WREST teaches both confidentiality and confidence in communication

Updated: March 9, 2012

By Lis McGovern

As established in the previous two articles, WREST or Wrestling Reflection Education & Skills Training is a mat/life integration process.

Last article, I highlighted the importance of wrestling with self-awareness. Self-awareness, not self-consciousness, empowers wrestlers to take ownership, which then in turns equips wrestlers to initiate change and drive towards the outcomes they want within their lives, on and off the mat.

“The wrestlers on my team who were involved in WREST ended up becoming more coachable throughout the pre-season/season,” said University of Dubuque coach Jon McGovern.  “I noticed they were improving in open communication not only to me but with their teammates, which in terms made them not only better leaders for themselves but to their teammates. They held each other to higher standards in terms of accountability and thus lead to higher results for themselves personally on the mat and off the mat.”

These next few articles are devoted to the WREST process, the logistics if you will, of how this process actually helps advance wrestlers on and off the mat. This article will explore the first two steps of WREST:  Confidentiality and Story.

Step 1:  Confidentiality.

After giving the wrestlers an overview of the WREST process, they launch the process by creating their own “confidentiality agreement.”  Confidentiality agreements are important to WREST because they provide the group with a framework of trust.  To be clear, trust is not guaranteed and can only be fostered by the group as the group works together to establish it, strengthen it and create its boundaries.

Past agreements have included things like, “What is said here, stays here.”  “Be respectful of each other’s opinions.” “Take time to digest and process feedback.”  “We won’t make fun of you!”  “But have a sense of humor.”  “Respectfully push back if necessary.”  And my personal favorite, “If we’re here, we might as well participate.”

Each wrestler within the group then signs the confidentiality agreement and thus, by doing so, covenants with his group to enter into the unknown journey of self- and other- discovery and in so doing greatly increases team-bonding and team-building.

Step 2: Story.

“Please tell us about your life, up to this point.  Please include, for example, ‘significant and important persons and events, especially as they have impacted, or continue to impact your personal growth and development.  Describe your family, family relationships and important supportive relationships.’”

“Ummmm…” is a familiar start to one’s story, whether one’s told it a 100 times or for the first time.  For most wrestlers in WREST, this is quite often one of the first times they’ve ever been asked to talk about themselves for a half an hour.  If you think seven minutes feels long… the first few seconds probably feels like an eternity for most.

Yet, again and again, the half-hour mark comes and goes without anyone ever noticing because the wrestler has only just begun to open up.  For the National Association for the Advancement of Athletes, the motive behind the method of “telling our stories” in sports is an understanding that “Who we are” is as important as “who we want to be.”

Most wrestlers come into the college thinking, “I want to be a national champion,” but few wrestlers know that most of what they need to get there is already embedded deep within themselves, the drive, the hunger, the why, all ready for the unleashing – and the only one with the power to truly unleash it is the wrestler.  The coach will try to pull it out of him, but will only succeed when the wrestler is ready.

“WREST has brought me to finally unleash the smart, focused-on-winning beast within me,” freshman Marcus Ingalls said.

We’ve all heard it said, “He either has ‘it’ or he doesn’t.” If we were to describe “it,” we might say ‘it’ is that inner desire to unleash the power within, the will to overcome all obstacles no matter the cost.  WREST helps wrestlers to identify ‘it’ without pointing it out.  Instead, we provide the environment for wrestler to discover ‘it’ within others and within themselves.

“I thought it was helpful to hear others’ backgrounds and stories,” freshman Jared Smith said.  “Reasons are that everyone is different, and you come to understand how people are driven, to understand that no matter how different or challenging one’s life is, the only thing that truly matters is what we choose to make with our situations.  Do we choose to let them control [us]? Or do we control the situation? I want to control the situation.”

When wrestlers tell their story, they come to find things in common though their lives are so different.

“When I told my story it was very helpful for me personally because it helped even me see how far I have come and how much I had grown through my life experiences,” junior Derick Smith admitted.  “It also showed my group and me things I still needed to overcome. Telling my story and hearing my teammates’ stories brought me closer with them.  Having strong relationships with my teammates has helped me to understand where they come from and how we can help each other to be better men. This is by far the closest team I have been a part of, thanks to this process.”

Foundational to the WREST process is the belief that it is important that wrestlers, wrestling through life on and off the mat, have a place where they learn to be open to understanding their own and each other’s obstacles and struggles, a place where they learn to resist snap judgments, while holding each other accountable to a higher standard.

“When young men attend college their freshmen year, they are coming from a family, a community and a team and placed in new community, team and environment,” coach  McGovern said.  “[The WREST program] helped our wrestlers understand each other’s background, life story, goals and motives.  The wrestlers in the program held each other accountable to their goals and created a peer feedback group that helped the team set the standards.

“Every program has rules, but the best programs have standards lead by team members.  This program created leadership and accountability for our wrestlers as individuals and as team members. The young men that went through the pilot program asked the program no longer be optional, but mandatory for all incoming freshmen. The facts are that we had a high level of retention among our freshmen class this year and the WREST program played a big part of their development on and off the mat.”

For further information and testimonials on WREST visit www.wre-nwaa.org. A WREST booth will be available during the WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show at the NCAA Division I Championships, March 15-17. Feel free stop by and inquire how WREST can help your team improve their results on and off the mat.

This is the third in a six-part series on the WREST process. Look for future articles released through WIN’s weekly eNews and in the printed edition of WIN.

(Lis McGovern, M. Div., is the wife of 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 hosted the 2012 NWCA National Duals.)