Blog Post #26 – What coaches talk about with other coaches…

Us wrestling coaches are a tight nit community who share the same space weekend after weekend. Unlike basketball or volleyball where coaches are separated, wrestling coaches must co-exist in the same stinky box for hours on end suffering in many cases loss and heartache. I know I’m being slightly melodramatic here but after yesterdays state tournament I’m a bit fragile.

We talk about if we want to continue to do this coaching game and how we actually plan to go forward. To put the hours in and if hours are translated to heart ache for a singular moment of elation where we catch a kid in our arms who just won state we ask, is it really worth it? There is always that scale in the conversation that weighs the time committed to the hugs and fist pumps at the end.

There are discussions, if you’re like me, who had a son that wrestled, about the stress of coaching your own kid and how or when your son or daughter is done you’re gonna retire. I said that and my son graduated in 2002 and 17 years later I’m still coaching. By the way, the years after he graduated were the most enjoyable of my coaching career.

We talk a lot about what bothers us; the kid that quit either in a match or during a season or the over zealous parents. We discuss while looking over our shoulder the mom or dad that’s pissed because their son or daughter didn’t receive what they thought was due (a great attribute of the sport). Our best stories are about parents and especially the crazy ones who bring us both torment and joy.

Sometimes, we talk about technique and our language changes to a nerdy vocabulary of body parts in space and motion that could only be described in the realm of astrophysics or behavioral psychology. At minimum during these times of great insight we perceive we may be some of the smartest people on earth. We pass along technical ideas like we are shopping the isles of a soon to be bankrupt Sears store. When in this state of wrestling technical euphoria it’s not unlikely for us to squat, lie prostrate, or hold on to each other in the most egregious ways. We are at our best when discussing the nuances of locks and holds. I told another coach tonight, I thought his wrestlers high crotch hand was too high in the crotch. He shook his head in affirmation as if I just admitted I had a large boil on my ass.

Officials are always a good topic while secretly agonizing over our own failures as coaches. Our conversations regarding officials are rarely nice even though all of us have our favorites and if we had a chance would buy that favorite a beer if not three. These favorites are always dictated by a good call they sent our way in an important match. There are times we talk about them as if they come from a secret society of striped gestures who steal our dreams. I don’t know how many times this weekend I heard, “that %*+~ing official…..” as if they are referring to an illusive nome who snuck out from behind a rock and punched them in the gut. They walk away muttering, “that dirty nome I’ll get him.”

We tell stories about past wrestlers, tournaments, losses and wins and usually they have humor or a punch line where we all shake our head and silently say, I can relate dude. This is the beauty of being a wrestling coach and belonging to the fraternity of people who understand the weird and anguished existence we inhabit.

If I’m being honest we usually talk about the kids. We talk about how they inspire us and break our hearts. How these kids never cease to amaze us and are the reason we stay so young and do it beyond our effectiveness. We want to brag a little about her or him and how awesome they are. These kids or wrestlers are also the material for hours of laughs, cries and moments of reflection in our own lives. When you sit in the stands and look down onto the floor and wonder what are these people always talking about, now you know.

I couldn’t imagine not having worked with these young people in such a gratifying and sentinel time in their young lives. What a gift.

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Blog Post #25 – Wrestle Like A Girl!!!

This past year has been monumental for women’s wrestling in large part due to the work of organizations such as #wrestlelikeagirl and the doubling in states that sanction a high school girls state championships. The recognition and subsequent growth that comes with these events is fueling other states and organizations to jump on the women’s wrestling bandwagon. Ultimately, the groundswell will push the NCAA to eventually move women’s wrestling to a fully sanctioned national tournament worthy sport and in the end provide more opportunities for females as athletes, coaches and administrators. Take a minute to watch the attached video and let’s consider women’s wrestling at the NCAA Div. 1 level.

 

In 1999 Clarissa Chun became the first high school girls state champion in the nation in the sport of wrestling. Today, we have over 16,000 female participants and that number should increase exponentially in the next few years with the likelihood of more states sanctioning and the continued push from the youth level. In 2012 Clarissa earned a bronze medal in the Olympics. In many sports, an athlete of her elite status would have been granted the opportunity to earn a scholarship at an NCAA Div. 1 institution. Women’s wrestling is on the doorstep to making that happen. Even though the gears of the NCAA bureaucracy churn ever so slowly the foundation that has been built over the past few years will I believe start to open the eyes of the powers that be. Adding wrestling at the NCAA level is a win-win for everyone.

I’ve always thought that the NCAA and State funded universities should serve their state population and it’s tax paying residents. It baffles me that the NCAA will sponsor a sport that isn’t sanctioned at the high school level just to comply with Title IX laws. Take crew for example a sport that is not sponsored by my state high school governing body but yet it’s a sport the NCAA has pushed to relevancy. Rather than sports that are currently offered and participated in at the age group and high school level driving the offerings of at the University the NCAA has dictated what sport it will offer based on what is easiest for it to meet Title IX compliance. Let’s not kid ourselves there are a number of women’s sports added to the NCAA that have no relevance at the high school level and do not serve the states population.

We as a wrestling community should not be solely focused on women’s equity but also racial equality and the bigger picture here. Our most under-served minority population at the collegiate level is the Hispanic and Latino populations. Even though Hispanics and Latinos account for the largest ethnic minority in the US at 17.8% of the total population, according to the US Census, only 4.8% of NCAA athletes are Hispanic or Latino according to statistics from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (IDES). In other words, our higher educational institutions are wholly negligent in the service to the Hispanic or Latino population. Even though I have not researched California’s state university statistics I would assume they fall extremely short of serving their largest minority population as I know Washington State Universities do.  Of all the sports I can think of wrestling other than probably soccer has the largest Hispanic and Latino participation rates. I write this not as a Hispanic or Latino but as a descendant of Germans who lived in Volga Russia where my  ancestors emigrated from to the U.S. for a better life. As such, my parents and I were able to further ourselves through opportunities in collegiate athletics which has in a round about way afforded me the opportunity to write this awesome blog. That of course is another story but a story that should not be limited to me or people of my race.

Not only does this have implications for women’s wrestling but collegiate sports in general as these statistics show just how far we still have to go. I think there are two questions here, shouldn’t the NCAA and state funded Universities serve the state’s population and if Title IX is truly doing it’s job hasn’t it failed the Hispanic and Latino population? Here’s something else to consider, according to the (IDES) non-resident female athletes account for 6.8% of NCAA Div. 1 athletes. Think about that for a minute, our universities do a better job serving people that are not from this country than they do our own minority populations. Bullshit!!! These statistics speak both to wrestling and also our state university athlete population. Take a look at California and Washington, two of the largest states for girls wrestling in the nation and ask yourself if both females and minorities are being served by our state universities? Check out some names of at the recent WCWA National Championships this past week and you will find the likes of Angelina Gomez, Alleida Martinez, Gracie Figueroa, Brenda Reyna and many more with similar Hispanic or Latino heritage. 

Women’s wrestling is very healthy right now. At every level of the sport growth is occurring on record levels. If you, like me believe in accessibility for all and equity in sport you also recognize we still have a long way to go.