wrestle.”

I asked if they wanted me to talk to him.

“He’s on a fall team the assistant wrestling coach runs, so he’s talking to him.”

The local team didn’t get anyone out of the district tournament going to state.  Maybe it wasn’t the coaching.

“I think he’d be good on the mat.”

Stay on the mat long enough and everyone improves, but which mat makes you better sooner?

I had a freshman son, a classic league basketball player in middle school.  He looked like a basketball player and might have played in high school.  I didn’t ask him what he wanted to do.  Instead, I told him what I was doing.

“Your older brother wrestles.  If you have a game when he has a match, which one do you think I’ll see?  If you want me to watch you compete, I’ll be at the wrestling matches.”

He chose wrestling.  My boy was thin and long.  He got more out of wrestling than he put in.  Injuries, a broken wrist, dislocated elbow, a tweaked back, slowed him down and forced him to sit out his senior year. 

He’s still bitter.  Why? 

The bitterness of unfulfilled wrestlers fills a lifetime of effort.  Was he strong enough in high school?  He is now, but he’s in college.  Was he driven to exceed his limits?  He did more than his body could handle, now he can handle things.  It’s from wrestling.

The parents asking about their freshman kid didn’t want to hear an answer.  They wanted me to know they another kid who might take it to the mat.  Or might not. 

What’s the difference?

Another family with a sophomore wrestler didn’t think twice.  They had an older brother wrestle just like the first kid, just like my younger son.  If you have wrestling in the family, there’s no question.  You wrestle. 

These parents put their kid in camps, made sure he was around wrestlers and wrestling so he’d feel the push to get better.  After freshman year, this kid did the spring season tournaments.  Some worked out better than others, but it was wrestling instead of whatever else there is.

But there’s more.

Around here there’s a place called The Pit.  It’s run by a man named Roy Pittman.  Every bigtime wrestler within fifty miles knows about The Pit.  That’s where they train to tune up their game.  They don’t go to Russia, or Iowa, or Oklahoma.  They go to The Pit.

What do they get from The Pit?  From the website: 

Ballet Class is being offered starting September 15th for 6 weeks as part of wrestling conditioning.  5-6pm. 

The Peninsula Wrestling Program has been around for forty years. During that time we have had over 6,000 young men and women come through the program. Many of which have won state, regional and national titles. The program then and now is about DEVELOPMENT, giving young people the skills that will make them positive contributing members of society. How does this happen; with coach and parent working together. I need your help.

When kids get involved in a sports program, what are YOU looking for; we should be looking for effort, team work, perseverance, sportsmanship, hard work and the ability to deal with adversity. Parents love comparing their kids and parenting skills to others. There will always be differences, not good or bad just different.

One of my goals for your child is to open their mind as to how great they can be. This takes time, understanding, trust and patience. I have all four; DO YOU? Throughout this process there will be setbacks, pain and disappointment, but there will also be change.”

One parent asks questions about wrestling, the other signs their kid up for The Pit.  Is there a lesson?

Find the hardest place around you to compete, whether it’s a club, a home mat, or the living room rug.  Then get after it until you have a corner you can call your own.

If your corner is in the living room next to the X-Box, and you’ve worked out, done your chores, and finished your homework, you’ve got a pretty good seat. 

You’ve earned it.

What is the best thing to tell parents of potential wrestlers in high school?  I’d like to know, because it’ll happen again, and I’d like the best response. 

Leave the best answers to the question in comments here and I’ll post them on the next piece.


4 thoughts on “Better Answers Need Better Questions

  1. This is a superb post and may be one that is followed up to see how things go

    A partner e-mailed this link the other day and I’m desperately waiting your next article. Carry on on the top notch work.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thanks for the comments. Please do check back. From the tone of your comments you sound like a future subscriber.


  2. David Gillaspie says:

    Hello Ray,

    First of all thanks for coming in. Getting a high school coach with the will to make a statement I agree with is a huge step in the right direction.

    My take on kids and sports is also about ‘will’, but for me it’s the ‘WILL TO COMPETE’ and wrestling is the biggest test of will; that’s why it’s been going strong so long.

    I recruited kids from my youth league teams to the wrestling room. One of the reasons I coached youth sports was to talk to them about wrestling. They had the passion for sports and the will to play. Many went on to start on varsity teams, but few stuck in the wrestling room. If a kid shows up on his own, why not do something to make him come back. I feel there is a disconnect between the will to play sports and the will to wrestle when it ought to be the same thing.

    Look forward to seeing you again, Ray.


  3. Ray says:

    I am an assitant high school wrestling coach on the West Coast and believe with my whole heart that success is more about character and drive than whatever physical traits one begins with.
    “Does he have the WILL to wrestle?” would be my response. If not, then let him run cross country or play basketball or baseball. Let him find out what he is passionate about and make a commitment to that.

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