We always assume that things will stay the same throughout our lives. Human beings are creatures of habit and when our routine is disrupted, we tend to get discombobulated. Wrestlers are also creatures of habit. We spend hours and hours repeating technique and drills. We train for weeks on end, practicing situations in the hopes that one day we will master it and be able to move on to more advanced drills. As coaches, we can often fall back to traditions, especially if its yielded success in the past. However, what we also must come to realize is the the more we stay in the game, the more change will come and the prospect of this isn’t always pleasant.
Change can take on many forms. In the past years, we have seen that attitudes towards sports have changed, with people’s focus seemingly becoming more recreational as sports seem to take on a lesser role in our society. I believe that other than the sports that have a huge following or sports that may one day lead to some type of professional contract, parents seem to be pushing their kids more and more to abandon different sports as they don’t see value in continuing on if there’s no “payoff” in the end. We’ve also seen the emergence of new sports that may not have as high a learning curve but will have more participation and widespread appeal (games such as spike ball and pickle ball spring to mind).
We’ve also seen a change in the attitude of parents as the emergence of the “Helicopter Parent” is becoming the norm rather than the exception. This has manifested itself in parents interfering with coaches, harassing referees and trying to create an almost unrealistic environment in which their kids won’t experience any risk or adversity. They create an environment in which they enable their child to have the maximum success with the least amount of challenge. This type of enabling is not only damaging to young athletes going forward but simply unrealistic.
I saw the beginnings of this type of interference of parents trying to have absolute control over their environment from an article I read ten years years ago. I remember reading in disbelief when the article stated how some elementary schools had started to ban balls during recess for the concern of concussions as well as other safety concerns. I remember thinking that by eliminating free play, kids will turn to other things that may not be as healthy. With the rise of digital devices, we start to see that maybe this probably wasn’t for the best.
So how does this all apply to wrestling? Well, I’ve been around for quite a while, both as an athlete and as a coach. I’ll be one of the first people to admit that I may be a little stuck in tradition and that change may not come as easily for me. However, some of the changes that I’ve noticed haven’t been for the betterment of some sports. While increased choice for activities is a good thing, some sports have felt this more profoundly as parents would rather their kids do something else other than wrestling.
Reasons for not wanting their kids to wrestle range from the danger factor to it’s just not glamorous enough. While combat sports may never have been as glamorous to some people, Brazilian Jujitsu has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years as parents see this as an acceptable form of combat sports and parents look more to that venue than wrestling. In short, change is affecting us and we need to evolve and adapt as we move on.
Lastly, looking at change in our sport, I think from a developmental level, we need to get more schools involved. The GMAA/RSEQ