Five things parents should know in the first year of a child wrestling September 29, 2015 14:00

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5) Congratulations! Your child has chosen to participate in one of the greatest sports in the world!

Your child has chosen to participate in one of the oldest and greatest sports in the world.  No, your child has not chosen to join the WWE, at least I hope not.  If he/she has, you should probably read a different blog.  If you are reading this blog, it is likely that your child decided to participate in wrestling, the kind with coaches and referees and plenty of rules to keep wrestlers safe.  Be proud that your child has decided to wrestle.  Through the sport of wrestling, I have met with so much success and happiness in my life, and I have developed great mental toughness. Others around the world value the type of people wrestlers turn out to be. When you fully commit yourself to the sport of wrestling, you become a better person both on and off the mat, because the lessons you learn in the wrestling world can be applied to all aspects of life.  Check out this article from Forbes about why wrestlers make great employees.  (http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevecooper/2012/07/31/why-wrestlers-make-the-best-employees/) Finally, wrestling is a team and individual sport. In a world often full of selfishness, teaching young people to do things for self but also things that benefit others, i.e. the team, can have great benefits down the road.

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4) Be patient. Wrestling tournaments will be long; bring a pillow and a book.

Wrestling requires a great deal of dedication not only from the wrestlers, but from the parents as well.  Not every tournament or practice will run smoothly; long hours in gyms waiting for your child to wrestle might remind you of waiting in line at the DMV.  Talk to other parents and coaches in your area, and find practices and competitions that are appropriate for your child.  It might be fitting for older, more experienced wrestlers to travel out of state and to train often, but in order to give a child a good start, begin with local tournaments and practices where the child can have fun and meet with success.  Also, some parents find it very hard to see a child lose a wrestling match, especially when it seems the child’s body is being twisted up in ways it never has before. Our bodies, especially when they’re young, can twist in impressive ways.  Talk to other parents to help deal with this difficult experience.

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3)  For everyone’s sake make sure you follow basic rules of hygiene.

As a parent you likely teach your child hygiene already.  Continue to do so as he or she begins to wrestle.  The sport of wrestling gets a bad rap because of the occasional skin infection.  Indeed, the nature of the sport, with close combat and rolling around on mats requires one to be diligent and pro-active to minimize exposure.  Wrestling poses no more of a health risk than any other sport; indeed, it can actually be much safer than many other sports.  There are, however, some skin infections that are contagious.  In order to stay away from them, here are some basic tips to remember:

  • Have your child shower immediately after each practice.
  • Use Matguard wipes after matches, practices and at tournaments.  Wipe down often, but always before putting street clothes on and heading home.
  • Wash all uniforms and wrestling clothing after each use.
  • Have a coach or athletic trainer check your child regularly for skin infections. Be pro-active.
  • Spray a non-caustic hospital grade surface disinfectant on head gear, wrestling bags, knee pads, and all other sports gear. Matguard makes that kills bacteria and is safe on skin top rated disinfectant for such items, Matguard Surface Spray or Matguard Helmet & Pad Disinfectants.
  • Make sure to wipe bottoms of wrestling shoes after leaving bathrooms. Bathrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria.
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photo credit: wrestlingreality.com

 

2)  Let wrestlers wrestle, coaches coach, referees ref, and parents parent. 

Do not let the simplicity of this title fool you.  In the 25 years that I have been involved with wrestling, I have heard too many stories from regretful parents who pushed too much.  One such dad points to how much his youngest child enjoys every sport he participates in, and he attributes much of that enjoyment to his hands-off approach, as opposed to the more hands-on approach he had taken with his older children.  That anecdote is not meant to encourage parents to stay completely away from a child and the sport.  Rather, let the kid take the sport in his or her own way.  Encourage and support, but don’t micromanage.  I have also counseled many wrestlers in dealing with parents who smother them too much.  As with any other activity, it is a fine balancing act between supporting a wrestler and smothering, but taking your cue from your child is a good first step in making the sport enjoyable for your child, and you.

1)  Have fun.

This last point could easily be the most important. Some of my closest friendships over the years have formed through wrestling, and I have found that the same has been true with parents of wrestlers.  They form close alliances with other parents and work together to support each other and their children.  Enjoy the time with other parents, and enjoy watching the ways in which wrestling will make your child grow into a more complete person.  The best lessons I have learned from wrestling have nothing to do with moves on the mat.  They all have to do with building and developing my character, specifically mental toughness, discipline, and work ethic.  Have fun watching your child take part in one of greatest sports known to humanity, and have fun with your fellow parents.

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AUTHOR: Charles Danhof

danhof headshot for matguard (3)Charles Danhof has been involved in wrestling as a competitor and coach for 25 years.  He currently coaches wrestling and teaches English at Noble & Greenough in Dedham, MA and has also coached and taught at Blair Academy and Buckingham Browne & Nichols.  You can follow him on twitter and instagram: @charlesdanhof.