Gable: Learning a wrestling mentality should be part of kids/parents’ education

Updated: November 26, 2021

Editor’s Note: In addition to being a legendary wrestler and coach, Dan Gable is also the grandparent of 13 grandchildren … and has seen many good and bad examples of kids and parents getting into wrestling. Gable recently spoke to WIN editor Mike Finn about those experiences and offers advice, especially to newcomers.


WIN: You’ve been a grandparent for over 18 years and have had a chance to view parents, who have introduced the sport to their kids. What are your general thoughts?

GABLE: Except for the parents who are fanatics, some parents aren’t concerned about what their kids are doing outside of school. Their focus is on everyday life and sports are not a part of their kids’ education.

This column appeared in the latest issue of WIN Magazine. Click on the image or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to the magazine.

WIN: Are you saying that sports, like wrestling, should be part of the educational system, especially at a time when many kids have been forced to deal with the effect of the pandemic?

GABLE: Exactly. There is not a better sport that is more interested in health than the sport of wrestling. Just to compete in this sport requires extra health. You can’t just walk into a wrestling match and compete. Wrestling might be on a kid’s mind but might not be on their parents’ minds … or visa versa. There are a lot of unknown things now.

A sport like wrestling helps with a lot of disciplines in all of life, including how to be a good parent and how to teach them things at home. Wrestling should probably be the highest of extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, we’ve lost some participants over the past two years so coaches and wrestling personnel at the highest level must dig deeper and bring these kids back on board by selling our sport and its values.


WIN: What are the top values that kids will get out of wrestling that will help them return to some normalcy of life?

GABLE: First, it will teach them the ability to simply get out of bed and go about their daily habits in a positive manner and contribute to society. Because of that, everything you need to know about life and how to survive takes hard work, good nutrition and competitiveness. Any activity can help but wrestling does it at the highest level of all the sports.

Also, wrestling is a good team sport where teammates will be along the mat cheering for a kid, especially for a kid who rarely wins. When that happens, you will never have seen more jubilation in all your life. It’s teamwork and camaraderie. It’s family.

But no matter what kind of activity that takes place, you need a good leader. Right now, people are happy to have just somebody leading a group. We applaud those leaders, even if they have no idea what they are talking about.


WIN: What must happen to develop these young leaders?

GABLE: It must go back on mom and dad, who may need help from teachers and coaches or from organizations like the YMCA that played a big part of my life when I was young and just getting started in wrestling.

I like to think that my life is a great example for people, who have issues and want to move forward. Organizations like the “Y” made the proper movements within a group of people to give people opportunities to grow. Parents will see that there is help there, including for themselves … and that’s a key. Parents must be a little smarter. Are they going to just let their kids go to school seven hours a day plus an extracurricular activity? Parents need to look into this and find out what is successful.

Also, these moms and dads must put themselves into these environments. It’s not just about dropping a kid off at practice. They must get involved.


WIN: Do parents understand that?

GABLE: For the most part yes. Single parents could find this more difficult, but that’s when all parents should develop a wrestling mentality to give their kids a better chance of success.


WIN: In developing that wrestling mentality, should parents discover that drive within them to help try make their kids and themselves better?

GABLE: Trying to raise a family of several kids is even tougher, but the more notice that we can put out there to help these parents, the more awareness these parents will have. Even if someone can pick up this article and get value, that is good. It might make them start thinking and start becoming even better at what they do.


WIN: What is the most important thing that parents teach their kids, who are just starting to wrestle?

GABLE: Excitement and the thrill of feeling good. I recently watched a kids practice. Some kids were thrilled. Some were not. In fact, one kid was crying until his parents got done on the mat with them and started rolling around.

I thought they accomplished so much at that hour of practice because the parents were also learning something about the sport that will help them with their kids at home. That relationship when kids are at such a young age is so valuable. Of course, parents must know their roles and not get too involved with coaching at practice and start overruling the actual coach.

This is something that can become an extension of practice at home, where the parent can get on the floor and start rolling around with the kid.


WIN: How do you add a competitive spirit to a young kid?

GABLE: You’ve got to read a kid and see what makes him excited. For the child who is crying, try to find that thing that puts a smile on the kid’s face. Coaches may not know what that one thing is, but they are going to learn if they put some time in looking for it … simply by being with the child.