How Wrestling Teaches Adolescents Fundamental Social Skills
Legendary University of Iowa coach and Olympic Champion Dan Gable said, “Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Anyone who has wrestled understands this quote. It is an extremely tough sport both physically and mentally; in fact, in 2012, the U.S. Olympic Committee ranked wrestling the fifth most difficult sport. It requires incredible endurance, meticulous technique and most of all, mental discipline.
However, the world’s oldest sport is known for more than just whipping kids into shape. Wrestling teaches kids and young adults important social skills they will need later in life. It has been proventhat children who participate in team sports will have certain physical and psychological advantages over those who do not, and wrestling in particular lays the foundation for these advantages. Even though they may not realize it until they are much older, here are just a few of the valuable social skills kids will carry with them off the mat.
The Power of Teamwork
People don’t always realize how vital teamwork is in wrestling due to the individual components. In reality, wrestlers rely on their teammates for practice, because unlike other sports, you depend on other people to improve technique. With basketball and football players, all they need to practice is a ball and a net. This sense of teamwork leads you to develop a sense of dependability and trust for others. Being a part of a team also teaches kids how to cheer one another on during practice and tournaments. Understanding how meaningful a little praise and encouragement can be to person when they are down is a huge lesson to learn at a young age. As an adult, being able to lift up someone’s spirits, whether it be a spouse or friend, is an extremely desirable skill.
Personal Responsibility and Discipline
Wrestling is particularly versatile because it teaches both teamwork and personal accountability. Each wrestler is responsible for his or her own workouts, making weight, showing up to matches and winning them. Even during dual competitions or team tournaments, each individual’s performance is crucial. If you skip a few workouts or don’t eat right, you may not make weight and thus, let everyone down. This kind of rigorous training and dieting not only teaches personal responsibility, but also mental toughness and self-discipline. In every aspect of life, whether it be school, work, social events, etc., these three traits are essential.
New People, New Places
Joining the wrestling team provides ample opportunities for social gatherings. Whether it’s a tournament, summer camp, pizza party, or just a regular practice, kids get to develop basic social skills and potentially lasting friendships. When kids have to travel for tournaments, they get to experience a new place full of strangers, which can be quite daunting at a young age. Wrestlers in particular must quickly become comfortable with one another due to the close proximity of the sport.
Wrestling,by nature, is an inclusive sport that provides opportunities for students of all races, sizes and socio-economic backgrounds to come together. Being exposed to new, diverse groups of people and working up the courage to speak to them is an essential building block for future communication.
Confidence is Key
For those of you who have never wrestled, it takes a lot of guts to put on a singlet, walk out onto the mat, and perform in front of a crowd. Boys have a tough enough time shaking off their nerves, so imagine what it is like for the girls in this male-dominated sport. Competing against men is intimidating for any woman and requires a lot of self-assurance. Many women reported feeling confident when faced with new challenges at work or in life because of their experiences with intergender wrestling.
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Dr. Sabinstates, “Socialization through sport is a complex process from which individuals learn skills, attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior that enable them to function within a particular culture…Sport is generally regarded as playing a significant role in socialization.” The social skills that kids will develop while wrestling can potentially play a big role in how they will interact and communicate with others in the future.
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