Creating Practices for Youth Wrestling

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 in Practices

When running practices for our youth team, we have to walk a fine line between demonstrating and letting the kids learn as they go. With too little guidance they miss key points and can’t participate fully. But, we lose their attention if we drag the instruction out too long. We address this challenge by breaking our basic practice into 5 parts with a 10 minute warm-up, three 20-minute learning blocks and 10 minutes the end for games and fun. We also mix in two 5 minute water breaks after blocks 1 and 2.

We do a dynamic warm-up and vary it slightly during the season by introducing new skills and exercises. The heart of practice and often the toughest part comes during the learning blocks.  The key for us is to move fast enough and provide enough interactivity to keep the kids engaged but also take enough time so they understand the positions and techniques we are showing. This is also the area of practice that most evolves as the season progresses.

Early in the year we may have 10 minutes of instruction and demonstration, followed by 5 minutes of drilling and 5 minutes of a related game. Toward the end of the season, those blocks may shift to 5 minutes of drilling, 5 minutes of a related game and 10 minutes of live wrestling or situational wrestling. We may also eliminate one of the blocks during the practice and use that time to play “king of the mat” or to have round robin live wrestling.

There can also be downsides to taking such a structured approach. Sometimes we need to stretch an instruction period past 10 or even 15 minutes. And other times the kids just need to do something different. At those times, flexibility is critical. We are willing to deviate from the plan and spend extra time  on instruction or break into relay race competition. This “structured flexibility” enables us to keep the kids engaged and having fun.