Understanding The Athlete

Cary Kolat responds to questions about coaching styles he preferred when competing and how that translated to his own coaching style today. Being a high energy and high-intensity person, Cary didn’t need a wrestling coach who matched his energy. He didn’t need someone who was going to be slapping him in the face trying to get him ready for a match – he was already doing it himself. To have a coach who was attempting to do so would almost be a distraction for Kolat. What he needed in his corner was a calming presence. This could stem from Cary’s personality but also from the way he began wrestling. His father was a believer of coaching in the room and not mat-side and that shaped his mindset during a match.

The Calm, Cool Approach

The first coach Kolat connected with was his high school coach. Ron Headlee was an elementary school gym teacher at the time and knew Cary for many years. Headlee seldom yelled or got upset. He was a very calming guy and was exactly what Kolat needed. When Cary got too riled up or frantic to the point of making mistakes, Headlee was the one able to reign him in and slow down. Once Cary left high school and entered the college scene he didn’t feel as if there was another coach who he really connected with and had a big impact on his career. When he went international is when he felt he got that real connection in his cornerback.

Coach-Athlete Connection

That connection came in the form of Bruce Burnett. Burnett was with Cary for a four-year span. Before they met, Cary had a wall between them, he didn’t really like Burnett. He felt as if he played favorites. Back then the resources and camps that we have now didn’t exist. World team coaches only got the top athletes together right before the world and Olympic games. As somewhere between a 3rd to a 5th ranked guy he felt as if he wasn’t getting much love or attention from Burnett. When Cary made his first world team Burnett flew him out to the Olympic training center for some testing. During that time Burnett sat him down and told him he needs to spend more time on his front headlock. In college when Cary got your head down, he scored on you. What Burnett had done was review the few international events Cary had wrestled and saw that when he got a guy’s head down he almost never scored, he couldn’t get around them. That moment began to tear down the wall between them.

Don’t Over-Coach

Going back to Cary’s need for a calming presence, there was a match during worlds where he found himself down 7-0. He’s laying down in the parterre position with 30 seconds on the clock, his corner is going crazy, he’s frustrated and all of a sudden he sees Bruce leaning out on the stage. He’s calmly trying to get Cary’s attention and when he does, he says “just get one point”. So, Cary gets out from the bottom, gets that one point and ends the period. Once in his corner Burnett calms everyone down and tells Cary to do the same. Burnett points out his opponent was fading. He told him to turn the pressure up. He didn’t have to get all the points in the first minute, he just needed to grind his opponent down. That was the style of coaching Cary needed, a calm and focused coach to keep him on track.

Being Adaptable

As a coach now Cary tries to be adaptable. He is high energy and he can come out of his chair and be loud as emotions take over during a match but, he tries to be attentive to the wrestler. Three people can’t all be yelling from the corner. One person has to drive the bus. Otherwise, it becomes disorganized and distracting. If one of his assistants is getting increasingly vocal, he will allow them to take over. There are times where he has to tell them to stop and allow him to take control. He tries to meet with his wrestlers and ask, what do you want from me? Is there anything specific, is it helpful when I do this or do that? When Cary was competing, no matter who was in his corner, the thing he continually needed to hear was to move your hands and move your feet. It’s the small and consistent things that matter and he tries to provide those things to all of his wrestlers.

Where to find ASK KOLAT

RUDIS Wrestling Podcast on YouTube