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Wrestling with Weight: The Challenge for Young Wrestlers

What Parents Can Do

This internal conflict may turn to external conflict as the wrestler feels that parents do not understand his sport or that they are against the coach. If you find yourself in this position, there are several things you can do:

  1. Listen. It is important to listen to your child's concerns. He may be having a difficult time resolving the conflict between the coach's expectations (make weight by starving himself) and what he is hearing from you, his parents (eat right). If an athlete knows his parents are listening to his concerns, and appreciates the challenges he faces, he will feel supported in this conflict. Often having a parent listen and engage in a dialog will help the athlete determine what they want the parent to do, if anything, to help resolve the problem.

  2. Seek professional advice. Talking to a sport nutritionist trainer or doctor may be helpful. These professionals will have ideas that can be helpful in resolving the conflict and can help the parent and child understand and hopefully find the right balance between nutrition and weight.

  3. Talk to the coach. Your child's coach may not be aware of the conflict that he is struggling with and, once it is brought to his attention, may be receptive to your observation that he is expecting too much of the child in resolving that conflict in a healthy way. If, on the other hand, the coach has no understanding of or appreciation for the problem, he may be the type of coach who is focused only on winning and feels that if you don't like it, too bad. The sooner you learn that, the better.

  4. Act. If everything else fails to bring a successful resolution to the problem, you have no choice but to act. It may be that the coaching environment is not the right one for your child, in which case you will need to pull the child out of the program before he is subjected to any further physical or psychological abuse. It may be that you can wait until the end of the season and then, if your child wants to continue wrestling, find a different coach with a coaching style more to your liking.

Safety First

In the end, the thing to keep first and foremost in mind in wrestling, as in all youth sports, is your child's safety, physical as well as psychological. If your child is suffering emotional or physical abuse, you, as the parent, must act swiftly. If the problem is simply one of preference, then listening to your child, seeking nutritional counseling, and talking to the coach may be enough to address the concerns you and your child have.

Wrestling is a great sport because it helps develop self-esteem and self-confidence. However, it is also like every youth sport in that coaches who do not pay attention to the physical and emotional needs of their wrestlers can lose sight of what is important. As a parent, you can help make sure that your child's wrestling experience is a fun one by being involved in a positive way.