Step one: Start playing basketball, soccer or any other sport but wrestling. No really. I'm not kidding. I have conducted many interviews with top Eastern European wrestlers who have told me that much of their training and conditioning came from playing games and participating in sports other than in wrestling.
Two Major Problems
Before we get started I want to address two major problems that I see all the time when it comes to training young athletes. First is the quick fix trainer, this is the trainer who is going to make your son or daughter a star in 6-8 weeks. The second is the result orientated parents, the parent that will pay/bribe or do anything to see their child on top.
1. "Quick Fix Trainer"
First is the "Quick Fix Trainer"; this is your local personal trainer who is going to take your child and turn them into a star in 6-8 weeks. Many will charge 50-100 dollars a week to teach your child about how to train with weights but will neglect to teach the important developmental skills that young athletes need.
A short time ago I did an interview with Brian Grasso, President of Developing Athletics Inc. (www.developingathletics.com), a company dedicated to the development of young athletes. He told me that he does not take on a client unless it is for a full year. This is the only way to properly train the basic fundamentals of young athletes.
2. "Result Orientated Parent"
- Second is the "result-orientated parent". This is the parent who puts out a prize for every medal or trophy their child wins. It's sad to say but I at one time was one of these parents. I use to tell my boys that if you won the state wrestling championships that I would give you $100. I didn't do it as a bribe but as a means of motivation.
It was something we started at the beginning of the year and my goal was to get them to push in their training. It wasn't until my youngest son took second in state that I knew it was wrong. See when the match was over he was more upset about not getting paid for winning than he was of wrestling hard and placing second. Since that moment I no longer give "Motivational" incentives.
Coaches and parents need to understand that your 8-year-old state champion may not even make the varsity wrestling team by the time he reaches high school due to the fact that he may either be burned-out by the sport or may have failed to learn the proper skills needed to be a complete athlete.
In his book Children & Sports Training, Jozef Drabik Ph.D. writes,
"Short-term, results-oriented thinking does not very often lead to long-term sports success. Worse, such thinking can lead to grave consequences for all children: injuries as a result of improper training that overloads young bodies and a cavalier acceptance of doping, to mention only two.
"Finally, Children may develop and indeed many have developed - a negative attitude toward sports and fitness in general, which can cause a lowering of overall fitness and health for whole populations."
After reading this and many articles about the Russians PASM program (Process of Attaining Sports Mastery) I started to re-think my approach to coaching and parenting.
What I found was not me trying to live my life through my children (many poor athletic parents who failed in sports try to gain success through their kids) but trying to give them the same thrill of victory that I felt as an athlete many times.
The problem: I teaching my kids that victory was the sweetest thing in sports and losing was just, well ... losing.
Non-American Approaches To Sports
The soviets believed that if children were encouraged to develop a variety of skills, they would possibly experience success in several sporting activities. Then as the developing young athlete displayed further interest, and demonstrated and displayed potential, they were nurtured along the path of athletics.
Many will not understand this due to the Tiger Woods syndrome that many parents suffer from. This is the idea that if I start my child specializing at a young age that they will one day make millions in "YOUR" chosen sport.
In Eastern European countries and now China, training starts for many kids as young as the age of 5. This is something that also happens here in the USA but the big difference is that here in the USA most athletes are playing "Their Sport" while overseas young athletes are learning about movement, balance, coordination and flexibility.
Under the Soviet's PASM the first phase of training is mainly GPP training or General Physical Preparation training. In Dr. Mel Siff's Book Supertraining he states that,
"GPP training is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness ...
"Characteristically, the GPP may include participation in a variety of different physical activities which provide low intensity, all-round conditioning, with little emphasis on specific sporting conditioning."
See the Soviets believed that unless an athlete's general fitness base is excellent, he or she will achieve little success in sports.
Think of the last time you worked with your child on things like balance and coordination. Many parents think that it's their child's fault that they are clumsy and uncoordinated but in all reality it's the lack of training by the parents that prevented the child from learning the skills needed to master total body control.
If you look at any pro sports roster, you will see a list of players who started in multiple sports. Examples are:
Football & Wrestling
- Lorenzo Neal, FB, Tennessee Titans - NCAA All-American
- Stephen Neal, OL, New England Patriots - NCAA Champ
- Tony Siragusa, DT, Baltimore Ravens - NJ State Champ
- Warren Sapp, DT Tampa Bay Buccaneers - FL State Champ
- Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens - 2x FL State Champ
- Kelly Gregg, NT, Baltimore Ravens, 3x KS State Champ
- William George, Chicago Bears - 2x PA State Champ
- Dave Winfield was drafted by Three pro teams
- Bo Jackson, Pro Football & Pro Baseball
- Charlie Ward, Football & Pro Basketball
- Tony Gonzales, Pro Football and Basketball
- Antonio Gates, Pro Football & Basketball
The following sport specialization chart (adapted from Tudor Bompa, PhD 1999) demonstrates ideal ages for formal sports participation.
The important thing to remember is that kids are kids and by just letting them play as any sports as possible they will develop into great athletes in their chosen sport. Don't push your child to play "YOUR" sports but let them choose for themselves based on their likes and dislikes.