Pre-Season Update

We are four weeks into our fall training cycle. The guys are doing a great job. I have certainly been pleased with the attitude and effort. As with any team there are ups and downs, but the guys have maintained a steady course of moving forward. I like what I see.

In approximately 5 weeks we will see where we are at as we start our regular season earlier than normal. Some of our perceived starters from last spring will be unavailable early in the year, so we will need other guys to step up and represent the program in a positive light. I am excited for the guys to earn the right to wear a Mason singlet.

For the first time in my coaching career I was forced to make roster cuts. When I arrived at GMU, we did not have a roster limit. As such, the roster grew significantly. This year I have been limited as to the number of guys we can keep on our team.

I fretted, fought, and debated the roster limit for quite some time. I lost many hours of sleep over it. Cutting people from the team is not something I wanted to do. It certainly does not fit well with my personality and beliefs. Nevertheless, I was able to get the roster where it was supposed to be on the date it was supposed to be done. I was stretched as a coach and a person.

I do think it helped me grow. In exit interviews with seniors, I was told more than once I was too lenient on team members. I was too forgiving. By having to cut guys, I was forced to be stricter. I believe in accountability, so I believe I tried to show athletes when they fell short, but now I am forced to cut them from being on the team more than I had done in the past. I believe in second chances. I believe sometimes keeping a guy on the team will help them more in the long run. Nevertheless, there are times when cutting them from the team may be best for them and for the team.

I spoke to fellow coaches who have to trim their rosters. I did receive some good advice. I was told by one coach, when you have limited roster spots often time guys will make the decision for you. Although I don’t understand the psychology or sociology of the matter, it did prove true with our team. Some guys chose to step away from the team as opposed to being cut or seeing someone else get cut. I found it curious how it manifested itself. For the guys I did have to cut, I was fortunate there were clear differences between whom I kept on the team and who I did not. It certainly wasn’t easy for me, but I believe I was fair with all concerned. Having a firm plan for the team going into the tryout period and clearly defined team expectations for current team members made the decision easier. Team expectations make the decision more objective than subjective.

Having to earn a spot on the team, made the guys feel a greater since of accomplishment. It was fun telling the guys they were on the team. I saw some great reactions. I think it helped us to have a more focused start to the preseason.

We also held the Paul Maltagliati Memorial Golf Tournament earlier in the month. The Patriot Elite Wrestling Club board did a great job preparing for and running the event. We had a record number of golfers. I am excited the event continues to grow. It is a great tribute to Paul and it helps fund our travel for the spring Freestyle and Greco-Roman season.

I have spent more time on the road this fall than usual for work and for family. Tommy Owen and Tom Carr have done well running the team. Being at GMU for a few years together, we all have a better understanding of what needs to get done to keep things moving forward. I appreciate their effort and leadership.

I am going to be traveling more next month. On the first day of official practice, October 10, I am blessed to be a clinician at the Indiana State Wrestling Association Fall Coaches Clinic. The following day, I am excited to support my brother Dan Russell at the premier of his TV Show – Battleground: Tougher than Hell. To learn more about his show you can go to http://www.battleground.tv. It looks like he is going to have quite an event.

I will also be on the road recruiting, at our fall coaches meeting for the Eastern Wrestling League, and I will attend Wrestlers in Business Network event welcoming new Naval Academy Head Coach Joel Sharratt to the area (http://www.wrestlersinbusiness.org/chapters/washingtondc/).

Toward the end of the month, my brother is going to return the favor and come help me with a Coaches Clinic at George Mason University on October 24. For more information about the Coaches Clinic you can go to http://www.gmuwrestling.com. On October 25, Dan will also run a wrestling clinic for me before we have our team wrestle-offs (http://gmuwrestling.com/mason-wrestling-to-host-fall-clinics-for-athletes-and-coaches/). The clinic is geared toward high school and youth wrestlers. For those who can’t attend the clinic but want to watch the wrestle-offs, please feel free.

October will be a busy month as we prepare for the fun to start. November will be here sooner than we think. We will start our campaign for the NCAA Tournament in St Louis on November 2.

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