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Youth Wrestling

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I came across a discussion the other day that had to do with the merits of putting emphasis on youth wrestling, like under 10 years old.  One school of thought seems to be that specializing and focusing on just wrestling that young is detrimental and causes burnout in the sport and that being an elite youth wrestler doesn't always translate to success further on.  Though there are plenty who did start young and weren't burned out, like Dake, Taylor, etc. Their contention was that if you want to have a successful wrestler that is your child, you don't let them compete or really do much wrestling specific stuff until about 10 or 11.  Instead letting them do other sports and activities like an emphasis on gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming, soccer and things like that to build physical skills before they begin to actually learn to wrestle.  Another thing that was brought up is that a lot of youth coaches aren't very creative and will see what's working in college and just replicate the same things and teach that, instead of trying to be more innovative.  Ray Brinzer talked about this being a problem before.  The Russians do or did a similar method of training their youth wrestlers and a lot of them didn't really start doing a lot of wrestling until that age.  So what do you guys think?  

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I will anecdote much: I look at what former DI wrestlers that I know do with their kids. Most get their kids into the sport at about 10 years old and then allow them to take it or leave it. Just a few examples:

I was in the same class as Bobby Stites' kid Ryan. I started wrestling at 7 (coincidentally, the exact same day as my neighbor Shane Roller who represents the Manville extreme of this debate) and Ryan wasn't in the room. In fact, he didn't show up til his dad did a clinic in the spring of 5th grade. I moved but I think Ryan had a pretty successful career in HS and was at least on the roster at OSU. 

App State NCAA qualifier and legendary VA HS coach Bill Cameron did the same with his kid Seth. I think Seth didn't start til 11 or 12. He ended up being a 3x qualifier. 

Gage Short, a freshman ACC champ, had a kid in my youth program. He showed up for a month of practices. Gage just sat on the wall. Kid didn't seem that interested. He retired pretty early.

More importantly, these kids seem to be well adjusted human beings. 

I would imagine that this approach is pretty typical of folks who know first hand about the grind that everyone keeps urging us to embrace.

Edited by jackwebster

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I think the Russian approach is best - basic athletic skills (i.e., soccer, thumbling, gymnastics, swimming), then start wrestling at ten. Some of our wrestler are a little burned out and some are too robotic from wrestling too much. 

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I think it’s entirely dependent on the coach. If you have a great coach with the right perspective on the sport I think you can start at virtually any age. Where I think the major problems lie in the US is in terms of competition. The competition where parents and coaches are screaming and only concerned with winning is where you lose kids to pressure and anxiety. 

One can start late especially if they’re athletic but they need to realize that there are a bunch of kids who have been doing it already for 5 years so they may take their lumps, but they can catch up with good coaching and some time.  

That all said I’d imagine if you asked the majority of NCAA all Americans when they started the average age would probably be 5-8. 

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1 hour ago, jackwebster said:

I will anecdote much: I look at what former DI wrestlers that I know do with their kids. Most get their kids into the sport at about 10 years old and then allow them to take it or leave it. Just a few examples:

I was in the same class as Bobby Stites' kid Ryan. I started wrestling at 7 (coincidentally, the exact same day as my neighbor Shane Roller who represents the Manville extreme of this debate) and Ryan wasn't in the room. In fact, he didn't show up til his dad did a clinic in the spring of 5th grade. I moved but I think Ryan had a pretty successful career in HS and was at least on the roster at OSU. 

App State NCAA qualifier and legendary VA HS coach Bill Cameron did the same with his kid Seth. I think Seth didn't start til 11 or 12. He ended up being a 3x qualifier. 

Gage Short, a freshman ACC champ, had a kid in my youth program. He showed up for a month of practices. Gage just sat on the wall. Kid didn't seem that interested. He retired pretty early.

More importantly, these kids seem to be well adjusted human beings. 

I would imagine that this approach is pretty typical of folks who know first hand about the grind that everyone keeps urging us to embrace.

 

53 minutes ago, AnklePicker said:

I think it’s entirely dependent on the coach. If you have a great coach with the right perspective on the sport I think you can start at virtually any age. Where I think the major problems lie in the US is in terms of competition. The competition where parents and coaches are screaming and only concerned with winning is where you lose kids to pressure and anxiety. 

One can start late especially if they’re athletic but they need to realize that there are a bunch of kids who have been doing it already for 5 years so they may take their lumps, but they can catch up with good coaching and some time.  

That all said I’d imagine if you asked the majority of NCAA all Americans when they started the average age would probably be 5-8. 

I know this isn’t really a recommendation but I agree with AnklePicker’s guess that many AA’s probably started early.  Why look at what D1 wrestlers do with their kids when you can look at the AA’s themselves?

I think the emphasis seems to be on how serious the kid/parent takes it at a young age.   I don’t think there would be ill effects to starting early as long as they’re moreso just doing it to have fun.  I guess the flip side is you might have a 6 or 7 year old that says they “dont like it” and stops, and maybe they would like it when they get older but never sign back up because of their 6 or 7 year old opinion.

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I think times have changed a bit.  Trying any sport at 10, you will be behind to start out with. For low or modified low contact sports the late start is probably best. For contact sports like wrestling, starting at 10 without some sort of athletic skill or strength is tough, but can be managed through local school clubs and saving elite clubs for later.  

The biggest challenge to starting wrestling at any age is not the athletes but the parents who think the kid is out there defending the family name.  I have one high school wrestler who is pretty good and looking back I would like to have some do-overs. I have another who is 5 and just getting started. I am not letting him do any tournaments and just doing practice and a few privates.  He wanted to do tournaments last year and I just didn’t think the emotional stress of winning and losing was something that a five year old needed.  

We trained with a Russian coach with my oldest and he always emphasized training over competition. 

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On 9/1/2019 at 11:19 AM, Scorenomore said:

I think times have changed a bit.  Trying any sport at 10, you will be behind to start out with. For low or modified low contact sports the late start is probably best. For contact sports like wrestling, starting at 10 without some sort of athletic skill or strength is tough, but can be managed through local school clubs and saving elite clubs for later.  

The biggest challenge to starting wrestling at any age is not the athletes but the parents who think the kid is out there defending the family name.  I have one high school wrestler who is pretty good and looking back I would like to have some do-overs. I have another who is 5 and just getting started. I am not letting him do any tournaments and just doing practice and a few privates.  He wanted to do tournaments last year and I just didn’t think the emotional stress of winning and losing was something that a five year old needed.  

We trained with a Russian coach with my oldest and he always emphasized training over competition. 

That's kind of the point.  You can learn to wrestle, the basics aren't some foreign abstract concept.  If you've spent a long time doing gymnastics and climbing and swimming and are a good athlete from that and assumed to be reasonably strong, your learning curve isn't going to be as steep.  Your physical skills will help you compensate for what you lack in technique.  Once somebody with that kind of physical strength and talent learns to wrestle though, they are going to improve a lot more.  Because they haven't had the same coaching for years and haven't been exposed to 100 different ways to do a single leg.  They'll know 2 or 3 ways and will make one of them work.  Their ceiling would be much higher because they haven't been wrestling since they could walk.  They are still learning and growing as a wrestler.  

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