By Stan Tzogas
Climbing the ladder of success requires taking one step at a time. Jumping a step or steps often leads to falling down and failing to complete the climb to the top of the ladder. From what I have seen, I doubt that most individuals in Canadian wrestling know what is involved with international high performance training. I will therefore provide some insight into the minimal steps required to climb the ladder of success.
The 10 steps on the ladder of success
1. Practice, Practice, Practice …
Regularly attending club practices is required to win medals at the nationals. Wrestling practice should be the highlight of your day, what you have been looking forward to; where you enjoy being most; if you would rather be doing something else, you’re lacking the motivation that the people who are beating you have. Regular punctual attendance is the fundamental prerequisite for success in any endeavor. Eating a balanced healthy diet and getting at least eight hours of sleep is required to gain maximum practice benefits.
2. Practice year round.
Today’s top athletes specialize in a sport and participate in that sport year round. Look at elite level hockey in Canada and you will see that this is what they are doing and this is why they are the best in the world. If we treated elite wrestling the same as elite hockey in Canada we would see better international results. The problem in Canada is that we only train in the spring/ summer if we qualify for a national team and are preparing for an international event. This must change. Athletes from ages 15 and older should be attending practices year round. Time for recovery is individual specific because not every one works at the same volume and intensity. The club coaches will advice you on this.
3. Go to camps and clinics. The importance of attending camps is under valued. A new perspective on techniques, new training partners, new friends, new ideas, over-night team bonding and extra physical training sessions can only help to improve. A camp in the States, the Canada Cup National Team Camp, training in a different country, OAWA Super Weekend, a trip on a provincial or national team and the OAWA Christmas Camp are great opportunities that are under-utilized.
4. Train on your own.
Individualized training needs to be given serious attention. Not enough athletes are disciplined enough to go out and run to improve their cardio or lift weights to improve their strength. The bare minimal requirement is to participate in strength training three times a week and cardio three times a week. This will make a huge difference in performance outcomes.
5. Get plenty of matches.
Prior to wrestling at the nationals, most junior and senior athletes should have wrestled at least 25 matches and over 40 matches for high school athletes. The best way to prepare for winning wrestling matches is to wrestle a lot of matches. Athletes need to be exposed to at least 10-15 tough, close-scoring matches. These are of key importance because they provide the experience to develop confidence in your ability to weather the storm and stand tall in the face of it.
6. Be Coachable.
Listen and apply the coaching advice. The coaches have been there and done that and back again. When a coach gives you coaching advice, you better seriously consider the fact that if you do not take it, usually failure is not too far behind you. Learn from your mistakes, as well as, the mistakes of others. Always review and rehearse what you have learned. It also helps to write it down and visualize it often. Know your strengths and weakness. Perfect your strengths and work for improve your weaknesses.
7. Get your life organized.
Better organizational skills are required to keep up to the demands of elite level sports, family and work or school. Use a day planner agenda or calendar. Missing practices because of school home work is a result of not managing time effectively. Part of being organized is prioritizing and keeping tasks in check. The path to a national medal does not come without sacrifices. Quite often we must give up those opportunities we enjoy. We often have to choose between going to a party with friends or going to a tournament; going on vacation or going to the nationals etc. Get your priorities straight and decide whether you want to pay the price to be a champion or be the “Average Joe”.
8. Be a problem solver not an excuse maker.
Switch your focus from making excuses to making solutions. Problem solving is what winners do. One person’s problem is another’s opportunity to succeed. “I do not have a ride to get to practice” should be changed to “who can I call to get a ride to practice”. I do not have enough money to go to camps; I will work as an official to make money or I will seek out a sponsor or I will spend less money on clothes and more on wrestling. It will not matter what you are wearing after you do well at the nationals; you will look and feel priceless. Recruit a friend from your neighborhood to join the club and share rides, get your driver’s license once you are 16. Whatever you are looking for you usually will find. Look for solutions not excuses. Get focused on reaching higher standards.
9. Be Highly Competitive: Success is a choice.
Avoid the temptation to be content or satisfied in failure. Learn from mistakes, and work harder to make sure that you improve from them. Do not be content with losing. You will never win the big one if you are satisfied with winning the little ones. Demand more from yourself and strive to improve with each effort. If you want more you have to ask for more and then you have to give more. Never quit in a match! Nothing worthy in life is ever achieved by quitting.
10. Be a leader
More leadership from our athletes is required. Not enough athletes are stepping up to help. We need help to recruit new members, to lead the practice warm-up, to encourage teammates to make a commitment to practices, to call teammates to motivate them to attend practices, to promote the club, to help our athletes that are struggling, to lead by good example by doing what is asked from the coach, to help with fundraisers, to volunteer to clean the mat, to help with tournaments, to help with setting and cleaning up after practice etc.
If any or everything written above sounds foreign to you and you reject any or all that is written here; you should know that you are not living in the world of the elite athlete, nor will you see any great improvements in future seasons. “The Bottom Line” for what we need to start doing to improve is: A greater committed and determined effort to reach higher standards is required. Showing up to club practices infrequently is not enough. Greater importance is required in the process and in return we can expect a better product. If we want better results next year we need to kick it up a notch. It will require a serious effort to climb each step of the ladder of success.