Congratulations to all that did so much for wrestling.
- Jim Scherr for his tireless energy and effective presentation.
- President Putin for his sophisticative (I know, it’s a new word I just made up) approach to lobbying the IOC membership.
- America’s Big 5 business leaders who gave hundreds of hours of personal time and generous amounts of resources to the cause.
- FILA’s new President Nenad Lalovic who is making a difference and appears to have the support of FILA’s Board. And I should hope so after the Board’s lame attempt to deny any knowledge of what befell our sport. Lalovic’s two best attributes; a) he never wrestled and b) he’s a business man.
- Most of all, a firm handshake to the one man who single-handedly made the greatest difference on our behalf. Someone the American wrestling public has never heard of – Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait. He’s the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees and didn’t think the Olympics would be the Olympics if wrestling wasn’t there.
It might be interesting to note that those who weren’t mentioned above will suggest it was their leadership that won the day. I believe as time passes and the facts are known, you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have.
The downside . . . we spent over 3 million dollars and very few things changed besides some attitudes, a few rules and wrestling’s new title as Provisional Sport? We’re still at the table but instead of sitting and being served as a Core Sport, we’re wearing a white coat and doing the serving. This lasts until 2024 when we have to make another case why we’re worthy enough to be an Olympic sport.
So, what can we do to make our sport better now?
Dump the Singlet
This is a change we need to make, both collegiately and internationally.
Singlet’s have been around since the days of cavemen. The only change is animal skins have been replaced by double knit polyesters. I’m afraid the image of protruding foreheads in loin cloths doesn’t do much to convince those who don’t sit in our stands and those who don’t broadcast our events to support our cause.
One of the top reasons I hear from youth and high school athletes why they won’t go out for wrestling is – they don’t want to be seen in one of “those” outfits.
If you go back and look at high school yearbooks from the 1950s the kids all had six-pack abs. In the 60s, you’ll see one or two “chubby” kids, then a few more each decade, all the way up to today where 1 out of 3 kids are considered overweight or obese. Look at the yearbooks, they’re online, see for yourself.
The lesson here is not about you or what you want or what you think is right, it’s about what changes we need to make to get more wrestlers and attract more fans.
Look at what other successful sports have done. Years ago the NBA switched to baggy pants and black socks. Never in my life would I wear black socks with tennis shoes… but kids love it and the NBA has grown as a worldwide sport.
Look at college and pro football. Each year, the roll-out of new uniforms gets bigger and bigger. The University of Oregon football team has some 384 different combinations they can wear. The NFL tweaks something every year as part of a PR blitz during the off-season to generate interest and more sales.
We need to think and act like they do! The singlet has to go!
In its place we should see less skin and more body. Think about what I just wrote for a moment then think compression gear – think long sleeve tops and fight shorts. Take note of how MMA has taken off and introduced new gear for their sport. We need to do the same. I won’t get caught up in the details of exactly how it should be done, but here’s what a uniform change can do for us.
- Get more kids wrestling. Far and away, the most common objection I hear to why kids don’t wrestle is that they don’t want to wear the singlet. And they definitely don’t want to play any game that divides teams by skins and shirts. Let’s be bold and address it head-on.
- Reduce skin infections. It’s the greatest health concern wrestling has and anytime we can limit skin to skin contact, that’s a good thing.
- Increased scoring. No more excuses like, “Coach, I couldn’t get a hold of him. He was too slippery!” The more fabric a wrestler wears, the tighter the holds become.
- More branding opportunities. Changing the singlet gives us an opportunity to create a new identity for wrestling and create fun new looks like collegiate football has done.
- It’s change, exactly what the IOC has asked of us and what better way to accomplish it than with something everyone can see?
That’s the way I see it.
In closing and on a different note, I would like to personally thank Coach Bruce Burnett for all the years he’s given to the sport of wrestling. He just announced his retirement as the Head Wrestling Coach at the US Naval Academy and is certainly one of the good guys. Enjoy your travels my friend and please be safe.