For marketing purposes, we named our tri-meet this past Friday the Patriot Duals. We wrestled Brown and Cleveland State. We lost both duals (16-20 to Brown and 15-20 to Cleveland State). We had opportunities to win both duals, but fell short.
It was hard for me to see the guys fall short in both duals. I worry about the guys believing in themselves when they compete. Sometimes, if you lose too much, you lose confidence. It can hurt your ability to win. I have never been big on wins and loses. I believe it is often outside our control. On the other hand, I want guys to give me their best effort. Some times in giving your best effort there is also the element of finding a way to win a match. We need to discover an ability to find a way to win. A couple of guys did a great job of finding a way to win matches. They gutted out wins by riding their opponents in tough situations. I was pleased by their effort and ability to win ugly. They found a way.
As a coach who sees the effort guys put into training and how much they have improved, it is disconcerting to see guys go out and not perform at a high level. This game is very much a mental game. It is strategic. It is a physical chess match. If you doubt your ability, conditioning, power…, you will struggle.
I did not speak to the team after the duals. I wanted a night to ponder. Often time, it is better as a coach, to let your emotions settle before speaking. I have seen it as an athlete and a coach when a coach speaks to soon and says things in an inappropriate manner. As a coach, it is easy to say things that make you feel better but that might not be best for the athletes. Thus, I pondered. My head assistant coach and I talked and exchanged text messages until the wee hours of the morning. We both decided we need to do more with the mental side of training. Guys need to know they are prepared physically and mentally for the challenges of competition.
The day after the Patriot duals, we lifted as a team. I don’t know if there is any science behind it, but I like lifting the day after competition. I think it helps with recovery.
Before the lift, I spoke at length to the team about belief. I spoke to them about positive self-talk and how they can choose how they look at any situation. I want them to embrace the tough situations. I want them to be brave when they compete. I want them to be courageous. Being courageous is controlling their fear.
I talked with them about how to handle pre-match stress. How they need to find the right level of excitement. We talked about things to do to help them relax before competing. I tried to explain to them how our training has prepared them for tough situations. The more they trust their training the easier it will be when they are in the heat of competition. Being in auto-pilot is usually good. When unsure, revert to their training.
I want the guys to focus on positive self-talk. I want the guys to focus on having a great attitude. Bad things in life can make them stronger. If we learn from the losses, we can become better. It is our choice. Instead of the loss hurting our belief, our resolve, we can use it to foster greater belief and more resolve. We have gained knowledge. Maybe all we learned was what not to do, but we have learned. I reminded them about our team rule of not dwelling on mistakes and that they need to learn from their mistakes. 1. Admit it; 2. Fix it; 3. Forget it and don’t repeat it.
I charged the team to work on developing mentally. They will learn to relax, visualize, center, and have the correct attitude. It is a process. It is something we all need to continually work at improving. They deserve to win more and they will find a way to win.
Saturday we host all of the CAA wrestling teams at George Mason. It will be a day filled with dual meets. We host the event at the Field House. We will wrestle 4 dual meets, so we need to be ready for a long day of giving our best effort and have a great attitude. As part of the event, our boosters, parents, and alumni will host an all-day tailgate. I am excited to have everyone together to watch some wrestling and enjoy time together. It should be a great day.