New Wrestlers, New Coach

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April 5, 2011 by David Gillaspie

Old Sport

Who does a young man call when the at-risk youths he works with show too much energy for his classes?

Who gets the call when a police department employee wants to settle his young chargers into something constructive.


That ought to be on every school phone: “In Case Of Over-active Students, call 1-800-Dan Gable, ex. Pay Attention.

Wrestling got the call from a local middle school, and wrestling started yesterday.

First, though, wrestling had to pass muster.

Teacher:  We have wrestling mats on the second floor of the gym.

Wrestling:  That’s good.  We won’t need them right away.

Teacher:  You don’t need a mat?

Wrestling:  Once the kids show they’ve earned some mat time, we’ll use them.  In the meantime, the mats haven’t been scrubbed and I don’t want a kid to get the crud on the first day.

Teacher:  I’ll tell a janitor.  What will you do without mats?

Wrestling:  Work on balance.  You hear everyone needs a balanced diet, find the balance between work and fun, the balance between family and friends?

Teacher:  I know I do all that.  But these are kids.

Wrestling:  Right, and they need to know the balance between standing on one tip toe, then the other.  They need to know the benefit of an athletic stance and how to keep balanced from unexpected pressure.

Teacher:  You’re going to put them on point?

Wrestling:  The wrestling shoe looks sort of like a ballet slipper, but no, not on point.  Just balancing from the most unbalanced position, the one-legged tip toe.

Teacher:  What do you do then?

Wrestling:  Push them over.

Teacher:  Really?  Then what?

Wrestling:  To let them know it works, I’ll go to the tip toe and they’ll push me over.

Teacher:  I like it.

Wrestling:  Then we’ll go to the other toe, then up on both toes and gradually work to a balanced stance where they can’t be pushed around.

Teacher:  Where did you learn this?

Wrestling:  By wrestling and watching matches.  The guy with balance in awkward positions doesn’t get taken down.

Teacher:  So you’re preparing them to move from unstable to stable.

Wrestling:  Let’s call if from at-risk to lower-risk.

Teacher:  But it’s a different risk.

Wrestling:  Yes, it’s either pass or fail right there, and they’ll all fail.

Teacher:  All of them?

Wrestling:  At first.  Once they get on both tip toes I’ll do a body fake and not push them, and they’ll fall forward expecting something to lean against.

Teacher:  How do you know that?

Wrestling:  If they don’t, then I’ll know they’re not paying attention.

Teacher:  So you’re tricking them?

Wrestling:  I’d call it building confidence in themselves.  After enough work losing their balance and correcting, they’ll be ready to keep their balance. 

Teacher:  Would this work in a classroom?

Wrestling:  That’s the connection.  In wrestling you fall off-balance.  In the classroom you fall behind, by the wayside.  You fall off the pace.  In life, you lose your balance and you fall into the ditch, or you fall into disgrace. 

Teacher:  Balance as metaphor.

Wrestling:  The sooner the better.  And the more kids in wrestling, the better students you’ll have.

Teacher:  How come more people don’t know this?

Wrestling:  Because most people don’t wrestle.  They haven’t been slammed and they haven’t slammed.  Most people think they’ve got enough from what they started with.  Then when they get challenged and fail, they move to something else so they can feel like they didn’t fail.

You’ll never hear them talk about their failure, either.  Wrestlers always remember their failures and work to avoid them in the future.  They don’t want to get beat by the same move twice.

Teacher:  This works in class?

Wrestling:  In the right context.  A kid doesn’t want to fall off-balance for no reason, so if you fake them while they’re on tip toe enough, they’ll hold their position until they need to react.  They’ll stop over reacting with enough repetitions.

Teacher:  It sounds like you know what you’re talking about.

Wrestling:  It’s just wrestling.

Teacher:  How will you know you’re getting through to them?

Wrestling:  When they ask if they can bring their dads to practice.

Teacher:  Can they?

Wrestling:  You couldn’t stop them if you tried. 

By David Gillaspie


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