(Archive Alabama Girls Wrestling Alliance)–Adding Girls to Your Team

Archive Article originally www.BamaGirlsWrestle.com by Dr. Coach TJ Zito, Jr

One of the top questions we receive from coaches is whether they would like more girls to wrestle. They are unsure where to start and want to learn how to recruit girls to build a team.

Many coaches question how to work girls into their existing structure and program. Introducing girls to an existing team can prove tricky. Finding a culture that works for your program is the key. No two teams will find success the same way.

Girls can practice alongside the boys in the same practice facility. Although some coaches choose to hold separate boys’ and girls’ practices, many programs have found successful ways for boys and girls to train together and bond as one team. As Alabama works toward state sanctioning, girls’ and boys’ divisions are separated in competition. Girls wrestle against girls, and boys wrestle against boys. Please visit the “Emerging Status” page for more details.

Step 1:

Find a volunteer girls’ coach. A female coach can be a team mom, an existing female coach from another sport, a former girls’ wrestler, or a volunteer willing to assist your team. This does not always mean an on-the-mat position. It is terrific if your volunteer can learn the basics to help the girls, but this is not a requirement to be an excellent girls’ coach. Girls’ coaches can be there for team support, female communication with the athletes, leadership, and for those willing….active participation on the mat training the girls. The benefit is that a female coach can help make the girls more comfortable in the sport and on the team. A girls’ coach does not have to impact your budget, and many volunteers are willing to work without stipends or payment.

Step 2:

Network from your school with other coaches for female athletes that may be willing to participate in the offseason from their sport. Fall sports such as Cross Country and Spring sports such as Softball are excellent because they do not interfere with wrestling, which is a Winter Sports. Also, cheer, dance, and gymnastics girls cross over into wrestling with gifts such as rhythm and timing. They can often mimic moves, like choreography, and learn to drill the physicality needed for the movements. Many successful wrestling girls have also come from nonsport activities such as art, theater, and band. Girls join wrestling for a variety of reasons. Similar to why boys may join wrestling, they join to belong, make friends, and represent their school. It is essential to discover at your school which girls take to the idea of wrestling and enjoy the sport.

Step 3:

Recognize differences in how boys and girls communicate, learn, and physically run wrestling moves. Saying, “I treat all my wrestlers the same,” does not recognize the differences girls can bring to the wrestling mat. Girls can prepare differently mentally and perform differently physically. Recognizing, understanding, and celebrating these differences can bring innovation and success to your wrestling room. Diversifying your wrestling room with girls can bring new styles, thoughts, and execution to common moves you may have never envisioned! Flexibility is a key strength for many girls, putting them in positions different from boys. Do not be afraid to get creative!

Step 4:

Hey Jimmy Dugan, slow your roll! Adust your communication Style. Adjust your tone, adjust your language, and adjust your style! The “tough love” strategy and “Bad Guy Coach” role may not be the best communication method when working with female athletes. Understand that there will not only be differences between male and female athletes but also with today’s generation of kids.

Many scholarly studies examine how boss and employee communication must change in the workplace because of generational differences. These studies can also be applied to coaching. The coaches that understand how each generation’s verbal, nonverbal tone and style change can learn to connect with their athletes more effectively.

Step 5:

Listen as much as you speak. As coaches, we like to talk. We like to be heard. With girls, we must step back and listen as much as we speak. Ask your girls what they think and how they feel about practice, the team, and matches. The girls need to trust their coach and feel understood and heard. You will learn as much from your girls in this sport as they will learn from you. Active listening, which pays attention to girls’ verbal and nonverbal language, is a terrific skill for a coach.

Step 6:

Work out the improper language, locker room talk, and other communication that is not necessary for the sport. Remove the off-color humor, hazing, and improper move names. Be creative and come up with new names that fit your team. Coaches have found success naming moves after people on your team, popular movie titles, and just about anything. An Alabama Hall of Famer reminds everyone consistently that wrestling used to be called “The Worlds Oldest Fraternity.” He now states it is the “World’s Oldest Fraternity and Sorority,” welcoming girls into our sport.

Step 7:

Work to book matches with other teams that have girls. If you are from a small school like many coaches are, you cannot split your boys and girls on the same date to separate locations. Actively work to book your team with other teams that have girls. Talk with their coaches, find out what girls’ weight classes they have, and shift your girls’ rosters to make as many girls’ matches as possible. If you are wrestling teams that do not have girls, encourage them to make the event a tri or quad match with teams with girls. Always try to get your girls matches against teams with girls.

The host school may like that more fans, ticket sales, and concession sales can help their home match make more money. Making matches will take a change in the process. The change does not mean you can no longer wrestle against existing teams without a girls’ team. Working creatively may take some legwork to get their coach to agree to host different schools with a girls’ team and your team in a tri or quad.

Communicate with the girls and their parents. Nothing will burn a girl or her parents out quicker than traveling hours on a bus, never to receive matches. Girls can then question if practicing in a support role is worth their time. Putting them in a situation to consistently frustrate them does not mean they are not team players. They want to see mat time just as any other athlete.

Get Creative! Book girls’ only duals on non-traditional wrestling days, such as Mondays or Fridays after your team practice. If your facility meets the AHSAA mat size guidelines, an AHSAA ref is hired, and an official weigh-in is conducted, girls’ matches can be set up outside a full gym. Many schools can host girls’ matches in their wrestling rooms. For the two years that AHSAA girls’ wrestling will be a pilot program, there are flexible ways to host girls-only matches. Please get in touch with your athletic director and visit www.AHSAA.com for all clarifications.

Book tournaments have boys’ divisions and girls’ divisions. Talk to coaches who host boys’ tournaments and encourage them to run a girls’ division.

Dr. Wendy Zito, Creative Director of Alabama Girls Wrestling Alliance

Step 8:

Be Creative. There is no exact approach. This website will share many stories, blogs, and opinions from Alabama wrestlers, coaches, and volunteers. There is no exact science or methodology. Each team will bond and form in its’ way. Be committed to girls’ wrestling growth, and we promise you will find success!