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Stevens: How parents should introduce kids to wrestling
Photo credit: National Wrestling Hall of Fame
By Sandy Stevens
So, your kid decides to wrestle. Wrestle?! Isn’t that where you’re wrapped up like a pretzel, grimacing in pain? What’s a parent to do?
Recently, I asked online the following question: “What is the No. 1 bit of advice you would give to parents with a son or daughter wrestling for the first time?”
Listen to the advice — ranging from the practical and philosophical to the humorous (but sensible) — of some of the coaches, parents, officials, wrestlers and fans who responded to my request. Many targeted the appropriate role for a parent.
Andre Morgan: “Learn the sport so you can help your child love the sport.”
Jason Bowman: “Now is the time to support. The time will come to push.”
Jeff McGinness: “Let the coaches do their job and stick to being their parent.”
Amy Pantaleo: “Keep it fun! Keep it balanced! Let their coaches coach. As the parent, instill sportsmanship, accountability and help them by demonstrating the same.”
Jeff Rockhold: “Remember it’s the kid wrestling and not you, and you probably weren’t as good as you thought.”
Steve Woltmann: “Kids compete, coaches coach, parents cheer and referees are human.”
Cyler Sanderson: “It’s just a game.”
Shannon J. Gillespie: “Sit quietly.”
Eric Albright: “Be your child’s biggest fan!”
Marvin Winston: “Regardless of the age or their skill level, be there for them. Encourage them. Help them set goals and identify steps to accomplish them. Learn to be a good listener.”
Daniel Wernikoff: “Get involved; don’t just be a spectator. You and your child will be part of a great new family.”
Keith Healy: “Wrestling is going to teach them so much more that how to win or lose. It will teach them how they will respond from a tough situation in life.”
Dom Mancini: “If they cry when they lose, just tell them don’t worry about it; even Dan Gable cried when he lost.”
Jeff James: “Don’t tie your ego to your kid; it’s pathetic. Someone needs to make sure the kid feels loved, so let the coach be tough on him and make sure you make the kid feel loved.”
Veronica Aspan: “Win or not, make the car ride home FUN! Don’t keep rehashing what went wrong.
Tom Carr: “Mark 8:36.”
Paul T. Garcia: “Don’t impose ambitions or expectations on your child.”
Aaron Sweazy: “Learning is key in the first year, competitions are not. We wouldn’t expect a baby on its first day walking to be in a marathon.”
Joey Lazor: “No matter if your son/daughter wins or loses, give them a hug and tell them you’re proud of them. Don’t let your kid think their self-worth depends on if they win or not.:”
Ken Chertow: “Relax and enjoy.”
Anthony Amado Jr.: “Keep it fun.”
James B. Moffatt: “This could be the start of a beautiful thing. Don’t get too high with the victories nor too low with the losses. Encourage but don’t push.”
Jacob Cruse: “Behaviors win in the end and your family values should match your club’s. And your club and your family should absolutely have core values.”
Marco G. Lara: “Your kid just picked the most important combat sport there is. They will get confidence most people only wish they had. Celebrate it every day. Hopefully they stick with it.”
Kevin English: “It’s a marathon not a sprint! Enjoy the process, as the highs are high, the lows are low, but the journey no matter the outcome is priceless! No matter what your wrestler accomplished, they will take wrestling with them forever!”
Ted Witulsky: “A parent’s No. 1 job is to learn to say this to their kid: ‘I love watching you compete.’”
Richard Jensen: “Make sure you are dad or mom first and foremost. The biggest championship of all is your child.”
Eric Frandsen: “Keep in mind this first year may not look the greatest, but it will be worth it in the long run.”
Rhonda Moore: “Your child will feed off your emotion. If you are yelling, screaming and visibly upset, they will be, too. Focus on the sportsmanship and camaraderie. Keep yourself in check. It’s not about you.
Rod Gaddy: “Be the dad (mom); let the coach, coach. Tell them you love them and you are proud (regardless of outcome).”
Colin Pacelli: “Effort can be a victory in itself.”
Ray Ringstmeyer: “Let them grow and don’t judge their success by wins and losses. Help them keep track of the gear they need and always, ALWAYS, tell them to have fun, and you are proud of them for stepping out on that line.”
Riley Banach: “Early youth wrestlers can get caught up in seeing other wrestlers succeed and use other’s results as a measure of where they should be at. Everyone is different and learns at a much different pace.”
Coach Mike Denny Sr.: “No. 1 – Make it fun for them, win or lose! No. 2 – ENCOURAGE THEM! Let them know how proud you are of them, win or lose.”
Bob Dane: “BE THERE. Lose the first match? Treat it like the third skinned knee. Win the first? Congratulations (don’t act surprised). Later you might ask, ‘What did you learn?’”
John Zarcone: “Do not discourage young wrestlers with a negative ride home in the car. Be it a practice, a match or a tournament, stay positive and talk about effort over results.”
Chuck Yagla: “Keep it fun and don’t let them enter any competition the first year!
Melissa Durkee Allard: “Wrestling will teach your child so much more about life than wins and losses, but never put too much pressure on them because they will hate you for it later.”
Bob Callison: “Be extra encouraging because it is such a hard sport. Know the scoring with an understanding of what the wrestlers are attempting to do on the mat. Pack for a day with multiple matches: Tylenol, and extra food and drinks for you and your wrestlers.”
Others focused more on advice of a different nature.
Travis Jarrard: “Invest in a cushioned bleacher seat.”
Scott Pucino: “After every match, take them and do something fun. Go for ice cream.”
Susan Huck Banning: “From mid-October through the end of March, don’t make plans on the weekend.”
Daniel Cadwallader: “Ringworm is not an actual worm. And you won’t die from it.”
Gail Meminger Rush: “Don’t pick your nose before you shake hands. Do you have any idea how many kiddos I saw do this?”
Jill Goldblatt Ferris: “If you are new to wrestling, chances are that it will bring your family closer together.”
Tracy Greiff: “Enjoy the ride”.
And finally, from Dorothy and Tony Reasons, for anyone headed to Fargo for the Cadet and Junior Championships: “Do NOT climb over the railings!”
(Sandy Stevens is a long-time public address announcer of national and international events and was named to the National Hall of Fame in 1998.)