Learning Theories in Wrestling
Wrestling, especially youth wrestling, is not all about grinding kids down into nothing and breaking their spirits every night. Especially when some kids are training four nights a week and then competing on the weekend. It's important to keep them engaged, curious, and learning, especially on those recovery nights from intense conditioning and live wrestling. We wanted to share the results of our research over the last few years on keeping athletes interested for the long run. Since half of our coaching staff has teaching degrees, we applied Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning towards our wrestling practices in order to judge how well the athletes were absorbing the technique.
What we initially discovered during practice and matches is that wrestlers are really only absorbing material at the base levels of the Remember, Understand, and Apply steps of the pyramid. They were simply recalling moves (and often struggling to do that under pressure). We weren't challenging them to analyze what countries are using what techniques at the moment, or evaluate which techniques should have been used in modern scrambles at the Senior level, and they weren't being asked to create their own long-form scrambles using the moves that they've learned (the "Create" portion of the pyramid geared towards wrestling).
To remedy that, we began training smarter and not harder. Yes...there do need to be tough and intense training days throughout the week to work on conditioning, hard wrestling, wrestling while tired, and building that mental toughness. But having four practices that are all the same and monotonous throughout the week burns out not only the wrestlers, but also the coaches (yawn). We discovered that allowing days for high level scrambles and play wrestling, along with studying senior level matches, keeps the athletes loving the sport and its evolution.
When wrestlers are curious about learning, it keeps them coming to practice because they love learning about all this high level new stuff. It also keeps them in the sport long-term because they don't get bored with it.
As coaches, our goals are not a 6U State title. It's to keep the wrestlers in love with the sport until high school. No one remembers 6U champs. They remember high school champs. And longevity, and a passion for the sport, is what leads to high school titles.