Most coaches are probably confronted with the problem of not having enough time for drilling, conditioning, and getting things done in general.
It seems that every time you come up with a way to work on conditioning, you lose time for drilling. Or you have a couple of wrestlers working on the mat, while the rest just sit around doing nothing because of poor organization or lack of mat space.
When we began our program eight years ago, we were confronted with the same problem. But through experimentation, good planning, and some imagination, we came up with a solution.
We feel that we’ve conquered this problem by employing stations in our practices, allowing us to accomplish many things in less time.
First, all the wrestlers are working. No one sits around the wrestling room for any length of time.
Second, we can wrestle, drill, and work on conditioning all at the same time, with no apparent waste of time.
Third, we’ve been able to cut down on our practice time. This is good because the wrestlers can no longer dog it in practice, and they realize that shorter practices allow them more time to pursue outside interests.
Fourth, it affords us an opportunity to utilize our varsity wrestlers as teachers. This frees the coaches to work with boys individually or to supervise a particular aspect of a drill.
USING YOUR BOYS AS TEACHERS
As coaches, most of you will probably agree that your kids are your best teachers.
An example of this would be when a member of last year’s team returns to practice and teaches one of your current team members a new move.
The next day your wrestler will probably say, “Hey, coach, look at the new move Joe taught me,” and you’ll shake your head in disgust because it’s the same move you tried to teach him earlier in the season.
Working on the principle that a boy will try harder to learn from a fellow wrestler he looks up to and respects, we have our junior varsity wrestlers drill with the varsity men in the same weight class.
In our school it’s traditional that a graduating senior is responsible for producing a horse to replace him. This has become a great pride factor with our kids.
In organizing the stations, we utilize either three or four stations, depending on what we want to do at that particular practice or portion of practice.
Before going further, however, let me explain a little about our situation to give you an idea of how we adapted this system to our wrestling room.
In our auxiliary gym, we have a 38 by 38 foot wrestling mat, which is bordered by 12 feet of free space between it and the walls.
We like to set up our stations in the following manner:
Station I: The center of the mat.
Station II: The four corners of the mat.
Station III: The free space around two adjacent sides of the mat.
Station IV: The free space around the other two sides of the mat.
NOTE: Stations III and IV are located on the bare concrete floor. If you have any spare mats, these areas should also be covered.
A typical drill cycle lasts 12 to 16 minutes before the wrestlers have an opportunity to sit down and rest, or before they start the whole cycle over again. The duration is determined by the coach.
NOTE: The duration and intensity of the drill cycle depend on the time of the season and whether the coach wants the boys to work hard on a given day.
Let’s say that on a particular day we want to concentrate on takedowns. We would probably use the following drill cycle.
TAKEDOWN DRILL CYCLE
First, we divide the squad into five or more groups of eight wrestlers, grouped according to weight with the varsity wrestler being paired with the junior varsity wrestler in each weight class.
NOTE: If your squad is very large, you can form a sixth group.
All wrestlers in Group A start at Station I, where they wrestle live takedowns for 1 minute with their weight-class partners.
At the end of 1 minute, the varsity wrestlers rotate to the next J.V. Wrestler for another minute of live takedowns. This procedure continues until the varsity wrestler returns to his original man.
At the end of four minutes, Group A moves to Station II. Group B moves to Station I and goes through live takedowns in the same manner.
At Station II, Group A drills on takedowns for the next four minutes. The coach should have the wrestlers drill on takedowns or portions of takedowns that would necessitate use of the mat (ankle picks, the finish for single or double leg takedowns, etc.).
NOTE: Group A at Station II starts on the same whistle as Group B at Station I, and does not stop drilling until it is time to move to the next station.
At the end of four minutes, Group C takes over at Station I to wrestle live takedowns; Group B moves to Station II to drill on takedowns; and Group A moves to Station III.
At Station III, the wrestlers practice set-ups for takedowns. (For example, drills on stance, hand control, set-ups for the different takedowns.)
At this station, the wrestlers again drill for four minutes, starting and stopping at the same time as the boys at Stations I and II.
NOTE: At Station Ill, the coach must make certain the wrestlers do not become overzealous, since they are working off the mat and could easily be injured on the floor.
Station IV could consist of conditioning for another four minutes, if the coach feels a need for it. Or the coach could cut the time to a certain number of repetitions of exercises.
Here the coach could have his wrestlers perform 25 pushups, 50 situps, 10 pullups, or any other exercise he wishes, and then let them rest until the next cycle begins.
The activity at Station IV depends entirely on the philosophy and imagination of the coach toward calisthenics or the drilling of particular moves.
As you can see, the number and variety of things that can be done are limited only by the coach’s own creativity and imagination.
I would like to say at this point that we never wrestle for more than four minutes in any given drill cycle during practice, yet our wrestlers seem well-conditioned in the third period of a bout or the final rounds of a tournament.