I used to always wonder if there was something that parents of the “good wrestlers” were doing differently. Over time, I’ve observed that there are definitely common characteristics and actions of these parents. There are no guarantees, and plenty of wrestlers have found success despite not having parents with these traits, but it certainly can’t hurt to put your best effort forward.
Also, when I say “successful” I mean the wrestler makes continuous progress while enjoying the sport (and keeping their relationship with their parents in tact). Yes, they win and win at high levels. But it’s not about how quickly they find success, just that they do.
Below are the most common traits parents of successful wrestlers exhibit:
1. They actively find ways to help their wrestler improve – They consistently take them to practice, seek good coaches and training partners, and actively take them to tournaments and camps to get mat time. They are always finding new challenges to keep them forging ahead.
2. They teach them about drive, commitment and sacrifice by doing it themselves – Driven parents are willing to travel, they adjust their schedule to make practices, and they sacrifice their weekends to be on the mat. They also demonstrate these traits in their own work and personal life, thus leading by example.
3. They find a balance between positive and negative motivation – Each child is different as to what motivates them, but you can push them to be their best and be positive at the same time. Being positive doesn’t mean coddling or praising them for things you expect, but it DOES mean recognizing when you are proud of an accomplishment or their hard work. YES, there are some serious 8-year old studs whose parents constantly berate them, but that motivation is short-term. They win matches to avoid getting yelled at, not because they love the sport. The ones who have parents that find a balance between pushing them and building their confidence are the ones who find long-term success.
4. They hold them accountable – When wrestlers are younger you tell them what to do and teach them to work hard, but as they get older THEY need to own the training and they must find the motivation from within in order to achieve new levels. Successful wrestling parents help to keep them focused while also giving them space to fail and learn on their own.
5. They do not tolerate bad behavior – Nobody likes to lose, but if their wrestler throws a fit on the mat, it’s addressed right then or they take them home.
6. They help them bounce back and not quit because things are hard – Part of wrestling (and life) is learning how to fight through adversity. Successful wrestling parents don’t tolerate excuses like “I’m tired”, “my tummy hurts” and “I don’t feel like it”. Wrestling is a tough sport and kids need to learn how to do hard things…and they CAN do hard things.
7. They understand the role of parent vs. coach – They let the coach do the coaching and they focus on being the parent. They don’t criticize their wrestler in the car after practice and they don’t tell them things they need to be doing after a match. Instead they concentrate on addressing things like working hard, not giving up, and being a good competitor.
8. They know when to take breaks and back off – The best wrestling parents sense when it’s time to take some time off OR if they are pushing too hard. This could be a week, a month or even a full season. Whatever it takes to re-charge the batteries and come back with a passion for the sport.