Thursday November 23rd 2017

As the first couple of tournaments began this year, I eagerly awaited the beginning of the high school season’s tournaments to start up.  Don’t get me wrong, coaching and watching our club an univeristy athletes compete is always fun but there’s something special about the beginning of the high school season.  I think it’s the fact that as a coach you can have more of an effect on these young athletes is what makes it so exciting.

Some athletes don’t even have singlets or shoes at the beginning

I’ve been at my current school as a teacher now for nine years.  That’s just the right amount of time to have gained tenure, to lay down my roots and establish a school wrestling culture.  Everyone know’s that “Mr. Chen is the wrestling guy” and that suits me just fine.  During my time at Vincent Massey Collegiate, I’ve seen my team go through some highs and lows, very similar to what many coaches probably experience when coaching this age group.  Kids come and go as commitment becomes harder as they get older, parents seem to worry more and funding always seems to be an issue.  Nevertheless, the team pushes on.

Throughout my years, I’ve seen many wrestlers come through my system.  Some have competed and gone on to club and univeristy wrestling while others have stopped at high school.  And that’s fine as you need all types of athletes to make up your team and not all of them will pan out.  The point that I’m trying to get at is that the beginning of every high school season is different as you never know what you’re going to get.  Some athletes leave after a season and some stay.  Some athletes that have left showed so much promise while the ones that stayed maybe less so.  It’s a really a mixed bag when you think about it and that’s what also makes it kind of exciting.

There are many different skill levels in the high school league

Bishop Ryan held their Early Bird tournament which seems kick start the Ontario high school season.   Many Quebec wrestlers successfully competed at the event, thereby beginning their season.  For the rest of the high schools, the GMAA season and the Quebec Open tournament marks the beginning of wrestling for high schools here in the province which basically starts this week.

With the season starting, another issue that can come up is recruiting as teams look to attract the best ahtletes from the crop of newcomers.  In some schools, this can be hard as some of the best athletes are already in other sports at the club level.  Wrestling seems to have a harder time to attracting these athletes and sometimes we end up with the athletes that no one wants.  In the worse case scenario, some teams may get students who were never athletes before and the challenge comes in trying to make them into wrestlers.  Recruiting the best athletes is another challenge of the the beginning of the high school season as teams have to replenish their ranks and replace the athletes that graduated with similar or better ones.  Every new season has this challenge and this is probably the hardest part.

Some kids pan out and some don’t

As I look upon my team of young and eager athletes coming to practice three times a week, I feel that sense of wonder that can only be associated with the challenge of a new season.  What athletes will come along?  Will any of them be sucessful?  Will any of them continue on to club wrestling?  Is my next national champion amongst these newcomers?  We shall see.

For many coaches, they probably go through the same range of emotions.  They also face the same challenges, hopes and expectations.  Things that we can hope for is that the upcoming year is a good one.  Hopefully there will be little problems.  Hopefully the league will be more competitve and continue to grow.  I guess the point that I’m trying to get at is that though there are many issues that come with a new high school season, as coaches we thrive on that as each problem can be seen as an opportunity and as wrestlers, we enjoy the challenge.