Thursday, June 3, 2021

Leadership While Losing

By: Ryan Lancaster

"The leader is the mortar in the bricks of a group when the winds of losing, struggle, and failure howl.” - Seth Davis

“How you think when you lose will determines how long it will be until you win.”- GK Chesterton

“At such moments, the Warrior of the Light is not concerned with results. He examines his heart and asks: ‘Did I fight the good fight?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ he can rest. If the answer is ‘no,’ he picks up his sword and begins training all over again.” —Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light.

Everyone Wants to Win, But Not Everyone Can

There is little doubt that winning is a program element that will help attract fans to local dual meets and tournaments. However, the reality is that only one team can win the state title, 8 that can finish in the top 8, and 10 that can put themselves in the final team rankings. This means that there is a limit to the number of programs at each division that can rely on winning to build attendance. Even when winning occurs and is the sole emphasis, you limit the opportunity to attract casual fans such as high school students who are not familiar with wrestling. The bottom line is that there are no wrestling programs that would not benefit from investing in a more entertaining environment at local competitions. 

It hurts to lose. Athletes and coaches make considerable sacrifices to succeed in their sport. They expend a lot of effort in their preparation, from the start of the off-season right up until match time, so it’s easy for losing to feel like failing. And when losses start piling up, it’s easy to feel like the world is crashing down. As hard as it may be and as much as people will resist this, it’s vital to stay positive and stay the course to get out of the losing streak and ultimately get better from experience. Getting the athletes to understand and “trust the process” is crucial to their overall success and development. Losing streaks come in a couple of forms: several consecutive losses to several teams or the inability to beat one particular group over a long period.

Why is leading well while losing important? The core of leadership and your character is needed during losing periods. Is the team good? Stay clear of pitfalls as long as you can. Is the team average? Then you must be as competent as you can to improve. Is the team bad? Then you must demonstrate character, and stay committed to the process. As a coach, nothing is more demoralizing than a losing streak that won't break. While we do our absolute best to avoid losing streaks, performance slumps, or even the prospect of our team underachieving, it doesn't mean we can avoid the topic; it's too important.

Whichever type of losing streak you might have experienced, it can have a devastating effect on how you approach a match. If you are facing a team that has had your number over the past several years, you may approach the match with a great deal of trepidation instead of being excited for the challenge of ending the streak. When you buy into history repeating itself, you are conceded defeat even before the whistle blows. This mindset heaps pressure on you, and the accompanying anxiety becomes overwhelming.

Your overarching goal is to be the leader your people want around when it is all going wrong. When the team walks onto the mats for warm-up, do not throw a pity party and feed into the negativity. Often, the coach is the “energy-giver.” Embrace this role and give the team the boost they need. It’s time to move on and get ready for the next step. The past is the past. Learn from it, improve on it, and ultimately put it in the rearview mirror.


Self-Awareness

Often the worst part of being on a losing run is not pinpointing precisely what is going wrong. A tell-tale sign of a team that can't break a losing drought moves their focus away from the things they can control and onto things they can't, like officials' decisions, equipment malfunctioning, transport delays, and many more. Self-awareness is a vital component for long-term success in sport. It would be best to do a thorough assessment of each element of your program and what areas are falling short. What happens on match day is often not the cause of the losing streak. Often it is something that's happened in the preseason, it's grown, and now it costs you. You have to consistently assess what is and isn't working for the program. It would be best if you thought of high-performance not as an event that occurs but a process tinkered with until the right formula is found.

The weight room needs to be a haven for the athletes. It needs to be a place where they know they can get better and step away from the pressures of their matches for a little while, especially in-season. They say that doing a round of cardio is the best anti-depressant medicine, so why not make the weight room a place where your athletes can get better while enjoying themselves? The world will not end because you lost a dual.


Accountability

Are wrestlers on your team being held accountable for their actions? If your team is aware of the values and behaviors underpinning the program's collective goals but is falling short in some areas, then it's time to have some honest, one-on-one conversations with the athletes involved. It's also important to note here that this doesn't just go for technical areas of wrestling. Changing technique is the easy part of coaching compared to the challenges of understanding, motivating, and keeping your athletes on track.

It is important to stress to the individuals you suspect of falling short in their behavioral standards that every action they do forms a representation of the program's identity. Some teams don't see themselves as a championship team, even when they start the season well, because their identity is not that of a winning team; they find a way to create their losing streak because of this belief. Assuming you have set out from the start of the season the particular identity you want the team to embody, then it is imperative you consistently apply this. The advantage of focusing on the team identity is that even when you have one-on-one conversations with your wrestlers, it will lower the athlete's risk of being personally attacked.

The day after a tough loss is always going to be the hardest, especially when you have to turn around and wrestle again in twenty-four hours. The team is typically tired, upset, and lacking the motivation to do anything that requires effort. Coaches are working hard to learn from the mistakes from the night before and planning to get the team ready to play the next day.


The following is the “6 Don’t and Do’s of Struggling Successfully” by Chris Hobbs

Don’t Be Optimistic, Be Hopeful. An optimistic sometimes pouts unrealistic expectations and a timetable to success, when there is really no way to back those sentiments. Don’t worry, we have a great freshman class coming in so we will win a state title in four years” can actually end up being a toxic mindset, as many other factors do play into that. But a hopeful person rests on the system they have put into place and focuses on the intangible victories, like athletes getting better and enjoying the sport. 

Don’t Be the Weatherman; Be the Weather. This is just a fancy way of saying that the world and outside forces can change your situation. Don’t guess or predict the future, actively take part in changing the outcome.

Don’t Focus on Your Failures; Study the Failures of Successful Groups. It’s easy to get down on yourself as a leader if you do not meet expectations. But dwelling on this only makes it worse. Instead, focus positive energy into programs that have found ways to succeed and see if you can borrow some of the energy.

Don’t Doubt Because of Today; Believe Because of “Yet.” It’s very easy to lose focus while losing. You may not have won that dual against a top 8 team in the state, but remember that the future is not set, and all empires eventually crumble (including yours).

Don’t Be So Distracted By Problems That You Lose Focus On Purpose. Why are you a coach exactly? Just to win the state title? Break records? Or to build a love and passion for the sport that gave you so much?

Don’t Let Go of The Ropes; Hold On To Prove Your Purpose. Parents, assistant coaches, and even the wrestlers eventually will tell you that you need to make dynamic changes to the plan to win right now. But don’t forget the bigger picture of building  a culture that can consistently win. 


Other concepts to also remember during a losing streak:

Focus on Execution – Don’t worry about how the dual might end. Instead, focus on executing the wrestling strategy. Completing your plan will give you the greatest chance for victory.

Overcome Generalizations – You can’t buy into the idea that “we always lose to this team” or we are on a losing streak. This way of thinking can become overwhelming and toxic for a team.

Nameless or Numberless – Don’t label your opponents as a team that has your number. Treat them as another team that you’ll play to your strengths to win the game. Many wrestlers know the concept of ranking meaning nothing. And while I will admit that rankings are an educated opinion of an athlete or team and to a certain degree they do matter, the actuality is the ranking should have no bearing on the athlete out on the mat.

It must be noted that historically most great leaders proved their point during a period of losing: Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are all prime examples.

All coaches are hired. fired, or retired. Those are things you can't control so enjoy the process. You can always focus on the little or the pyrrhic victories that are out there. Breaking a losing streak is hard. Often it is the non-technical rather than the technical elements of your program holding your team back, and these can be difficult to navigate as a coach. But if you are coaching at the highest level, the reality is that it is non-technical and is what you will spend most of your time on. It is managing culture, leadership, interpersonal relationships, conflict, and communication.


Work Cited:

Cohn, Patrick. "How to Overcome a Losing Streak in Sports." Peak Performance Sports. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.peaksports.com/sports-psychology-blog/how-to-overcome-a-losing-streak-in-sports/.

Conley, Spencer. “BSN SPORTS - "Remember Why You Coach Series: Part 3 with Motivational Speaker Spencer Conley” BSN Sports. Zoom Meeting on  May 10, 2021.

Golden, Jeremy. "How to Deal with Adversity and Trust Your Process During a Difficult Season." Simplifaster. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://simplifaster.com/articles/coaching-solutions-losing-season/.

 Hanson, Bo. "How to Break a Losing Streak." Athlete Assessments. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.athleteassessments.com/how-to-break-a-losing-streak/.

Hobbs, Chris. “BSN SPORTS - "How to Lead Even While Losing with Coach Chris Hobbs” BSN Sports. Zoom Meeting on April 22, 2021.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

MWA - Letter to the Governor and Call to Action

Today, the Michigan Wrestling Association sent a letter to Governor Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Health, and other members of state leadership asking for interscholastic wrestling to be allowed to begin on February 1st in Michigan. If you support our message, we are asking for your help in advocating for all our student-athletes and coaches.
You can make a difference by doing the following:
  • Forward this message to the families of the student-athletes in your program and ask them to consider sharing it as well.
  • Contact Michigan state senators and representatives to support the push to provide our student-athletes and coaches with an opportunity to have a season this school year. Please share with them your thoughts and concerns while advocating for the young people in our state. Feel free to share our letter with them as well.

For the MDHHS, the contact email for Dr. Kalhdun is:

Link to contact Governor:

Michigan State Senators

Michigan House of Representatives

House Republicans - find your rep

Thank you, the wonderful sport of wrestling along with the opportunities that our student-athletes have in our state are not at all possible without you and the time and energy you put in.

MWA Executive Board and Regional Representatives 
RJ Boudro, MWA President                   Brad Anderson , West Region Representative
Ryan Gritter , Vice President                 Brian Martel , Central Region Representative
Tim Jones , Secretary                            Greg Mayer , East Region Representative
Doug Baird , Treasurer                           Bill Polk , Metro Region Representative
Chris Dunham , Membership Chair        Jaime Smith , North Region Representative
Casey Randolph , Member-at-Large      Matt Bishop , Tri-Cities Region Representative

 

Please "Like" Michigan Wrestling Association on Facebook and "Follow" us on Twitter.

 

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/MWAcoaches/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/mwacoaches


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Interview: Isaiah Thomas and the Coach T Podcast... Coaching, The Decision To Step Down, and the Pistons' Bad Boys



Michigan Wrestling Resource
recently caught up with Isaiah Thomas a former wrestler, coach, and official to discuss his new podcast, The Coach T Podcast, as well as his decision to step down from coaching, and lessons wrestling has imparted on him. Isaiah was an all-State and 2x letter winner at Muskegon Community College. He also was a Regional Coach of the Year at Bay City Western where he coached Two State Champs. His ability to step into different roles in our sport with the same passion and drive for success is a sign to me that the Coach T Podcast (and this interview) will be fire!

MWR: We have ten seconds, why should someone listen to your podcast? What’s in it for them? What kind of person would relate to your content?
Thomas: I believe with my experience I can give great insight to those interested in learning about Coaching from all three perspectives: Competitor, Coach and Official. The knowledge that they can gain from my experiences I believe would be very helpful. I’ve been very fortunate in my wrestling career to be involved with so many great wrestlers, coaches, and officials. I believe perspective is key to understand the sport and how to get the best out of your athletes, and understanding how officials make their calls. I believe any aspiring coach will relate very well to the content.

MWR: What is your goal or what do you hope to accomplish with this podcast?
Thomas: My goal is really to share my knowledge of the sport. When I step down from coaching I still felt like I had more to give. The podcast allows me to do that. There are many young coaches out there that are looking for guidance in their young careers. Hopefully I can be that guide for them.

MWR: You’ve been coaching wrestling for a while. Looking back over the years, what’s the most inspiring story or stories you’ve gotten to witness or be a part of?
Thomas:
There are way too many to list here. I would say one of the most inspiring stories that I was involved in was in 2014. Our state runner up at Bay City Western Chris Schoenherr broke his leg at football practice in late September. He worked his tail off to get back into the lineup late in the season. He along with his teammates helped us capture our first team regional title in 12 years. He went on to take fourth in the state. I will be highlighting this in one of my podcast talking about inspirational stories that I have either witnessed or have been a part of.

MWR:
You’ve recently stepped down from coaching. Do you mind explaining that thought processes you went through to make that decision? What went into it, who was involved, and how you feel about it.
Thomas: For me I enjoy coaching. I enjoy being with my athletes. The time that you spend with them you become their dad, uncle, mentor, Cetra. I felt that it was the right time to step away because my family was getting older. I need to spend more time with them and being the head coach was very time consuming. If you want to be a great coach you have to sacrifice many things. I don’t regret my decision. It was the right decision for me and my family at the time. I did seek the counsel of other coaches before making my decision. I think when you decide to step away from a roll like the head coach getting advice from other coaches is very helpful. It was definitely helpful for me.

MWR: One of the great things about our sport is how it brings people together. You can’t go through wrestling without meeting a ton of people and forming friendships. Besides me, who are the coolest people you’ve met and where did you meet them?
Thomas: I believe throughout my wrestling career I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people. To list them all will have me leave someone out. But one things I’ve always loved about wrestling is it is a family. I have so many wrestling friends that when we see each other at a tournament it’s like a family reunion we come up and give each other a hug. We ask each other how our immediate family is doing. We stay connected through all of it. They’ve all helped me in one way or another become the person that I’ve become today. I am not a finished product but I am thankful for many of the people that were helping me along the way.

MWR: In your first episode, you mentioned the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas, leader of the Bad Boys and 2x NBA Champs. Without giving away what you said in the podcast, what role or influence did Isiah Thomas have in your life?
Thomas: Isiah Thomas and the bad boys really influence more of my coaching career than my athletic career. I think I leaned into their mentality of going out there competing at a high-level and not being afraid of who you’re stepping up to compete with. During my competitive years guys like my brother Mario Long, Kevin Jackson, Joe Williams, David Morgan, and numerous others really influence me with their wrestling style and their hard work. They gave me something to strive for.

MWR: What does the sport of wrestling mean to you and your life?
Thomas: The biggest lesson it taught me was how to persevere through adversity. When my brother died it was a very dark time for me and my family. Wrestling was there. Whether that was going to practice, competing on Fridays, or coaching the youth kids on Saturdays, it was always there for me. Making the Cadet national team and being around great people and coaches was also very helpful for me. I feel like wrestling is a reflection of life. You get out of it what you put in it. You were going to get knocked down and lose. It is not how you lose but how you handle that loss that defines who you are. One of the best compliments I ever had from any person that watch me wrestle was they were happy to see that I handled my wins and losses with class and dignity. And that’s a microcosm of what life is. Lose, adapt, get better for success.

MWR: That's an amazing perspective. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thomas: Very thankful to my mentors over the past 20 years. Without them I wouldn’t of been as successful both on and off the mat. They are constant encouragement that kept me going and made it so I didn’t want to fail but ultimately be a successful as I could be.

MWR: Last questions, how often should we expect a new episode and what’s the best way to catch it?
Thomas: My goal is to release content at least once or twice a month. The goal is to cover things related to wrestling. My next episode which will come out in a month will talk about my paeans of youth wrestling and what you really need to make a youth program go well. I’m going to draw my experiences from when I coach youth wrestling at Everett, too when I coached at Mason for a couple years. Also I’ll be looking to interview people in the near future to talk about sports on general and their experiences.
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The Coach T Podcast can be heard at Anchor, Spotify, Google Podcast, and many others! 
"The Coach T Podcast where we talk Coaching, and how to be a successful student athlete. I will share stories of my time be around some of the best wrestlers in the state, and the country."

Isaiah Thomas is former Coach and Official for the Sport of Wrestling. Born in raised in Lansing, Michigan. All State in High School at Lansing Everett, Two Year Varsity Letterwinner at Muskegon Community College, Ten Years as an Official for Youth/Middle/School, Regional Head Coach of the Year Recipient in 2017 at Bay City Western, Coached Two State Champs, and 11 State Placers.

Looking for a competitive edge this season? Check these out:
Disclaimer: MWR receives NO compensation for promotion of the Coach T Podcast, Mills Wrestling, or Your Greatest Season. We do this because it aligns with our mission: to grow and support wrestling.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Michigan Wrestling Resource's Nutrition Guide for Wrestlers

It happens every year. It's usually drawn out, rarely changes, and makes most of us doze off. The mandatory nutrition meeting. Another year of packing an hour of cherry picked information into an informal meeting and calling it "nutrition education".  Don't get me wrong... I'm glad the MHSAA is trying. Nutrition is crucial to the sport of wrestling, but little Johnny Freshman is still going to go to stud Taylor Senior to ask how he should go about cutting weight... the same Taylor Senior who gassed in the blood round at Regionals. The same Taylor Senior who has likely ignored all the "advice" in the mandatory nutrition meeting for the fourth year in a row.

This issue has absolutely annoyed me for 16 years. Back to when I was a freshman in high school listening to the nutrition meeting and wondering how in the heck am I supposed to remember all this, let alone actually implement it. Cutting weight and doing nutrition the wrong way proved to be much easier than what the mandatory meeting suggested.

I finally decided to do something about it and created a practical guide to nutrition for wrestlers who want to set themselves a part and crush their opponents this season. And it's yours 100% free!

Introducing: 
Michigan Wrestling Resource's 
Nutrition Guide for Wrestlers

Monday, January 11, 2021

Power and Toughness: Dan Gable's Winning Formula for Wrestling

The follow article was printed in the Forest Hills Central Wrestling Clinic Program featuring Dan Gable in the fall of 1997. It has been edited for grammatical accuracy and syntax. 

POWER AND TOUGHNESS
DAN GABLE'S WINNING FORMULA FOR WRESTLING
by DAN GABLE, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER

Do you want to know the secret to be a winning Wrestler? There are two vital ingredients, and they're no secret. You've got to know what you're doing - know the techniques, the positions, the moves, know where you are every minute on the mat. And you've got to be in top physical condition to be able to make those right moves.

Anybody can say, "Okay, now I know what it takes to be a wrestler." But the boys who go to the top are the ones who realize it takes lots of extra effort, more than what the average athlete is willing to make. The Olympic quality wrestler is the one who works out every morning, who goes out and runs 2 to 2-1/2 miles before school. He is the one who sets up a program of weightlifting for himself and follows it, both off-season and on.

It's his attitude that sets him apart and helps him to the top. First, he gets satisfaction from knowing that he's out there doing his best. Of course, winning will give you more satisfaction than losing, but in sports, there is always a winner and always a loser. If you know you're doing the best you can, that's the most you can demand from yourself. The winning will take care of itself.
 
The winning wrestler shows he is willing to give extra effort by designing his everyday life around his wrestling goals. This is what I did. I had a job in the summer; it was a job that would help my wrestling, maybe a hard construction job to help my strength and conditioning. If you think you're going to be the best, you need complete, total dedication.

WORK HARD AT PRACTICE
You've got that complete sense of devotion to your sport; it will show up in your attitude toward practice. The most important thing is being on time to practice every day and working hard at that practice. And during the season, listen carefully to your coach. He will give you a good training program to follow.

Whether your coach gives you an outside conditioning program or making up your own, you must do more than what you do in actual practice time. When he leaves the room, every athlete at practice must wait 24 hours until he gets back. If he waits this long, he is going to be the same as every other kid. If you're one who wants to, you will be out there running in the morning and lifting weights.

When I see wrestlers walk onto the mat, I know who will win; the confident one. There is only one way to have a lot of confidence, and that's to have a very tough mind, and that's to be physically prepared and in superior condition.

LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
You can learn a lot from your own mistakes, in wrestling as in any sport. It's one of the best ways to learn. I've always seen so many guys in practice get flipped onto their backs in a "danger" position, and instead of fighting and learning how to get off their backs, they will stop and say, "Well, you got me, let's start over again." Then they get into a match and get flipped on their backs and don't know what to do. They aren't learning from their mistakes.

If a guy takes me in a certain move, I'll get back up and get into the same position he took me from because I want to learn how to counter that. So, he takes me down, and I get back up, get in the same position, and he takes me again. Maybe the fourth time he doesn't take me, I have learned a little bit. I learned how to counter him, and until I do that, I'm going to get in trouble. Everybody has the right to make a mistake. But if you go out and keep making the same mistake, you're not learning anything.

YOU NEED POWER
As a wrestler, you need the power to move your opponent around the mat. You've got to pull him out and control him, push him to one side or turn him around, or ride him. It's the position where you lock your hands around your opponent's back and make him go where you want.

To build this power, I recommend chin-ups, push-ups, and bent rowing with 40-pound dumbbells. Do three sets of chin-ups and push-ups until you can do no more. No limit. Try three sets in the morning and three sets at night to increase your strength. As for the rowing exercise, assume a slightly bent over position with your legs flexed at the knees and the weight held with arms straight in front. Rotate the barbell down and towards the chest, and then up and away from your body, flexing your arms at the elbows. Do three sets of maximum repetitions.