Anatomy of a Practice Plan
It's important to talk to your team or wrestlers before practice starts. Think of this as the mental warm up. This is a great chance to clear the wrestlers mind of any drama from the day and set mental expectations for practice. Technical issues can be addressed here as well as going over schedules, handing out instructions and other logistical details. This is also a great time to bring up any issues that may be lingering with your team and how they should be striving to handle them. It is important to try to stay in tune with what is going on in your wrestlers lives and address things they may be dealing with either individually or if appropriate during the pre-practice speeches.
Now it is time to get going and warm up the body. A good mix of jogging, tumbling, calisthenics and wrestling specific drills is a great way to safely work into the workout and prepare for the physicality of wrestling practice.
Three types of warm ups:
Standard - jogging, tumbling, calisthenics and wrestling specific drills. In this type of warm up wrestlers will be jogging and tumbling as well as performing other types of wrestling related motions around the outside of the wrestling room. Once they have gotten their heart rate up and have a sweat going then they can break to begin stretching and tumbling. Body weight exercises are also performed in this part of the warm up and are a great way to give the muscles an even deeper warm up.
Gymnastic Oriented - A progression of gymnastic movements can also be worked through to warm up the body. This can typically be done by lining up the wrestlers on one end of the wrestling room and having them perform the prescribed exercises down and back across the room. You'll want to start with light exercises and work up to more complex as the body gets loosen up and warm. A stretching routine along with body weight exercises can follow and lead into drilling or technical sessions.
Sample Warm Up Exercises
Drills can be inserted just about anytime during a practice. There are many variations and uses for wrestling drills. When referring to drills we are talking about executing techniques at match pace or close to it where the partner is giving a realistic feel but not fully countering.
Drills can also be performed as solo drills where wrestlers are executing techniques without a partner. These can be excellent warmup and conditioning drills.
Drills inserted between the warm up and technique and between technique and live are referred to as “Quick Drills”. These typically consist of neutral or bottom drills with the purpose of executing a lot of high intensity reps. Preferably the instruction is minimum and things move fast. If there are glaring mistakes these focus points are quickly addressed and back to action. Mastery of the neutral and bottom position requires many reps and this is a great way to chip away at developing the muscle memory needed to develop match instincts
Drills inserted after live wrestling to finish practice are referred to as “Conditioning Drills” these are usually the same as Quick Drills but with slight variations and are excellent for building conditioning and focus. I will often point out several “must haves” in these drills and run timed goes. If they lose focus and get sloppy we start over. To win the big matches wrestlers need to keep a clear head and maintain their focus under exhausting circumstances and this is a great way to build the type of focus and conditioning needed for those moments.
During the technical section of practice coach will slow things down and breakdown specific techniques the wrestlers need to understand and master for success.
5 Methods of Teaching Wrestling Technique
Show-n-Go - This is the most common method of demonstrating and teaching wrestling techniques. Coach will bring the team in and demonstrate the proper execution of a technique and then have the wrestlers go out and work on it while the coaches work with the wrestler correcting any mistakes. Keep in mind that the closer you get to individual attention with this method the more effective it is. It can be wise to assign coaches to specific wrestlers or groups so they can get to know them throughout practice or the season.
Step-by-Step - This is a great way to present new techniques or be sure to address crucial segments of techniques. Coach will break the technique into 2-4 parts and the wrestlers will progress through the technique moving through each step on the coach's cue. This method of teaching can ensure the wrestlers are positioning their bodies correctly throughout the entire hold. Keep in mind that you want to reduce the number of steps as quickly as possible and move to one flowing technique ultimately.
For example, this teaching method works great for a technique like the High Crotch. Steps could be created to ensure the penetration step, level change, hip positioning and proper finishing technique are all aligned. It is easy to see what weakness are leading to poor technique when using this method as well.
Reverse Engineer - Some techniques are best taught my starting from the finishing portion and then working back to the start. Two holds come to mind that are best introduced this way; the Stand Up and Bear Hug. In the case of the Bear Hug many wrestlers don’t master this technique because they never get comfortable committing their hips and want to attempt to finish the hold with their hip out. If you have them work on the proper finishing position first it will be easier for them to understand how it should feel when properly executed from start to finish.
Mix it up - Another great way to bridge the gap from drilled technique to executing that technique under live situations is to bounce between live situational wrestling and instruction. One position that greatly benefits from this approach is Leg Defense from the bottom position. Drilling Leg Defense techniques and performing them against a clingy leg rider are two completely different things. It is important to keep your whits about you, understand positional strategies and be able to hold position and these can only be felt under live situations. Performing live goes in different leg situations and then stopping to point out common errors and going back to those situations is a great way to get wrestlers to figure out what it takes to win those positions.
Spar - Often referred to a “play wrestling” sparring can be an unbelievable tool to teach chain wrestling and the natural reactions needed to master series of skills that are needed to score in matches. I like to mix sparring sessions into the end of drill sessions as well as technique sessions. Watch the video below to see a complete explanation of the duties of each wrestler to successfully use sparring to take your wrestling to the next level.
This is the area of practice where live wrestling action will take place. There are many ways to skin the cat when it comes to structuring your live wrestling sessions, but there are several things constant across the board. You have to get your wrestlers to compete hard during the live wrestling sessions. Scoring points and getting pins is the name of the game and without that mentality there will be a lot of development and fun left on the table. The more competitive and high spirited these sessions are the more hardcore development will happen. Some wrestlers naturally do a better job at competing hard but all can be taught to improve in this area one way or another.
Here are some different types of live go scenarios.
Group - Putting wrestlers in groups of 3-4 or even higher can build in natural breaks and allow them to see multiple partners during a practice. This is a very common method of structuring live wrestling but there are some elements that can be injected into these group goes to create more competitiveness and situational learning.
One-on-One - Here two wrestlers will pair off against each other for a specific period of time or for an entire practice. As in the group structure, many other elements can be incorporated to develop situational attitudes, force scoring and learn to manage an opponent.
Short Time Goes: Periods that typically last in the 20 second range and focus on specific situations.
Situational (Positional) - This type of live wrestling period will start in a specific position. These are great at taking drilled techniques and forcing wrestlers to develop those skills in live situations. At first they may struggle in these positions but soon they will figure out how to wrestle from new areas.
Situational (Attitude) - Placing wrestlers in specific competitive situations will teach them to learn to win close matches. It is also a common practice to hang a carrot out for the winner of these situations, like not doing push ups or sprints. An example of this type of scenario could be to tell the wrestlers their is 20 seconds left in the period and they are in the top/bottom position. It is a crucial mentality to never let anyone out from bottom in the last 20 seconds and it is a huge bonus if you can get the escape in the last 20 seconds of a period. Let them know what is expected, set the clock and watch the fur fly.
Matches - Wrestling standard matches with overtimes is a great way to structure live sessions. Wrestlers learn to manage matches, use the edge and many other nuances that go along with controlling a match.
Force to Score Scenarios - These are live periods set up where someone has to score for the period to end. This makes it mandatory for someone to execute holds and score points. These could best of 5 type scenarios, first one to 10 points or sudden victory type periods. These are just examples a few examples. A lot can be accomplished by forcing action to take place.
Practices are typically finished with some type of strength or conditioning element. Many things can be accomplished in this portion of practice and it will be determined by what phase of a peaking or training cycle you’re in. Conditioning, strength maintenance, strength building, increasing mental toughness and focus are just a few objectives of this portion of practice. This can be accomplished by many means including conditioning drills, circuit lifting, heavy lifting, sprint workouts and many more.
Cool Down & Post Practice Speech
Once practice is over it is time to start preparing for the next practice or event. Stretching and light exercise are great ways to start the healing process of the tear down that just occurred to the body during practice. Proper hydration, nutrition and sleep are staples of any serious athlete's life. All of these factors will help wrestlers to feel better, stay healthy and train harder on a consistent basis.
This is also a great time to start working on the mind. The topic of this speech will be greatly determined by what happened in practice, what events are approaching and what the athletes have going on in their lives.