Cael Sanderson's advice on youth wrestling

Discussion in 'The Wrestling Room' started by Tim Owen/BWI staff, Dec 10, 2015.

  1. Tim Owen/BWI staff

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    It's that time of year again when youth wrestling is hitting full-go with practices and tournaments. My six-year-old nephew, actually, is in his second week of his first wrestling season and seems to be loving it. I know some of you who read this board, too, are involved in a youth program one way or another, and I'm thinking you might find some of these comments interesting.

    I asked PSU head coach Cael Sanderson about his thoughts on youth wrestling last week, and I found his responses to be insightful for those who have young family members in the sport or are thinking about getting started.


    Q: "Is there an ideal age to start -- too young, too old?"

    A: “I don’t think the age is really that important. I think it’s more based on the individual. A lot of that is based on the attitude that you bring to the kid. I think you obviously want to make sure they love competing and they want to win, but it’s got to be fun. It’s a game. That’s one thing in our sport we’ve lacked across the nation: You kind of get thrown in into the fire right away as a young kid. And there’s nothing more humiliating than going out there and getting your butt kicked in front of your parents and your friends at a young age. It’s not like that in the No. 1 youth sport in the country – soccer, right? – it’s not like that in soccer. My kid can kind of hang out in the back and not get beat individually, so I think that’s important. Parents need to take that into consideration. We have a youth program. We actually have a practice tonight that we started here (with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, called Youth Recreation). We couldn't get more kids in here. It’s full. It’s fun. They come in and wrestle on Sundays. It’s good. The point is to have it be a recreational style versus throwing them into the fire – blood and guts and glory – when you’re five years old. That’s not a good foundation, I don’t think.”


    Q: "How much do you focus on technique during those youth practices?"

    A: “I think technique is important, but a lot of what we do is correct bad habits that we see kids bring to college. ... Hustle is obviously very important, but hustle will sometimes get you out of position. Getting off the bottom, a lot of it is more of positioning. If you just try to get out of there before your hands are clear, that’s kind of like trying to get out of the car without taking the seatbelt off. So there are those little things that you’ve got to correct. And, also, when you put a real strong emphasis on winning and losing at an early age, I think the kids are going to do whatever it takes to win and usually that means they skip the fundamentals, because the fundamentals are kind of a long-term success. You look at the Olympics, you look at the World Championships, as they say, I think, advanced techniques are the basics mastered. That’s an old combat quote, so I think that’s important. If you can actually teach your kids fundamentals first and let them learn it before you throw them into the fire, they’ll probably be more successful in the long run.”

    ––
    Thought some of you might find this helpful. I believe a few readers out there were involved with the NLWC's Youth Rec Program, too. Any comments about your experience with that or just any other youth program in general?
     
    Hotshoe, hlstone and LHavenlion like this.
  2. NoVa Lion

    NoVa Lion Well-Known Member
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    Getting off the bottom, a lot of it is more of positioning. If you just try to get out of there before your hands are clear, that’s kind of like trying to get out of the car without taking the seatbelt off.

    Good stuff Tim. The above statement is so true. How many guys stand up from the bottom without clearing their opponents hands first and get taken right back down to the mat?
     
  3. Tom McAndrew

    Tom McAndrew Well-Known Member
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    A good comment from CS. I spend more of my Saturday's at youth matches than I care to admit. Some of the things I observe are kind of disheartening. I've seen kids that were clearly out classed, out techniqued, etc. come off the mat after losing and then being ripped a new one by their dad. I just shake my head in disbelief, as that's the complete opposite of what the kid needs in that situation. The coaches are usually (not always) much better, and try to stress the positives, and the kids, by and large, are very supportive of each other, and have fun between matches.

    I'm certainly not condemning all dads (or all parents); far from it. Some are very supportive of their kids regardless of outcome. Some have some wrestling experience/knowledge, and you can see them working with their son or daughter between matches on technique. There really is a wide spectrum of approaches. Those adults that focus on making the experience fun for the kids have my greatest respect.
     
  4. nitlion6

    nitlion6 Well-Known Member
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    I took my grandson to the NLWC's wrestling for fun program in October, November and first week in December - I thought it was a great introduction, and it is designed to make it fun.

    The staff is also obviously very committed. The weekend of the home Lock Haven Friday match and the away Sunday Virginia Tech match, on Saturday morning the entire coaching staff was in the room with the elementary wrestlers helping Mark McKnight with practice and sucker Saturday matches.
     

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