If you are here looking for wrestling specific advice on planning practices, you’re in the right place.
This started out as a place for me to point coaches to for resources, and quickly spiraled into me spending hours reading literature about sports science reaching back 40 years. If you want to jump quickly to a specific section, here’s a handy table of contents.
Digging into sports science
Wrestling is steeped in tradition, but we can still learn from modern research. This thesis from Dora Bartulovic, while dense, is a good overview of some of key concepts, particularly deliberate practice (DP) and self regulated learning (SRL).
Deliberate practice is a term for constructing practice in such a way that maximizes skill acquisition on the way to mastery. This not only applies to the coach, but to the self motivation of your wrestlers.
DP activities have also been characterized as involving conscious attempts by the learner to structure learning activities in specific ways to maximize the degree of skill acquisition – the structuring of activities involves deliberate cognitive processes related to planning, execution, and reflection (Ericsson, Prietula, & Cokely, 2007). These processes can be facilitated when a learner interacts with a coach, but Ericsson et al. (1993) made the case for the importance of such processes during practice alone. Moreover, for training to qualify as DP, athletes should also receive immediate instructive feedback and the results of their performance, which may involve generating self-feedback in relation to one’s own learning activities (Ericsson et al., 2007).
Focus here on the emphasis of planning, execution, and reflection.
Earlier research also suggests that DP effectiveness is constrained by motivational factors and has daily limits of effectiveness.
A number of training studies in real life have compared the efficiency of practice durations ranging from 1 -8 hr per day. These studies show essentially no benefit from durations exceeding 4 hr per day and reduced benefits from practice exceeding 2 hr.
– Ericcson et al., 1993
Some practical implications of deliberate practice include:
- Consider posting your practice plans in an easily readable form for your team before practice, in order to give athletes the ability to mentally plan for practice.
- Think critically about how to give feedback in a way that jump starts a wrestlers own ability to offer themselves self feedback and engage in self regulated learning.
- Longer does not necessarily mean better.
If you want a more approachable article about the difference between training and practice, consider this one (thanks to Coach Tate at Queens for this).
Self regulated learning
Self regulated learning (SRL) is defined by Zimmerman as the degree to which:
individuals are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process
SRL is a fancy term for a wrestlers ability to use their mental prowess to influence their success in the sport. In particular,
Self-regulated athletes regularly set goals, they systematically self-monitor by observing and tracking their own efforts, their performance, and outcomes of training, and are able to adapt when discrepancies are noticed between their desired and current states; therefore, athletes who self-regulate more effectively should be able to get more out of their training, and be more likely to reach their maximum potential (Toering et al., 2011)
– p8 Bartulovic
Practical implications of self-regulated learning for wrestling coaches include:
- Ensure your athletes are regularly goal-setting. Consider having a coach doing 1-1 short meetings with your athletes on a regular interval to go over their goals and get regular updates on their progress.
- Distribute video to the team as a way for them to buy into their own learning. Video is a good format for wrestlers to monitor their strategic progress, and make mental adjustments for future matches.
- Self regulated learning is tied to improved motivation, as wrestlers are bought into their own journey to success. Don’t underestimate the power of mindset coaching in addition to simply coaching the physical movements of wrestling.
Resources from abound the web
The following is a list of resources I’ve gathered from around the web specifically related to practice planning. Some are philosophical essays, some are paid videos, and some are plan templates.
Some are paid, some are free. I am not endorsing these products or plans, I have personally not used them. The intent is to create a list of wrestling specific resources to save wrestling coaches time, instead of having to scour the internet for it.
If I missed something please leave a comment, I will be keeping this updated with new stuff as it comes in.
Cary Kolat has an entire section dedicated to practice plans on his website free of charge. He also recently released a ton of technique videos to his youtube channel.
Daryl Weber has a lot of products available on Attack Style Wrestling. There are technique and coaching bundles featured, which are paid, including an entire product just for practice planning.
USA wrestling has a section on their website that lists out some wrestling games and activities. Buried in there is a link to this pdf which contains some fully fleshed out practice plans. If you want some more background on the mindset for creating effective practice plans that fit your program, here’s a solid article from USA Wrestling as well.
The NY division of Beat The Streets has published 14 practice plans on their website. These may be particularly useful for youth coaches, which is the focus of the (amazing) Beat The Streets organization.
This short but sweet webpage gives in an example of what different types of wrestling practice plans might look like (pre-season, in season, cross training). Here’s a PDF version that is similar.
This essay, dug up from the archives of wrestlingusa.com, is part personal anecdote and part example practice plan.
Championship productions has a lot of videos and products available for purchase. Here’s one specifically about wrestling practice planning.
This one is more about philosophy, but may be worth the read.
The NWCA has a couple courses in the backlog related to practice planning. These aren’t practice plan templates, but may count towards continuing education in some cases.
Your Coaching Staff
Although I can link out to a bunch of websites to give you a base of knowledge, at some point you need to sit down and create your own plans. From talking with many coaches while developing WrestlingIQ’s practice plan builder I can tell you that effective coaches have similar philosophies.
- You have to build practice plans to fit your team. Teams will have different technique needs and experience levels each and every year.
- Most coaches tend to have a ‘skeleton’ plan for their practices. Something like – announcements, warm up, drills, technique, live wrestling, conditioning, cool down.
- Many coaches plan out every practice in detail up until the first competition. It’s often not useful to plan beyond that, as the first competition will usually give you an opportunity evaluate where your team is at.
- Especially at the youth, middle, and high school levels make sure to focus on other areas needed to improve as a wrestler and person that are not necessarily technique. This may include visualization, information on healthy eating, stories, team video review, encouragement to do well in school, and general reinforcement of standards you expect your athletes to hold dear (discipline, hard work, etc).
- Plans have to take into account competition schedule. You will need to have a lighter workout pre-competition. You might mix in strength training or other types of cross training activities to vary your program. Rest days are important, or maybe you have a rest day by watching video as a team (please read the section below about deliberate practice and reflection). You can’t grind all the time.
- Keep your coaching staff on the same page, so that practices run as smoothly as possible. Some coaches do a pre practice huddle, others prefer to share practice plans electronically.
Now that you’ve read up on some philosophies and resources about practice planning, how do you actually keep track of it all? I have not used these products (except for WrestlingIQ, which is software I make personally).
If you see something missing please let me know in the comment section so I can update the list.
This is my own product. You can see the practice planner in action here. WrestlingIQ is intended to be the only software you need to run your team, and includes other features like video management, team calendar, and paperless team documents.
This iOS app is created by Broadside LLC, which makes practice planners for various sports.
The practice planner put out by the NWCA includes practice plan creation abilities, plus access to a video library they curate of techniques and videos.
Okay, these aren’t intended to be used as a practice planner, but having plans written down electronically is still a huge boon to your program. If you use Word, I would suggest making sure you use a backup solution in case your hard drive fails (or use their new Office 365 product). Google Docs has the upside of being easily shareable across your coaching staff, and makes collaboration easy.
As a maker of software for wrestling teams, it pains me a little bit to recommend paper, but I’m going to. This is still better than having no plan whatsoever. It also has the advantage of being simple, easy to use, and cheap. In some cases, paper may even be the best choice for you. At the very least, paper makes you stay a little more organized than winging it.
Free PDF practice plan template