By Jessica Medina
As a former athlete transitioning into coaching, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches and athletes in the country. This summer I had the opportunity to travel around the country helping youth athletes improve in the off season. From clinics, to the Freestyle National tournament, to cadet and junior world team camp I have watched a variety of wrestling. As the new season approaches many athletes have asked what they need to do to have a successful season. After evaluating some of our nation’s best youth athletes these are my recommendations for the upcoming season.
Build your confidence
We gain confidence in different ways. Many athletes gain confidence by winning. On the other hand losses can injure any confident mentality. So how do you gain or refocus your belief in yourself when it does not seem to be showing on competition day? Repetition of your technical skills will up your conditioning and boost your confidence. Basically the old fashioned way; hard work. Another strategy is to surround yourself around a strong support system. Your coaches and teammates are a huge part of your season. Look to encourage each other as you train for big competitions together.
Girls wrestling continues to evolve and so should your technical skills. According to Terry Steiner, the US women's national team coach explains that “women's wrestling needs to improve in the intricacies of finishing a takedown and knowing how to finish attacks.” The top girls in the nation can finish their takedowns from a variety of defenses. Females are built differently so finishing a takedown on a girl's hips may be more difficult than a boy's. Ask your drill partner to give you different defenses to your number 1 and 2 offenses. Learn how to move your body and recover from a bad shot. Being comfortable in bad positions will also feed your confidence to stay on the attack!
Preparation for competition
This one is huge. As I was able to coach at the Junior National tournament in Fargo this summer, I noticed that some athletes were not prepared for the rigorous competition schedule. Some athletes had to compete six days straight! By the sixth day they were worn down or mentally checked out. It is hard to prepare for an extreme schedule but adjusting your training to a mock competition schedule would help your body adjust easier. Other areas include nutrition for day of competition and post weigh ins, getting a good warm up in, breaking a good sweat, and elevating your heart rate with some sprints.
Freestyle mat time
For any female athlete who seeks to continue their wrestling career post high school then wrestling freestyle is a must. Even if you are only a folkstyle wrestler it is still beneficial for you to wrestle freestyle in the off season to increase your mat time for the year. There are many opportunities for you to get more matches and gain experience.
Know your body
Every athlete is different. Every body is different. The best athletes become in tune with what their body needs. If you need to increase your strength then lift! If you are gassing out in the 3rd period then get that cardio in! If you are exhausted all the time then let your body rest and recover. If your body is shutting down from weight cutting then start evaluating your nutrition and weight class. You are responsible for being authentic with your needs and communicating those to your coach. Know what you need to be your best self. Give yourself an opportunity to be the best this season. If you can pick a combination of these areas and address them, you will have a competitive edge over your opponents this year. Enjoy the process and go get that hand raised!
Jessica Medina is a 2x World Team Member, 6x National Team Member, University World Team Member, 2x Pan-Am Team World Team Member, 2x World cup Team member, and Jr World Bronze Medalist. She was recently named Head Wrestling Coach at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virgina.