Thursday, December 6, 2018


Today, my middle daughter, age 6, had her first wrestling practice. She saw the coaches at a school assembly making a pitch for the lower school kids to come out and try wrestling, and she really wanted to try it. My wife and I were really only surprised that it's taken her this long: she's been physically dominating her older sister since she was, like, two.

Anyway, we're supportive, but you never know how something new like this is going to go. While she's the most coordinated and athletic of our children (so far), that's not necessarily a ringing endorsement. As anyone who knows me from my childhood can attest, she's not getting a lot of athletic genes from me, and wrestling isn't exactly noted for its laid-back, easy practices. So I was interested to see how it would go.

We came in under-prepared, equipment-wise, but the coach (the assistant coach, who was taking the practice solo today) very graciously tracked down shoes and headgear for her to use. Considering he had more than a dozen elementary school kids--and not just any kids, but the ones who would join wrestling at this age--to wrangle, I'm particularly grateful.

So how did she like it? Well, we had to leave right after practice so we could get home and I could get some dinner before I went to tutor a student, and she cried through basically the entire 20-minute ride home, because she wasn't able to stay and play "wrestle ball" or spend more time working on her wrestling moves. She was equally distraught by the thought that it would be "SO LONG" before she has practice again (which is to say Thursday evening to Saturday morning).

I'd say she liked it.

And I did too. I wasn't hovering to watch practice (I was hovering because the seats were far away), but I kind of kept tabs, and I was impressed with the way that the coach taught skills and made corrections and built skill progressions. My daughter feels like she's way behind, as not only one of the youngest on the team but also coming in late, after everyone else has had at least a few practices. But I'm sure she'll be fine, in no small part because of the coaching she's getting.

I was particularly impressed near the end, by the way the coach handled a situation. I didn't catch the precipitating event, but he pulled them all into a small circle and got their attention, made it clear that he was very serious about what he was going to say, and then outlined the situation. I gather one of the boys either has a speech impediment or just freezes up when he's trying to say something and struggles to get his words out, and some of the other kids laughed at him or made fun of him for it, and the coach let it be known that we don't treat each other that way on this team. "We're going to cheer for our teammate, support him, and I know he's going to be a really good wrestler." They all did 10 push-ups as a team, and the boy who'd been made fun of led the team cheer at the end.

It's the little things that make a great coach. The attention to details.

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