What to Expect as a First Time Wrestling Parent
The reality is, especially for parents new to the sport, that wrestling is emotional. Wrestling is a series of highs and lows, and that can be in one match, let alone that first season. Everything is new—and that’s a challenge. New coaches, new practice schedules and routines, traveling, long weekend days at tournaments, learning the rules, understanding how scoring works, and trying to fit in and be a part of the team, is all challenging.
There is nothing like being a novice wrestling parent.
If you’re a parent new to the sport of wrestling, consider this advice for first-time wrestling parents from other wrestling parents and coaches:
Attend pre-season team meetings:
Introduce yourself to the coach and parents. Ask if there is a team handbook to help explain team rules and guidelines in greater detail. Be attentive and ask questions as they come up, in a group, or privately (one-on-one with a club leader, coach or parent).
Get to know the coaches and athletes:
Watching athletics is always more fun when you have a personal connection to someone that is participating. Learn their names and cheer them on. This will do two things—create team unity and make tournaments go much faster!
Get to know other parents/fans:
Parents and fans are truly passionate about the sport. Get to know those parents. The best way to learn something new is from someone that is passionate about the topic. Other, more knowledgeable parents can show you the ropes, explain rules, and answer questions that might not be addressed by the coaches at pre-season meetings.
Ask coaches and parents for assistance:
Do you have the right gear, or all the gear needed? Is there team apparel for sale? What should one expect that first practice, tournament, or match? How can a parent prepare in advance, and help the child prepare on and off the mat?
It’s about the kids:
It’s about the kids, not you. You will never wrestle another match, but they have years in front of them if it’s done right.
So, focus on learning what one can do as a parent to best support and encourage your child, regardless of knowledge of the sport. And remember, it’s about the kids.
START OUT SLOW:
The first priority is to ensure that your son or daughter likes the sport of wrestling. Make sure they listen and pay attention in practice. Ensure they are doing what the coaches ask, and discuss progress with the coach as needed. Sit down with the child and reiterate that wrestling is a tough sport, and nothing comes easy, and ask if they have any questions or need help with anything. Do this during an unemotional time, such as after a practice, but never after a loss, or series of losses (such as at a tournament).
You can’t make a kid love wrestling in a single practice, but you can sure make them hate it.
Take things slow, and ease into the sport. Get a feel for what it’s like to prepare, compete, and recover from events and tournaments, and don’t overdo it.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR CHILD TO OTHERS:
Wrestlers develop at different rates. Parents new to the sport should realize, some newbies may find immediate success.
DON’T BE THAT PARENT:
Focus on being a supportive parent, versus a demanding parent. It’s a long road and you don’t want to take everything too seriously in the beginning. Take it slow and enjoy the ride.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE:
Utilize the educational resources available through USA Wrestling. Watch videos on the USA Wrestling YouTube channel with your child/wrestler or husband/wife. Listen to wrestling podcasts and if one is really adventurous, read the most recent wrestling rules. Attend local high school or college matches, and follow those in your area, to help understand and grow knowledge and a love for the sport.
DON’T BASE SUCCESS ON WINS AND LOSSES:
Instead, focus on progress. There are countless stories of high school state champions, collegiate all-Americans, and national champions, who never won a match that first year. None. Zero. All losses.
A wrestler new to the sport might not win a match the first few times out, or even the first year. But if they progress and improve, that should be encouraging. Expect highs and lows.
If one isn’t experiencing success on a local level, don’t suddenly go to a large national tournament and expect results to change.
It can be overwhelming for parents new to the sport of wrestling. But be patient, open-minded, and understand there are going to be highs and lows and ups and downs along the way. Let it all happen naturally. When it does, that’s when being a wrestling parent suddenly becomes one of the greatest experiences of being involved in youth sports.
It is addicting.