WIN Article #113 Create a Quality Enviroment


Create a Quality Practice Room Environment
By Ben Peterson

Fall is a time when men dream of the wrestling season ahead. As you plan, ask yourself what you can do to sharpen the wrestling space where you and your team will spend so much time. As you review and prepare for each practice think of the following factors regarding your practice space.

a. Make it Functional
This is where to begin. I have led practice sessions for my own teams and others in some very unusual places. Garages, school and dorm basements, warehouses, storage attics and weight rooms have all been made into usable wrestling practice areas. John and I did our high school wrestling on a stage. Many have and are practicing on balconies, in lunchrooms, hallways and classrooms where mats must be rolled out each day. Once a bunch of wrestlers get studying technique, wrestling hard and conditioning a lot of rough surroundings can be overlooked. But these situations bring various challenges a designated wrestling room can avoid.
Regardless where you practice, start by making sure you have workable mats that protect the wrestlers. Be sure to tape enough to keep seams from splitting and be sure posts, walls and close items are well padded. Discuss with the wrestlers the need to watch and adjust for protruding things or items that are closer than you may prefer. As much as possible lay mats into complete circles. This is functional and also gives a better more complete look.
If something needs repair make proper request to your maintenance people. Often they may not even be aware of something broken or out of place, so properly make the request and then be sure to say thank you. That will do wonders the next time you need something. If you are the one who must repair the item then ask a couple wrestlers or a parent to help or someone who knows and appreciates the work you do with young men. Be sure to thank them and let them know they are making a difference in the training and maturity of the team members.

a. Keep it Clean
First on the “clean list” is disinfecting the mats. This must be done at all times. In most cases this means cleaning should be done the hour before practice. Always try to have it dry so early arrivals can start working on the mats as soon as possible. If other groups use your mat space or you roll out the mats each day then disinfecting at the last hour is a must without exception. I remember being expected as the coach to do that myself at first. A gracious but definite conversation with the administrator got payment for a wrestler to do that. The logic that in no other sport was the coach asked to wash their floor or line their field every day made sense to a reasonable man.
Keep the room uncluttered. Clothes, training equipment, past programs, forms and just plain trash can collect. I see a lot of rooms where small things are left from day to day. Someone needs to regularly go through the left over clothes, equipment, papers and other “stuff”, and put it in its proper place. Often that is the trash can, so make sure you have a trash can that is emptied regularly like any other classroom. If cleaning is done each day it only takes a couple minutes, but if left for several days it may take an hour or more.
Work to make the space bright, cheery, attractive and professional. This sets a model for quality and for the importance of the work the wrestlers are doing. Always remember you are not just preparing winning wrestlers, you are preparing leaders.

c. Keep it Calm
The practice room is a teaching space. Be sure others know and understand this. Yes, we all have had stages, balconies, cafeterias and open gyms where noise can come from other activities. So we must work to have time for teaching technique that is as calm as possible. When I am competing with other activities to keep the attention of wrestlers it always takes my energy and focus which needs to be set on the wrestlers themselves.
If you share a space with another group you will need to discuss how and when you can have the least distractions. Discussing this with administrators and other coaches and teachers can be very productive. Seek agreement for a calmer period for technique and then wrestle hard and condition when it is more loud and distracting. Be prepared to give and take on some of these matters and find a workable situation. Urge others to remember that wrestling practice is a teaching setting, and that no class would be asked to put up with all the distractions these settings can produce?

d. Make it Personal:
Once the practice area is functional, made clean and calm then start looking for how you can add a couple extra items that make it uniquely yours. Think of it as your “wrestling family’s den”. You want your room uncluttered, so choose simple things.
Coaches can add things like technique posters, wrestling pictures and team records. Wrestlers, managers and cheerleaders can add a special item like banners which young men will notice and claim as their own.
I still hear from my wrestlers of 30 years ago about building a wall to separate our mats from the weight area. They still talk of the sheets of plywood they painted blue, gold and white (our school colors) to cover boarded up windows. Those banners belonged to the wrestlers because they made them. Then after earning some money from a tournament we hosted, we took the money and asked a talented student to paint our mascot on the wall. When a new wrestling room was built the wrestlers asked me if those painted banners and the mascot would be moved to the new area. Today I regret that I did not do something to bring that look to our new space. I do not think we ever owned the new space like we had the old rougher one. Because we did not need to build or paint the new space to make it look nice, and since it was not just the wrestling room, we just used it as it was. Today I know I should have added something sharp that set apart the space as “The Wrestling Room”.

Many wrestlers and coaches drool over the new large well equipped wrestling rooms. But remember it is not the facility that makes winning wrestlers. Hard work over a long time builds champion wrestlers and that can be accomplished in a lot of spaces.
I urge you to take a few minutes to look around at your practice space and see how you can improve its function. How you can keep it clean and calm. And then add personal touches so that your team takes ownership of their practice space.

Next issue I will give guidelines and suggestions for the practice format. Join me again then.

You can find other articles by Ben at: Today Ben & John run Camp of Champs Wrestling Camps and are frequent guest speakers for numerous special events. Arrange them for your special event by contacting them at: 800-505-5099 PO Box 222 Watertown, WI 53094

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