USA Wrestling ICYMI: Coaches Corne...

ICYMI: Coaches Corner - Seven Points of Coaching Behavior by Robbert Wijtman

By Robbert Wijtman | June 26, 2020, 10:06 a.m. (ET)

Robbert Wijtman is also a world class photographer. Here is an image that Wijtman says "is the best part of coaching and that would be hearing 'Thanks Coach!'" This Wijtman photo, of World champion Adeline Gray hugging her coach Terry Steiner, was an international photography award finalist with AIPS this past year.

Realize that you are not just a teacher of technique, but rather a builder of young men and women. The values, good or bad, they take out of your organization may stay with them the rest of their lives and may be the most important thing they get out of your club.

1) It’s not about you.

It’s about the athletes on your team. They are the reason you are there. They are the ones that are winning, or are not. They are the ones that practice their skills, sweat, and give up bruises. To this end, keep your ego in check. Truly work on not coaching with an inflated ego.

Show respect to the other coaches, refs, and athletes; they have earned it as much as you have. Be the example to your athletes and make sure they mirror your respectful behavior.

Work to earn your athlete's respect. A kind, firm, consistent, knowledgeable and humble boss will earn the respect of those tasked under him.

2) Learn how to teach and model.

A coach is a teacher of athletes. Learn how to model the techniques you are trying to teach.

Understand the learning styles and patterns of your athletes. Most athletes are hands on learners. Some are visual learners and will need to see the move repeatedly in order to understand it. A few will need to read about it and discuss it, at length.

Teach to your kid's level. Focus on perfecting fundamentals. In time the advance moves will come and there will be a solid foundation to build on.

Don't spend long periods of time on a single item. You will start to lose their attention after one minute of speaking. Most will only retain a small part of it. Break down periods of physical activity into 5-minute to 15-minute blocks.

Communicate with your athlete how you wish to be communicated with, and they will mirror that, as well. If your athlete is in need of instruction, Calmly, Loudly and Directly give them the instructions in a clear way.

Continuous and unmeaning praise is worse than no praise. Appropriate, intermittent, sincere praise is powerful as a motivational tool.

Know the difference between a mistake and a flaw. Remember, practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Skills such as positive self-speak and relaxation make more of a difference in an athletes performance than another hour of hard drilling. Work their heads; the rest will follow.

3) Become a student of the sport.

Become an expert at your sport. Understand the history and why current rules are as they are. Read the rule book. Understand it as well or better than the refs. Sit in on a referee meeting if they will let you. Be quiet, ask questions afterwords and don't bring old history to “discuss.”

Have a sport-specific note book. Keep it with you and jot down all ideas. Bad ideas become good ideas sometimes with more thought. Plan your work outs, write them down.

Learn how to use and take statistical analyzes of your activity.

Attend conferences, take coaching classes and join coaching associations. Some offer continuing education credits and others offer coaching certification. At times, these certifications are required for mat side coaching or getting insurance for your club.

Video can be valuable to slow down the motion of athletes performing skills and analyzing that motion to perfect that skill. Others use video to scout opponents. Use it if it helps you.

4) Make it fun or get somebody on board who can

The three reasons why an athletes will come to your club are: 1) family history, 2) friend, 3) has an inborn need. The last one is a gift. In order to retain the first two, they may need to fall in love with the sport. Remember why you started wrestling, and why it was fun.

Games with made-up rules are always the best, as are spontaneous team games.

Always maintain a fun and safe environment. Encourage a “team feeling” and discourage bullying and the formation of cliques.

Have rewards. Give them the chance to show you what a stud they are and they will.

5) Become a manager

Be a facilitator. Build coalitions and lasting position. Develop trust in and for your team and program. Work with encouragement and understanding. Be a kind boss.

Learn how to effectively motivate your team members through appropriate praise, encouragement, and constructive criticism. Learn how to delegate and ask for help. If you are blessed with other coaches and helpful parents, have or make a role for them.

Manage the time you are allowed to use your room or space. Well-managed time use will lead to more productive practices.

Have a club mission statement and revise it as needed. Have written obtainable and realistic goals. Encourage your team, including coaches and staff, to do the same. Have long, medium, and short term goals for your team and for your personal growth.

6) Have integrity

Integrity is inner strength. As a manager, teacher, or leader of young citizens, integrity should be central to your core foundation and mission statement.

Integrity requires us to realize there are other people that might be affected by our choices, and we care how they may be affected. Our choices should fall within the ethics of our society. Hold yourself to your own highest standards.

Know the difference between ethics and morality, and don't confuse the two. In dealing with your club, behave ethically and don't judge others with your own morality.

7) Step back

As a coach, you fill many roles for your athletes. This must be appropriate and limited. This is necessary to protect yourself.

Accept the fact there are many things that will happen to your wrestlers that are out of your control. The best you can do is to give them the tools to deal with issues that may affect them in negative ways.

Take care of your own emotional needs. By not micromanaging the needier kids, you will be a better coach to a greater number.

In conclusion, these seven points are a guide a coach should consider integrating into their program . It is up to you to determine how to use them. Years ago, Sergei Beloglazov had a short stint at USA Wrestling as a coach. Through an interpreter he told me “There is only one John Smith, but everybody wants to wrestle like John Smith. Wrestle like yourself.” I believe this holds true for coaching, and for life in general. Take these points and integrate them and “absorb what is useful.”

I hope you grow as a coach and as a person. In the end, stay humble, but thirsty.

Robbert Wijtman is a NCEP Silver Certified Coach, which he earned in 2004, and is working on his NCEP Gold Certification. He is a graduate of the Wrestling Leadership Academy held in Lock Haven, Pa.

Editor's Note: This Coaches Corner was featured in the May 2020 USA Wrestler bonus digital edition, a 60-page publication with expanded content.

Click for USA Wrestler May 2020 bonus digital edition