Mental Mondays with Ben Askren: Kids Shouldn’t Compete
To Much Competition
On this Mental Monday, Ben Askren discusses the topic of competing in youth wrestling. Askren has received emails from parents asking for advice on coaching their kids who are around the age of 7 or sometimes younger. Some of these young wrestlers are competing 30+ times a season. Although this formula has worked for some big names in the sport, Askren believes it’s not the best method to develop young wrestlers.
Correlation Doesn’t Mean Causation
Just because two things that happen seemingly go together doesn’t mean one causes the other. In this case, early success in wrestling does not cause success later just because there have been a few examples of it.
Pressure to Perform
Askren goes on to explain why kids are not emotionally stable enough to compete frequently. The emails Askren received about this topic held similar storylines. The kid was having a good season and then fell into a slump after losing their first match. Relating to this, Askren talks about how his soon to be six-year-old daughter can go through a string of drastically different emotions in a matter of hours. He doesn’t see the benefit in adding the pressures of a competition environment to her everyday routine.
Please Stop Ruining Youth Sports
The way parent’s interact at a college event vs a high school event is drastic. The difference between parent’s interaction at a high school event vs a youth one is even crazier. A young athlete is already going to be highly emotional even in a calm environment. If you add a room full of screaming adults it’s only going to escalate that. Askren often asks how well you would do your job if someone was yelling in your ear the entire time. So why would you put that pressure on a 7-year-old?
Wrestling Retention Rate
Askren attributes having kids compete at such a young age is why wrestling has a bad retention rate. Some wrestling programs can be focused on running a lot of youth tournaments to make money for the program as a whole. If a kid is practicing 2-3 times per week for a 6 month season and wrestling in tournaments every weekend it makes sense they would burn out eventually. Askren won’t start his daughter in wrestling until about 8. When he does he won’t overwhelm her with competing in more than 12-15 matches a season. He doesn’t see the benefit in traveling around the U.S. to compete in youth tournaments. There may be a correlation but that doesn’t mean causation. Even if you don’t agree Askren hopes it makes you at least think deeper about the topic.
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