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Enhancing Learning in a Wrestling Practice Room

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by , 07-02-2010 at 07:50 PM (2663 Views)
Enhancing Learning in a Wrestling Practice Room

Enhancing Learning in a Wrestling Practice Room By Andrew Johnson, Ph.D. Mankato, Minnesota.

Elements of Effective Skills Instruction
Teaching a skill of any kind incorporates five components: (a) identification of the procedural components, (b) dire c t instruction and modeling, (c) guided practice, (d) independent practice, and (e) review. Incorporating these components into a wrestling practice room will greatly improve wrestlers' ability to learn and eventually master new moves.

Identification of the procedural components.
Here wrestlers are introduced to the new skill and the specific steps involved. You should describe the situations and setup for this skill and then break it into specific steps.

Direct instruction and modeling
In this component, give explicit instruction as to how the wrestling skill is performed. Model the skill by thinking out loud while going through each step. This element provides wrestlers with an overview and should be kept relatively brief. Remember that wrestlers learn more by doing than by watching.

Guided practice
After the skill has been modeled, use guided large group practice with a gradual release of responsibility. The goal here is to provide the support necessary for wrestlers to use the skill independently. To do this, take the whole group through each step of the skill several times in slow motion. Once wrestlers get a feel for the skill they will be able to practice the skill independently.

Independent practice
Review. Mastery of any skill happens over time with plenty of practice. Thus, continued review and practice are essential in moving new skills into a wrestler's competitive repertoire. This means, time should be spent in every practice session reviewing take-downs, escapes, and pinning combinations that wrestlers already know (some would call this drilling). For example, in the beginning weeks of my wrestling season, I would teach a single leg take-down. While most of my wrestlers would be able to go through the steps, this did not indicate mastery. Indeed, throughout the season we would continue to practice single leg take-downs, refine the movements, and show variations so that the skill could be used in many situations.

General Tips on Teaching/Coaching Effectiveness
Keep skill instruction brief and quickly paced. Short term memory has a limited capacity for processing information. Thus, wrestlers are better able to process a few things concisely presented rather than many things presented in detail.

Keep coach's talk to a minimum when teaching a skill.
Wrestlers learn by doing, not by listening. Using a minimalist approach to instruction will allow wrestlers to get a sense of the whole without overloading short term memory.

Strive for automaticity
Automaticity is the ability to execute a skill with little conscious attention. This is a necessary component of using any skill effectively. If wrestlers have to think about the steps of each wrestling move, they become slow, hesitant, and unable to focus on their opponent. By eliminating the need to focus on the steps of a skill, cognitive space is freed up to concentrate on other things. Automaticity is achieved by daily review and practice of previously taught skills, i.e., drill. How much time should be spent drilling or working on specific skills? A p p roximately 20-30% of a practice should be spent on skills instruction and review, 70-80% should be spent on actual wrestling, and 5-10% on conditioning. These figures vary, of course, depending on where you are in the wrestling season.

Teach your wrestlers how to drill
When I first asked my high school wrestlers to spend five minutes working on their take downs, they didn't know what that meant. I discovered that I needed to be very explicit and teach them both the importance of drilling and how to drill. For example, I told each wrestler to hit five single- legs to the left and five to the right. The first two were done half speed and the last three at full speed. Eventually they learned how to drill, and this paid off in the fluency of their thinking and moving during match situations.

Use learning stations to practice skills
In my wrestling room, I created four or five learning stations during skills instruction. At each station a coach or a senior wrestler would show a skill to a small group and provide feedback as it was practiced. Wrestlers would spend five to ten minutes at each station and on a common signal, rotate to the next learning station. The rotating groups kept wrestlers fresh and allowed them to refocus at each station.

Allow wrestlers to demonstrate skills they perform well
Often, wrestlers are able to explain things to other wrestlers better than coaches. Letting them to do this gives the coach a chance to step off the stage, creates a more wrestler-centered environment, puts the skill in language that is sometimes easier to understand, and provides a subtle way to recognize wrestlers who have mastered a skill.

Acknowledge outstanding effort as well as achievement
Achievement is relative to one's starting place. Beginning wrestlers competing in their first junior varsity matches are achieving goals just as significant to them as high ability wrestlers competing in a big tournament. Why should one group be more or less deserving of celebration? Both have worked hard and achieved relative to his or her potential; thus, both desire and deserve acknowledgment of their achievements.

Use talk to enhance learning
Wrestling is an individual endeavor; yet, wrestlers are highly dependent on their teammates to help them progress . When learning a new wrestling skill, conversation is essential for helping wrestlers to gage if a particular move feels right. Also, put wrestlers in groups of three and four during live wrestling. Here, two wrestle while the other(s) observe, this allows for observation, analysis, and feedback. Often, wrestler-initiated mini-lessons will erupt around the room as they work in these small groups.

Find the zone of proximal development
The zone of proximal development is the place between a wrestler's comfort level and the frustration level. When introducing a new skill, try to find the place just a little ahead of where your wrestlers are currently. If you introduce a new skill and try to teach all the possible variations of that skill, you will frustrate the wrestler and very little learning will take place. Instead, keep it simple. Remember that you will come back to review and add variations to skills all through the season.

Updated 07-03-2010 at 01:30 PM by Schlottke

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