Game Plans: Not just for Football

Coming down to the final stretch of the season I look to my athletes and wonder what can I do to best prepare them for success. I see way too many techniques that are still missing and there just isn’t enough time to cover it all. I started out this season hoping I could get these guys the right tools to do well in most matches. So I decided to go through positions and decide what was essential and what was secondary. Being able to keep the match in certain parameters means you need to cover less technique. For instance rather than spending time scoring from your underhook, and defending all that can happen from theirs, only defending when people try to get one is essential. This allows for a simple highly focused gameplan. Simple game plans do three major things: allow less possibility for error, constitute less factors meaning greater focus, fewer done well equates to confidence.

The main reason for having a game plan is to eliminate distractions, divert action away from undesirable positions. A game plan is a necessity for less experienced wrestlers. For instance last summer, having some newly turned freestyle wrestlers compete in Fargo at the Junior Freestyle National Tournament. Only having two and a half months, they couldn’t learn everything thing in freestyle. To be successful they did need to learn certain things though. First, they had to be able to defend on bottom and then know enough to not give up high volume techniques. Eliminating big moves and not having to worry about getting turned on bottom allows them to win lots of matches.

This is the same for the folk-style season now. Without the time to learn and perfect everything coaches have to pick and choose. I realize you don’t have to learn how to work in an underhook or overhook. If you can stop someone from getting to it or get out of it right away then the position is of very little value to an opponent. The same goes for many other things such as a 2 on 1 and so on. Defending everyway possible is not necessary. Worse, if you spend the time trying to learn everything you can do in every position because of scarcity of time it would only serve to confuse your wrestler. This would also do another thing, spread yourself thin and make you very ineffective.

Focusing on a few things means that your attention can remain undivided. Without worrying about what to do from an underhook, having only one defense gets you out and back to your original plan. If athletes were shown attacks from there, they may stay there and think about what they should do… Questioning and thinking on the mat is something as coaches you hope to avoid having your wrestler do. That’s the whole reason coaches are controlling outside factors and trying to relay what techniques could work. So they spend less time wondering what they should do. This goes for choosing top or bottom, calls the ref made, time on the clock, score, etc. The best coach keeps his wrestler worrying about what matters most… wrestling. Ease their mental workload and develop their game plan weeks before and go through making sure they understand each situation and can execute well.

This simple plan put together and tailored to fit each wrestler’s ability will do one last and final thing. Knowing what they are to do in most situations, which positions to avoid and which to fight for will develop their confidence. Confidence is the most dangerous thing for any wrestler to possess. You can see the wrestlers that look like nothing can go wrong for them and they wrestle that much better for it. They don’t seem to do anything extraordinary, but they look so crisp and clean and driven. It’s easy to see confidence in the eyes of a wrestler. They may not be the best wrestler technically or physically, but their belief is a great factor in having their hand raised at the end of the match.

Thinking during the match is something you don’t want your wrestlers to do. It creates hesitation and uncertainty. What this means though is things should be well thought out before one steps out on the mat. We need to take the time to develop a game plan for our wrestlers and figure out how to have them best execute. Refining should be done before big tournaments, new techniques should be strictly limited.

This is why periods of competition and growth need to be staggered. Growth requires time to gain confidence with the new technique and integrate it into one’s schema. This is why I think our competition season is outdated and needs to change, but that’s another topic in itself.

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