Wrestling practice should last longer than the time in the room

Updated: December 14, 2011

            Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of six articles on “WREST: a Mat / Life Integration System: how the process of integration will give you the mental edge in wrestling. You can receive future articles from Lis McGovern by signing up for WIN’s FREE weekly eNewsletter at WIN-magazine.com.

By Lis McGovern

By now, you’ve probably heard … and may have even used … the expression, “Wrestling is 80 percent mental.”  That begs the question:  How much time do you actually spend on the mental aspect of your sport?

If you’re like most wrestlers and coaches, the vast majority of your coaching and/or training — at least 80 percent — is spent working on the physical aspects of wrestling, leaving only 20% for mental training.

Before we look at just how the W.R.E.S.T. (Wrestling Reflection Education Skills Training) process trains wrestlers to spend at least 80 percent of their day on the mental aspect of wrestling with 20 percent on their physical training, let’s first examine how many wrestling programs train the mental aspect, if at all.

For a few programs, mental training happens reactively during coaches’ “pep talks” or “frustrated-as-heck talks” on topics (or rants) such as what it means to be mentally tough — to take it to the next level — on how to “not let the distractions of your day take away from one’s focus on the mat!” And what it means to “pressure and break your opponent!” to name only a few.

Better programs will spend time proactively on the wrestler’s “goals” and “affirmations,” as well as “pre-match mental strategies” geared to arouse the wrestler’s lust for gold by teaching on such topics as: “Positive Self-Talk”, “Visualization” and “Pre-match Routines,” to name only a few.

Finally, where would wrestlers be without their coaches in their corners slapping them on their headgears, given them that fierce warrior-focus stare that says, “Get it done! We got your back!”?

Yes, all of these tried-and-true mental training techniques are as necessary, as they are classic, to the sport of wrestling!

But they still only amount to 20 percent of wrestlers’ training, begging this next question:

How can we move this percentage up to 80 percent without losing a second of physical training?

“Get some W.R.E.S.T.!”

W.R.E.S.T. is a mat / life integration system that empowers wrestlers mentally.  W.R.E.S.T. is an adaptation of a learning/integration process called, “the clinical method” in which, for wrestling “the match” becomes the wrestler’s microcosm.

Wrestlers reflect on their mental matches, together with their teammates, to identify inner-match patterns that correlate with their behaviors, attitudes and personal patterns off the mat.  Once correlations are made, remedies are established.

Wrestlers will set out to maximize their everyday mental challenges knowing that when they conquer their personal obstacles, off the mat, they establish stable pathways for success, giving them the mental edge on and off the mat.

Next Article: “WRESTling with Self Awareness!”

(Lis McGovern, M. Div., trained using “the clinic method” for two years during her resident chaplaincy work.  Lis is the wife of University of Dubuque head wrestling coach Jon McGovern and serves as executive director of the National Wrestling Advancement Association, a new non-profit whose mission is to advance wrestlers on and off the mat.

(The NWAA is also the host of the National Duals for non-Division I teams.)