Wednesday January 25th, 2023

As the New Year begins and my wrestling season has started in earnest I’ve had some time to reflect on how my season has progressed so far. There have been some highs and lows throughout my first real season at my new school which I guess is part and parcel for when you’re starting up a new program. However, in years past I don’t think I’ve encountered as many circumstances that have made it so difficult to get things up and running. It’s made me realize that maybe some schools are better for sports and that some aren’t and that recognizing this may be the key to moving forward.

To be clear, I’m not putting a Sport-Études or sports concentration school into this equation. Those schools are predisposed to encourage success in sports and Sport-Études at the high school level for wrestling doesn’t exist. I’ll be just talking about your basic schools that you would come across here in the province of Quebec, of which I had experiences coaching in both, the public and the private system.

Some public high schools have incredible weight rooms

(Photo property of the EMSB)

So, in order for a school to be better for sports than another, it should provide an opportunity in which every sport can create their own version of their ideal program, via their Mission Statement. It should also be noted that in all the schools that I’ve previously run a wrestling program in, there has never been the perfect circumstances to create my ideal high school program. The ability to create an ideal program would definitely put it into the category of a school that is “better” for sports. However, I should also be clear on what I consider to be my ideal program going forward as many people may have different opinions of what they would want from their program in question. My expectations are also tempered in reality as I would never expect anything to be beyond the realm of possibility in my current situation.

This reflection actually coincides with my ACD in which I was asked to put into words my personal Coaching Philosophy. In a previous blog, I had mentioned that some people had struggled with the concept whereas mine seem to just be there to put into words. I had stated that my personal Coaching Philosophy involved giving athletes the best possible chance to achieve success. It should also be noted, that success had to be personal, as many students have different athletic abilities and as a result, will achieve different things throughout their athletic careers. My job as a coach is to get the best out of them.

It’s always good to have a mixture of ages groups in a team

So what is my ideal program? To start off, I would think that my ideal program has a mix of younger athletes and more experienced ones in order to create a mentorship that I’ve been so familiar with during my athletic and coaching career. There would be a mix of skill levels as having them all be high performers might make it intimidating for newcomers to join. After all, my goal is to get kids to wrestle and you always want to be able to hook them. Making it accessible is just one way of doing that. There would also be a good amount of both boys and girls and I would basically have the unconditional support of the administration and the athletic department. Finally, I would have an area suitable for training, with a good sized mat surface and a small but adequate weight and conditioning room.

So this basically is a very roundabout way to lead me back to the title of this blog; Are some schools better for sports. Some schools that I’ve worked at have had some, but not all of the factors that I had spoken about. While my factors listed above may seem like a tall order (especially for an English public school in Quebec), I nevertheless would be able to perform wonders if I had all of these factors in my corner.

Some schools that I’ve have had the chance wrestle at, have had excellent facilities in which to train. In my first stint as a high school coach at my old high school, I had a dedicated wrestling room and a very good weight room to boot. Being a kid, you assume that this is the reality in all schools. It’s only now, do I realize just how privileged we actually were to have those facilities at our disposal. In some other programs that I’ve coached in, we’ve either had to train in the cafeteria, a general recreation room or the basement of a community center off campus. Having major obstacles in your training area will hinder the development of a program so clearly having the right facilities is key. More and more, having the right facilities is becoming rare as any area that may have been allocated to wrestling in the past, has been changed or converted to something else.

At my previous school, I practiced in the cafeteria 

However, not every cafeteria is the same

The next topic I would like to touch upon is having the support from the right people. This too, I’ve come to realize is not always the case as having unconditional support is always tricky because the people in areas of authority may have different priorities and agendas. Oftentimes, wrestling is not one that conforms with either of those and that may create a situation where it becomes almost adversarial as I push to start up or continue a program.

I personally don’t understand this resistance to wrestling because in the end, shouldn’t coaches in high school sports want to provide the best possible experience for their students and athletes? And isn’t it obvious that not all students are predisposed to play soccer, hockey or volleyball? Coaches in the youth sector should want to expose their athletes to as much as possible and then let the athletes decide. After all, for every kid that tries out and doesn’t make the aforementioned teams, they may be embittered to the whole process and may leave sport altogether. I can assure you that I’ll always have place on my mat for those athletes willing to learn.

So with all this said, there are definitely some schools that are better for sports than others. As I’ve mentioned before, that in all the schools that I’ve coached in, I’ve never had the right circumstances to create my ideal program. Unfortunately as time goes on, I can only foresee this getting harder.

With all this said, I think that I would like to conclude with the fact that no matter what the obstacles, I’ll continue to push my program forward. I’m both a fan of the sport and a huge proponent in allowing students to have as many experiences as possible. Wrestling gives that opportunity as many students have never had the chance to experience it before. To give up would be out of character and I wouldn’t be a wrestler if I gave up when things got tough. A wrestlers, we embrace the grind, no matter what and even if my situation isn’t ideal, I’ll keep pushing on. Who knows, with perseverance, my current school may become one that is better for sports.