Monday, January 01, 2007

Practice attendance and absenteeism

One of the banes of wrestling coaches, and likely all coaches as well: practice attendance. Attempting to have all wrestlers participate in practice seems to be an increasingly difficult endeavor. Today's students and athletes have seemingly so many interests and activities -- jobs, perhaps increased homework loads -- that it can be difficult to get the lesser-motivated wrestlers to practice and prepare on a regular basis. Wrestling's status, however legitimate, as a second-tier sport in terms of desirability or popularity, behind basketball, football, and baseball, may also be a factor in keeping it from flourishing. And wrestling's reputation of a long season filled with interminable Saturday events, and as a grinding sport to practice and endure don't help either. Imaginitive solutions for getting kids to practice would likely cause more rigid, traditionalist wrestling coaches to shiver in their polyester shorts.

Certainly creative, energetic coaches can find means for motivating wrestlers and gaining better practice attendance. One method advocated for different reasons -- attempting to keep athletes fresher -- would be to differentiate the practice routines, changing the order and intensity of the activities, as seen in much of the coaching literature. Differentiation keeps wrestlers and coaches alike from becoming, obviously, too accustomed to a routine, and the variety staves off the monotony that may prove to be a deterrant to motivating wrestlers. Another way to better appeal to young athletes would be to employ games theories to the practice curriculum, as outlined in USA Wrestling's Copper Certification Course from the American Sport Education Program. Games that have wrestling skills as an objective and are competitive have proven to be very popular with all the athletes I have coached, regardless of age level. Foremost for wrestling coaches, though, should be the aim of creating an atmosphere that is both instructive and positive, where the rewards are intrinsic rather than extrinsic, where we are not forced to hand out trophies for the simple act of completing a practice.