For this edition of wadeschalles.com I would like to share an email thread between myself and a father who was wondering at what age is a young man ready to tackle wrestling.
“In your opinion coach, how long should I wait before starting my son in wrestling?”
Starting your son in the sport depends not on his age as much as his level of maturity and observed toughness. Some 10 year olds aren’t ready for wrestling while some 6 year olds are.
As a gauge, when your son is on a playground or in the back yard with his friends, does he enthusiastically engage in physical activities or does he tend to shy away from activities that are rough and tumble in nature? Does he enjoy the physicalness of competition or does he give ground when contact is imminent? Does your son typically end up on top when wrestling matches break out or is he usually on the bottom? You should consider his aggressive tendencies when deciding if he’s ready for the sport.
Basically, if your child is naturally aggressive he’s probably ready to start. If he ends up on top in scuffles with the neighborhood kids he’s probably ready for competition as well. However, if he cries over every scrape and bruise and prefers crayons to climbing trees, it’s probably best to wait another year.
If you decide to wait, that’s not a bad thing. It’s far more important to wait than start too early.
As a piece of mind, mental toughness is an aptitude that everyone develops over time and physical aggression is a skill that is best learned in small doses. Conservative approaches to wrestling should be the norm in the beginning.
When the decision is made to get involved, may I issue a warning? Never allow your son to compete in tournaments that he doesn’t have at least a 40% chance of winning matches. Don’t always rely on the coach’s opinion here. Many of them have different agenda’s from what parents who are responsible for their child’s well being have. Nothing chases a beginner out of the sport quicker than going 0-2 three weekends in a row. You don’t want that and your son doesn’t deserve it.
My personal opinion is competition borders on child abuse when the child isn’t ready for the level of competition he’s being thrown into. I’m not being overdramatic here. Continually feeling the stings of defeat often leave permanent and unflattering scars in the young.
That doesn’t mean the sport is bad but throwing a child into situations that he’s not ready for borders on the criminal. A parent’s job is to protect.
If your child isn’t currently the aggressive type, but you still want to get him involved at some level that’s all right. But look long and hard at finding a wrestling club that uses the power of laughter and fun as developmental tools. There’s not many of those around but they’re very good as a place of initiation. Ask questions first, talk to parents of children already in the programs you’re investigating. Choose wisely; watch out for coaches who put their team’s medal count above their athlete’s best interest. Programs that typically tout championships won and personal accomplishments achieved aren’t the best places for beginners to cut their teeth.
Whatever you decide, when it’s time to get started, above all don’t rush home after practices. Find time to bond with God’s little creature, your son. Stop at a DQ on the way home for an ice cream cone or 7/11 and buy him a Slurpee. It’s those times together with Dad that he’ll remember most, the two of you sharing stories, smiles and purple colored tongues.
I hope this helped . . . Wade