1. Give up 1 but not 2
2. We need bonus points
3. A wins a win
4. All that matters is March
5. I cant accept losing
6. You should/shouldn’t beat this guy
7. Circle/Hang On/Drop to an Ankle (obvious hint to stall)
8. Don’t get pinned/stay off your back
9. This is what you worked for all year
10. This is a big match for us

Explanations Below:

1. Coaches who say give up 1 but not 2 get wrestlers overthinking top. When wrestlers overthink they get nervous and they do impatient things, instead of doing the very things that got them the lead in the first place (presumably a coach is saying this to a wrestler with a slight lead). Also, another name for top is offense. a wrestlers job is to be aggressive. In practice this may be acceptable to say to younger wrestlers so they begin to understand the sport.

2 & 8 can be grouped in together. Many wrestlers I speak to say when coaches place an expectation on them of how many points they need to score or what they “should” do adds A LOT of nervousness to them and they often wrestle worse. Wrestlers should be focused on scoring as many points as possible and look for the pin if its there. Stay off your back conveys a huge lack of confidence in your wrestler comparatively to the present opponent. Unless you’re coaching very inexperienced wrestlers, this is obvious. Does not have to be revisited right before a match.

3. “A win’s a win” conveys to your wrestler that your primary concern is the outcome. Even if this is so, you don’t want to stress this to your athlete because they will feel greater pressure not to let you down. You want your wrestlers wrestling free of expectations so they can let loose and open up- just like practice (where many wrestlers are at their best). Also, if a win is a win, by definition that means a loss is a loss. So what if you lose? You’re setting the athlete up to think in dichotomous extreme terms about winning and losing. The more effective thing to focus on is learning a lesson whether they win or loss.

4. Why do many wrestlers “choke” at the end of the season? Often because they believe “its all about March.” Coaches say this phrase with nothing but the best intentions. We want our wrestlers to keep their eye on the prize. We want to be process oriented instead of outcome oriented. The only time we want to be outcome oriented is when were doing goal setting, if an athlete is feeling lazy or feels like quitting. Then we revisit what they are ultimately trying to accomplish. This phrase may be appropriate sometimes, but use with caution. You need to be careful of the subtle messages you send your wrestlers. You don’t want your wrestlers like a deer in the headlights when March comes. Treat all live wrestling as live wrestling no matter what time of year it is.

5. Accepting losing and mistakes as part of the process is necessary to be successful in any field. We strive to eliminate error and imperfections but we definitely don’t let fear of mistakes dictate our actions. Its much more important to open up, let loose, and be aggressive. Be sure to reinforce that attitude most of all in your wrestlers.

6. Most wrestlers I speak to say that when a coach repeats their expectations (should/shouldnts) before a match they become focused on not letting the coach down. In practice, wrestlers do not worry about letting their coach down, and not surprisingly, they wrestle at their best. This is a hard thing to do, but great coach knows what to say and when to say it as well as what not to say and when not to say it. These seemingly simple things we say to wrestlers can add a ton of pressure. Just as you want your athlete to “trust their training,” coaches must also remember to trust in their own training of their athletes. This means on match day- sometimes less is more. its one of the hardest things for any wresting minded person to do- let go a little and allow things to happen instead of waste time, energy, and efficiency in trying to control every little thing. Bottom line: don’t should on other people. No one likes that. Pick less extreme words like want to and choose to.

7. Obvious hints to stall at the end of the match shift a wrestlers focus from offense to fear of getting scored on. I go to many college matches and have seen many wrestlers, even at this level, lose matches because they shifted their focus at the end of the match. These are high level wrestlers that lose matches they are winning because they change their style in the last 30 seconds. Keep wrestling until the last whistle- and wrestle your way- aggressively.

9 goes with #4. you don’t want a wrestler putting tremendous pressure on themselves at the end of the year. if you don’t remind a wrestler every day in practice that “this live go is what you worked for all year” then don’t change it in a match. You see this in movies all the time- pep talk, cheering fans, inspiring music, big win, fades to black and white. In real life, pep talks often add too much pressure. Let them do what they do every day in practice. Listen to champions interviews- they talk about being themselves and doing what they do every day.

10. There’s no big or small match. You want your wrestlers treating each match the same or they will add a lot of pressure and they’ll usually wrestle worse.

In conclusion, it will probably difficult to eliminate all these phrases from your coaching vocabulary. The important thing is to be aware that subtle things you ay have a big affect on your wrestlers (I know, I talk to them). Just be aware of the messages and subtle messages you are saying and be sure to drive home the main points in practice. Match day should just be an extension of the same attitude you have everyday in practice.

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