So many parents, coaches, and athletes think that youth success is transferable to success at any level beyond that. They are wrong.
I wrestled at the Division I level and went through the recruiting process. I received letters and pamphlets from schools at all levels across the country. I filled out personal information, academic information, hobbies, outside interests....one thing I was never asked was how many matches did you win when you were 8 years old.
When you are in the moment,nothing seems more important then what place your child takes at a tough tournament or what the score is against a ranked opponent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As a coach for the past 20 years I have seen both sides of the coin. I have seen youth champions that never amounted to anything at the high school or college level. I have also seen NCAA champions that were below average youth wrestlers.
There are so many variables that contribute to success or failure at the highest level...none of which are youth success. What is transferable across age groups are things like work ethic, dedication, commitment, and willingness to learn. These are the fundamentals of greatness not your win/loss record in third grade.
As a coach I worry about progress, effort, and the enjoyment of the sport much more then the match result. If we don’t keep kids on the mat at the youth level how can we ever develop a strong presence at the NCAA or world level. The less participants our sport has the less likely it is that the next Gable or Sanderson is waiting to be discovered.
As adults we need to teach our kids that winning doesn’t define who they are or the things they can do. Hard work beats talent every time. At the youth level some kids become bigger, faster, and stronger, more quickly then others. But work ethic is the great equalizer.
So don’t push your wrestler to be great now. Tomorrow is another opportunity to improve and yesterday is just a memory. Past results don’t guarantee future success or failure. Give your athlete the tools to get better everyday and the results will come.
1997 Michigan HS State Champion
University of Michigan wrestler
20 years as youth coach (Anchor Bay, Dakota, Romeo)
Coached over a dozen HS state champions and 50 All-State wrestlers
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