FILA’s Getting It, USAWrestling Isn’t

By | August 22, 2013

This is an article from yesterday’s New York Times.

Kudos to President Lalovic and FILA. This past week they evened the weight classes from 7-7-4 to 6-6-6 as part of their efforts to become IOC compliant and reiterated their support for women in leadership positions. That was a strong move on their part. If only FILA’s previous President would have been so attentive we wouldn’t be where we are right now.

What FILA needs to tackle immediately is the installment of a women into one of their four Vice President’s positions. They need to have a woman sworn-in BEFORE the September vote, even if it means creating a temporary fifth Vice President position. They can go back and even things out later. Does it really matter if they have 4 or 5 Vice Presidents when the future of the Olympics is on the line? Personally, I know I wouldn’t want to go into the September meeting without doing EVERYTHING possible to position the sport for reinstatement. Promises are never as powerful as deeds.

Pretend you are on the IOC Board Member for a moment. What would you feel more comfortable with relative to FILA; receiving cash for an item you sold them or a promise that they’ll mail you a check when they get home? Given our history with the IOC, I think we’d be wise to have a woman in place before the vote.

Which brings me to USAWrestling, where are the women in their executive corps? What are they waiting for, they’re being upstaged by FILA again. No wonder the world’s governing body doesn’t respect our leadership. Now they’ll say they do but I seem to recall that opposing football coaches say the same thing about the team they just upstaged too.

I realize the IOC isn’t looking to their NGB’s to see how they handle gender equity but this is a golden opportunity for USAWrestling to demonstrate proactivity and leadership. I guess the question is, “Why don’t they want a few women sitting at the executive table?” If they’re confused, they can ask their wives when they get home.

I look at leadership in two ways:

  1. The first plays things safe. They do little, risk little and as a result accomplish little. That’s not always bad if you’re still advancing your brand and producing a product that’s competitive in the marketplace. There’s something to be said for consistency.
  2. The other type of leader is always evaluating, adapting and managing by example. He or she embraces competition and the controversy that change inevitably causes.

The only problem here is it’s like being left or right handed; you are either one or the other. Being forced to change hands produces the same poor performance as being forced to change leadership models. That’s where we are at USAWrestling and why applying pressure for change won’t work.

14 thoughts on “FILA’s Getting It, USAWrestling Isn’t

  1. Lee103

    The only one not getting it is u wade instead of coming together as strong community u are try to split it up

  2. Rae McDonald

    My uncle, Bobby Douglas is right with you Coach Gable – in fact, he has been THE American activist(along with Stan Dziedzic) for women in wrestling since the inception of this concept in the World-Championships, when he teamed up with Japan’s Sasahara, Russia, Sweden, and Germany to advocate for women at this high-level. Women deserve a ‘shot at the proverbial-title’, just as much as the men do!

  3. betraist

    I’m with Gable/Scherr…it’s time for efforts to be consolidated. The leaders of that consolidation must have an agenda that looks down the road, with the totality of the sport in view-an effort bigger than themselves. While I agree that change is likely in order, Gable and Scherr have the sport and it’s future in proper focus.

  4. Wade Schalles

    Bill . . . thank you for taking the time to respond. Your opinions are appreciated.

    I know we see things differently, that might be as much a strength for the sport as it is a weakness. But if you want us to conclude that USAWrestling has helped spearhead this cause, and is workings collaboratively for change within FILA then we must also logically conclude that all previous FILA decisions and hiccups USAWrestling had a hand in creating too?

    The organization can’t have it both ways. They can’t duck responsibility when it suits them and then magically find a white horse to come riding in on when the battle is over.

    If USAWrestling has the clout you suggest, where were they prior to February? Please forgive me but these changes FILA and according to you USAWrestling is making most Americans have been asking to see for decades now. Colorado Springs doesn’t get a Mea Culpa now for ignoring the obvious then.

    Are we going to be reinstated for 2020, of course we are. You and I both know it and it has everything to do with a President and a King Maker, neither of whom are Americans.

    I’m curious, the point I was making in my blog was gender equity issues and non-existent executive positions for women at USAWrestling. This is an important issue. Why would young ladies want to try a sport that insists on testosterone based leadership?

    I would love to be one of the sports strongest advocates for USAWrestling but unfortunately we’re years if not decades past the shelf life of status quo.

    1. Dennis R. Diehl

      I’m generally very much in favor of gender equity and understand the politics needed to ‘win’ the survival of wrestling. But when the ratio of American HS wrestlers is 250k for males to 7k for females, something is rotten with the new 6-6-6 formula. Maybe it will take the death of a male from too much weight cutting to understand the inequity of cutting from 10 to 8 to 7 to 6 weights for Freestyle and Greco. D.Diehl

  5. unihighcoach

    Wade I agree on the gender equity but I just hoped we have not been duped. To many that have never wrestled and even many that have seeing one’s daughter in a combat setting is unnatural. I support women who choose to wrestle to the point that I even offer a women’s elite division at a tournament I run, and it loses money each year. I do that because they need an opportunity to grow it regardless of my own opinions or convictions.

    With that said I just wonder if it will hurt our chances in the eyes of the IOC general assembly that is driven by the opinion of their advertisers and media outlets. I think it is a risk, but maybe the reward outweighs it. I guess we will see. I do not have a ton of faith in being told by the same entities that had no clue we were being dropped that this is what the IOC wanted. If we had that type of relationship with the IOC we would not be in this situation.

    Ill keep chanting it until I am blue in the face — wrestling could be 20-30 times larger as an enterprise and if it were we would not be dependent on mercy. Like a deflated balloon I hope all of the energy leading up to the vote doesn’t just fade away. If we get Mercy it is only a temporary reprieve. Wrestling needs a professional dream to protect the Olympic and Collegiate dream. We have a great plan and I hope wrestling is ready to take the next step in its evolution.

  6. unihighcoach

    Dan I respect you as a athlete, coach, and human being. I grew up in the Gable coaching era; your story motivated me to train and compete and as a result I fell in love with the sport to the degree that it has been my life for over twenty years. Over the last five years I have watched our sport start to enter what I classify as the death spiral while other enterprises such as mixed martial arts have flourished. Our playbook has never changed — lose a program–rally to save it–lose the Olympics rally to save it–get shutout at the worlds—get a new coach.

    I have always heard you say support the infrastructure. An infrastructure that has been stale, had little vision and even fewer solutions that could be termed revolutionary. If wrestling was treated like a business the current leadership would have been fired long ago. The dismal growth rates, lack of branding to major media and advertisers, and lack of performance alone would have demanded it.

    The truth is that the very demands used as the ammunition during the succession from AAU are being chanted now across this country. However our hero’s like yourself want to keep the status quo, and frankly I just do not understand why. I understand that the first step needs to be to save the Olympic movement –I agree 100% — but what happens when it is back on the chopping block again. There is a saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing the results will be the same.” I have been a heavy critic of the NWCA for the same reasons, although I think Mike Moyer would like to fix it but just doesn’t know how.

    Dan we have a flawed system. We rely on hand outs and membership monies to pay salaries to a leadership team that really is not accountable or incentivized through reward or condemnation to advance the brand of wrestling. That does not mean they are bad people or entirely at fault, but it does mean that to affect change they either need to be inspired or fired. That is not just my opinion but the opinion of almost any board of directors of a successful and viable entity.

    Wrestling needs to be viewed as an enterprise, it needs to have value, and it needs to be run like a business with accountability. I will always admire you a competitor and coach but in reality Dan your legacy will rest in my children’s legacy. If we continue to accept mediocrity wrestling will cease to exist and my children will not be able to carry on your legacy. The Iowa way doesn’t reward mediocrity, Dan Gable wouldn’t stand for it. I can agree that for the next three weeks we need to be united and save the Olympics but I implore you after it is saved to have the courage that all hero’s have and champion the creation of a system that will allow wrestling to stop depending on mercy for its survival but rather will make us a coveted enterprise. Wrestling deserves it, and so do my two boys.

    Ernie Ciaccio

  7. Wayne Boyd

    I think talking about and realizing the problem only goes so far. Focusing on the solution only works when one takes a positive step forward. It’s like a takedown shot, if you don’t get it you have to adjust before it’s to late and stay determined to score. Words without works to me equals more defeat and failure. Be a “Human Doing” and create the opportunity to turn problems into opportunities because fixing problems is what makes one better in everything one does every second of every minute of every hour of every day!

  8. JSS

    Wade, interesting column as usual. I think the 6-6-6 move gives us the best chance of winning the September vote.

    One thing that isn’t being talked about is FILA “buying” their way back into the Olympics. We all know the IOC is corrupt, and one would think there would be some palms greased.

    What about the following article on flo?

    Great article on the corruption of the IOC. Real reason wrestling might be dropped from the Olympics…..and reasons it could be included again in time for 2020.

    After reading everything, and weighing in on what has been said, I would have to agree with the article especially this point…..

    “Wrestling just so happens to be most popular in the nation’s wealthiest regions. The U.S. Eastern Europe. Now the Middle East. And with burgeoning markets in China (the world’s most populous nation), India (its second), and Japan. These governments and Olympic Committees will almost certainly lobby for wrestling to remain in the Olympics going forward and with a strong push in May and September when the IOC reconvenes. Don’t for one second think the IOC didn’t recognize this. And don’t for one second think it’s not a calculated move. They’re banking on (literally) financial contribution and lobbyist dollars from these nations and filtered through FILA with the pretense that wrestling would be cut otherwise. Which is precisely why in the statement following the vote, IOC spokesman Mark Adams made a point to say, ‘This is not a final decision.’ Read between the lines: ‘Pony up, FILA
    It’s all about the money. Exactly what the Olympics aren’t supposed to be about. When we see this, we know we’re witnessing the Games rotting from the inside out”

  9. William Scherr

    Interesting but way, way off the mark. USA Wrestling has been a valued partner and leader in the change at FILA. I have sat and spoken with President Lalovic directly and worked with him and the consultants at FILA and the leadership of USA Wrestling. Together, from the beginning they have worked for change. If Wade wants to credit FILA, he must also acknowledge USA Wrestling because without the support and direction and funding of USA Wrestling Mr. Lalovic and FILA would not be where they are at now.

    1. unihighcoach

      The issue as I see it is that the statistical measures of wrestling participation do not warrant these changes. What we are basically doing is trying to find a driver, mainly gender equity that will make us look more favorable in the eyes of the IOC. In my opinion it is a short term solution to a long term problem. We need to reshape the wrestling brand and make it more appealing and entertaining. Until we do that we will be at the mercy of institutions such as the NCAA and IOC. I do not see anything good about the changes and in fact think it will hurt us down the line. You do not cut to add — you add to add — and if your sport has a big enough brand and large media buying power than you do not have to cower or beg for mercy. I would say we need to try and get an announcer at cadet and junior worlds who knows what he is talking about, as well as more than one camera. You want to fix the real problem? Stop addressing problems that do not exist, and address the one that has been staring us in the face for the last three decades. We need to rebrand wrestling and retire anyone and everyone in leadership that is not willing to implement progressive reform in the way our sport is managed going forward.

      1. Wade Schalles

        I agree unihighcoach. There are a lot of issues we have to address and it starts with getting the people who see competition as evil out of the game, who envision marketing the sport as a distraction.

        I don’t think gender equity is a deal breaker anymore than getting rid of the black bag. But right now to be able to tackle these issues we have to be alive. That means repairing the issues the IOC has with our world governing body and as a result, our sport in general. Then and only then can we go about tackling the leadership issues in Colorado Springs.

        I’m not always right or close to it but the current system is running at 43% and in my sleep I can move the sport up to at least a passing grade. Will I have all the answers, heck no. But together we can put the train back on the track.

        Once this IOC/FILA 2020 Olympic thing is behind us, stay tuned. I have a lot to write about and I need you to be part of the solution. I promise you one thing; during this process I will be logical, consistent, organized and controversial. Because if we’re to change, we need to change.

        Thank you for taking your time to respond . . . Wade

        1. Kevin McNeely

          Wade: Readers that may be questioning the ability of women to participate in combat sports have never seen this video: . Show this video to a group of young girls and I would guess that at least 8 out of 10 would probably want to sign up. It promotes a women’s Brazilian jiu jitsu camp, which is the fastest growing grappling sport in the world. They have made submission wrestling as cool as surfing and made it an order of magnitude more technical so that it does not rely nearly as much on pure physical strength and ability. I assure you that if you get caught in a triangle choke (involves use of legs and core, not upper body strength) by one of these more experienced women BJJ players it is lights out no matter how big you are.
          Lesson for wrestling – Consider updating the image, the uniforms, the rule set and the techniques to get broader participation of women.

    2. dan gable

      I agree with Bill Scherr ~ now is time to consolidate our efforts. USA Wrestling has been a champion for women’s athletics


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