Friday September 22nd, 2023

September marks a funny time in the wrestling calendar as far competitions go. The majority of the National Tournaments and high school competitions are done for the year which include the Cadet and Junior Pan Ams as well as their respective World Championships. The Senior World Championships just wrapped up and the U23 World Championships are yet to be held. On top of this, the high school season doesn’t begin until November which leaves the majority of the clubs in a lull. So, with that being said, the new season hasn’t officially begun but it’s fast approaching.

The NAIG marked a busy, but productive summer for myself

Now every year, I always write a blog on the upcoming season and what we can expect for wrestling here in Quebec. Every year, there’s a certain level of optimism, tempered with some more pragmatic expectations. So for this year, what’s changed? Well for starters, the new season always brings about some sort of new challenges. This can be from the grassroots level, all the way up to the senior side. From the high school perspective, the GMAA/RSEQ looks to be bigger than it has been as potentially three new schools may join the league, bringing our total up to fourteen overall. This is great news but will also be a challenging as schools will look to navigate the league with our members spread out both on and off the island.

Coach Noel Tremblay brings Lower Canada College back into the GMAA/RSEQ after a thirty one year absence

It’s with this in mind as I look toward building on the momentum I started last year in my own program. Some of the things that are going through my head at the start of the season are how to make the team bigger, how to improve performance and finally, how many athletes can I get to move on to the high performance levels. As a high school coach, I don’t have the luxury of recruiting from other schools, whether they’re elementary or high school. That just doesn’t happen at this level. Athletes have to be developed from scratch, which has both its pros and cons.

At the school level, I had some great results for our first year

One of the main challenges in building athletes from scratch, especially at high school, is that many kids will pick other sports when they first come into the school. Often, this is due to their lack of familiarity or apprehension with the sport of wrestling as it’s not a widely practiced sport at the youth level. Recruiting from other teams in the school can also be difficult as some other coaches may see it as poaching their athletes. They may actively discourage the athletes from participating in wrestling in order to keep their teams intact. I personally don’t see that as an issue as it’s often been my experience that athletes that choose wrestling won’t often be involved in the other “bigger” sports, such as soccer, volleyball or basketball. Kids that often come to wrestling are either the ones that have some prior combat experience or are not even athletes to begin with. Once in a while, you might find that diamond in the rough who won’t play one of those major sports but excels at wrestling, but those athletes are few and far between.

At my old school, which was centered around soccer concentration, almost no soccer player ever wrestled

Some things that also have to be considered at this level is the athletes that have moved on. In high school, this may include athletes that have graduated or athletes that just don’t want to return for the following season. At the club level, you may see less of that from year to year as at that point, they’re more or less committed, but it’s not impossible either. One of the worst case scenario of athletes that have moved on is to have them poached by another club. Admittedly, this also doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s something that should be addressed at some level or another. After all, this is pretty much illegal at the University level, but only frowned upon at the club level. I’m of the opinion that you develop from within by creating your own feeder systems, thereby creating a sustainable flow of athletes. But that’s a discussion for another blog.

Some athletes graduate and never move on to the higher levels

So, with all that being said, here’s hoping to a productive season both for myself, the league and the province. As the sport continues to grow, so will our challenges. Positive growth is never easy and hopefully this year, we can continue the momentum that has been building up since we came back from shutdown. Good luck to all the clubs!