Weighing In

Okay, so this is going to be my very first blog and to tell the truth I’ve been procrastinating like I have done so often when writing. Whether it be e-mails or more often school papers I have had an aversion to writing. I believe it’s because I’m not so skilled and I always get criticized for not using paragraphs and gathering my thoughts fully. I apologize for my inability and hopefully after a while I will improve.

The spark that made me decide to start a blog is because I feel if I put my thoughts on paper I will be forced to think about them more precisely. I also think another benefit is that they will be criticized by a wide assortment of people, ones who may buy into what I have to say and those who think I’m outright unintelligible. I just may learn a thing or two… But one thing is for sure, I have been in the sport for about 20 years and I have been everywhere from the manic kid running around the side lines annoying people all the way to the top of the podium at the NCAA championships. I have some experience and I hope for my students that they can learn from it.

I plan on writing about subjects that are pertinent to me and in which I am currently working out in my head. I plan on it being a weekly thing that I post on Mondays.
Anyway, this one will be about weight cutting… To start, I have never really been a big fan of cutting weight. Neither as an athlete and even less so since I have begun coaching. I was a lucky one; I was fortunate not to have an external force driving me to make the lowest weight class I could when I was younger. During this time and since I’ve had time to think about why it has helped shape me into the wrestler I am today. I think about the benefits of not cutting weight as well as it’s hindrances but moreover the message that cutting weight versus not send our wrestlers.

So let’s think about it… Why do people cut weight and what does it teach them? It’s to be bigger and stronger than your opponent right? I guess when you take its surface value that isn’t such a bad idea is it? Let’s be stronger and bigger than our opponents. It actually sounds like a great idea, but when I think about it deeper it creates a cycle that you can’t possibly replicate throughout a career. If you have a weight class there is only a limited disparity. As you grow older the amount that you are stronger than other people diminishes because the late bloomers begin to mature. This decreases your advantage and thus to retain the advantage previously held, you need to cut more weight.

As time increases, advantage decreases. This means you need to cut more weight. Your advantage is limited and at some point will vanish almost completely. Even the 125 pounders in college are strong for their weight and even though they may weigh more or less they are similar in strength. This means when viewed from a long-term perspective this is a terrible idea. This usually starts when the kids are young and cut a pound or so. I agree it seems harmless and if kept in perspective is just that. But, those kids that get away with less than par technique the next year will cut more to maintain their edge. With a seasons effort keeping the weight off it seems their energy is put in the wrong place. Their technique doesn’t improve because they don’t put in the time or energy. They don’t have it; it is wasted on weight.

In the long run this leads to a dead end. This doesn’t even scratch the surface on what it does to the mental state of the person cutting weight and starving themselves. Take someone cutting weight and tell them it is going to be three months before they can eat healthy. Is it really a wonder we have some many young people not enjoying the sport like it should. Even worse is the negative connotation it adds to the sport and season. Think about it, you have someone starving to make weight 2 maybe 3 times a week at a weight that they cheated on the hydration test to get to. Now ponder why their technique declines as the season goes on. Their mental energy is spent on making weight.

This is not the right picture; this is not the sport that I love. Above all this is not the right message we want to send to our kids. Cutting weight is a shortcut and a short-term fix. Kids that are in season on a high school team or any other for that fact should concern themselves with becoming better wrestlers. This is not the biggest people at their weight classes’ competition. If they spent the energy on technique they would become better wrestlers throughout the season. If they were better wresters they would not have to cut as much weight. If they were more intelligent with their game plans, they would be able to weather the storm of bigger, stronger wrestlers that can handle the 2nd or 3rd period. My goal as a coach is to send the right message.

We are in it for the long haul. You need to be the best you can be when it counts. Getting to the highest level of competition is what we want for you. But not only that, but showing athletes the long-term picture will be with them for the rest of their life. Yes they could win today and beat lesser opponents with cutting a lot of weight, but do they want to beat the better opponents, do they want to be the best in the section, the state and on though out the nation and the world.

Being a coach now and having felt like I’ve fought a 6-month battle that isn’t over I understand the level of opposition that I am up against. It isn’t over and won’t be for a long time to come. I’m happy though and I think I’m making headway. It is the holiday season and my New York momma just had a first, it’s the night before a tournament and both her kids were eating cookies and having a good time. I think she is having a hard time with it, but I know both of her kids are going in the right direction. The kids save their energy to improve their skill and know-how now and I am trying to make sure it’s the same on the team. There are no sweats in practice and kids wrestle at weight that are comfortable. They may have to get an extra workout or two in, but they still eat. The earlier you start the easier it will be. But like all good things, it takes time. Getting better at technique, developing a mat sense, mat strategy, etc take a long time, but if you plan on wrestling at higher levels I urge you… don’t wait to start.

We need to send our kids the right message. They need to use their energy at becoming better and more skillful people. Shortcuts never pan out in the long run and if they aren’t happy with what they are doing, how hard and for how long are they really going to try? That is the ultimate goal of a coach is to have your athlete do well is the long run, not coach until they start losing and then find someone who can win at that level. Develop the wrester; technically and mentally show them a better way to lead their life as a wrestler and as a person…

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