Keeping the approach to competition simple
Why do some athletes/wrestlers win almost all the time? Clearly, some individuals wake up in their lives with genetic gifts that lend significantly to their success in athletics, but the majorities have to work hard, smart, and steadily improve over time. We have seen it happen every way possible. I have even seen a few do everything wrong and still have success although, bad habits always caught up to them at some point, and they never reached their full potential because of it.
Even as drastic as wrestling has evolved, I’m still 100% firm and in favor of basics first, staying where you’re strong, holding unyielding position, never extended, mobile, and can immediately score, neutralize or destroy opponent’s position and confidence.
I believe competitors who force their style without being reckless and compete with hustle, passion, and enthusiasm, succeed more consistently than those who invest weak efforts, cut corners, talk a lot, inject little to no emotion, lack basic skills and just go through the motions. Of course, athletes win a lot of ways and some of the ways I don’t agree with. Nevertheless, I believe those who win-out consistently are those who dream about winning, rehearse victory, keep it simple, are pros at basic skills, believe they will win and compete to win. History tends to repeat itself. Through the annals of every sport and certainly the sport of wrestling, the aggressor both offensively and defensively most always wins out.
What are the practices that bring about victory?
You can have doubts and still prevail. This is worth repeating. You can have doubts and still prevail. Who would have thought? Keep your thoughts simple. Once you’re out there and make contact, thinking does you no good. The sense and instinct will take over. Ideally you don’t have to think at all. Your best matches will be with little to no thought. Your best matches are by feel not contemplation. This is where preparation, precise drilling, and a high standard during training come in. Let’s expand on the ideal mindset for training and competition. We talk a lot about confidence, hustle, being tough, etc. but I feel more could be said and may be helpful to a lot of athletes who really don’t know what to think, when to think, and what to avoid or at least distance themselves when detrimental thoughts make their appearance.
First off, if you don’t spend much time thinking, perfect – don’t start. Nevertheless, for most of us, especially those who struggle with confidence and belief, you’re likely thinking too much and have many defeating thoughts. So if you’re going to think, you’re wise to have awareness and knowledge of how to manage your thinking. When you’re training, this is the time for analysis, planning, and brain work. Conversely, through my experience, during competition and everything surrounding competition thoughts should be kept simple, clear, and positive. This is not the time for debate and a cram session.
A coach cannot compete for you, and an authentic competitor doesn’t want anyone to compete for them. They don’t trust anyone else to compete up to their standards. Yes, genuine competitors treasure the opportunity to represent themselves. They’re pros and the challenge and competition itself is as rewarding and satisfying as the victory. They’re not separate; one goes with the other.
The intense and consuming hunger, desire, enthusiasm, and even anger, yes anger, have to come from you. I mention anger because I know a lot of athletes, especially wrestlers, who compete out of anger and are very successful. Having a chip on your shoulder in the sport of wrestling is an edge. On the other hand, if one carries anger into other areas of their lives it’s a problem. As humans, we show anger in a multitude of ways. In fact, many of us are not even aware that we’re angry at all. Listen, anger, if channeled correctly, is an asset, tool, fuel for execution, hustle, aggressiveness, stinginess and constructive stubbornness.
This all may sound extreme, but college wrestling is extreme. College wrestling stands alone as far as demand, grind, discipline, workload, discomfort, and inconvenience but rewarding and personally satisfying – severe, but unequaled.
Are you competing to your potential consistently, feel something is missing, or you want to raise your results to an entirely different level? I suggest giving thought to what is necessary for you to achieve victory. What is your ABC’s to get your hand raised. Effective plans and systems are simple, so keep it basic. Think about and write down what behavior you must engage in during competition to achieve victory. You’re no longer focusing on results – winning or losing. Your focus is on the behaviors “the process” that produces victory. Commit to memory; the focus is on the process not results. If you stick to the behaviors that produce victory, the results will take care of themselves. Keep your approach to competition simple, brief and positive.
Below are prompts for the “process” of what behaviors help you achieve victory.
- What behaviors give your body and mind the best warm-up possible?
- What behaviors on your feet generate offensive points?
- What behaviors on bottom produce points for you?
- What behaviors on top bring about you riding and turning your opponent?
- What behaviors on your feet keep opponents from scoring on you?
Mark Schwab is an assistant coach at the University of Northern Iowa. Previously he spent nine years as assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, helping the program to seven top-three team finishes at the NCAA Championships and two NCAA team titles. As a wrestler, Schwab was an All-American for the University of Northern Iowa during the late 1980s. Schwab earned his bachelor’s degree in 1990 from the University of Northern Iowa and his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 2003. Schwab returned to the University of Minnesota to get a second emphasis in sport psychology on his existing master’s and completed that in 2010. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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