Wrestling can be for everyone.
Wrestling in grade school can be a rewarding way to develop confidence and skill in your child. No one is dependent on your child showing up for games, you and your child can be practice only participants. A good program is willing to let your child be undefeated in wrestling matches simply by never attending a tournament or match. On the flip side your wrestler can be the starting quarterback every weekend. Youth wrestling doesn’t have to have a “team” that people make, start for or get playing time. Wrestling is one of the few youth sports that push strength and conditioning as well as skills building. Finding a good program is key to having a positive experience for you and your child.
Look for a program that has the word “fun” in one of its primary goals. If the coaches are not focused on part of every practice having a "fun time," the program might struggle with retaining kids. Wrestling is a tough sport that builds character, but it takes the fun incentive to hold kids’ interest for a long season and to get them to come back year after year. Talk to the coaches or email them to find out their philosophy. If they don’t have time for you, why would they have time for your wrestler? Ask them to describe what happens in a normal practice, how they motivate the kids and how they control for discipline issues. Programs that can separate kids by age, weight and skill level can provide the best and safest experience for every child. Many programs will offer a short low cost or free clinic to allow kids to try the sport prior to committing to a whole season. If you can buy or borrow some wrestling shoes for these trial clinics your child will have a better experience. Wrestling in socks is frustrating at any level. Some programs may have some loaners just for this.
What to expect.
Youth wrestling seasons can be from November to April, December to March or some similar time frame. A longer season might mean a lower cost per practice. A shorter season means a better chance of your child attending most or all of the practices. There can be a certain amount of pride in that. Remember these are kids, there is no fine for missing some practices at the end when looking forward to spring sports.
The cost of youth wrestling has several parts. Program cost can be from $50 to $150 for the season. This money covers insurance, mat and room rental, first aid supplies, marketing, back ground checks, coach classes and some programs pay one or two coaches. Many youth wrestling programs will include free admission to the home tournament they host. This is a good chance for the first time wrestlers to try competition. Equipment cost can from $10 to $100 for a year. Your wrestler will need wrestling shoes at a minimum. Some programs require headgear for practice, some don’t. Those are the required expenses, but strong programs have funds to cover registration fees and loaner shoes for income challenged families. The optional costs are competition related. Each tournament will have an entry fee of $10 to $15, plus many charge spectators admission of $2 to $3. Additionally most programs offer team singlets for use with a deposit to ensure the program gets the singlet back at the end of the year.
Wait for competition until your child is ready.
Youth wrestling has a lot of value for your child, even if you don’t attend any tournaments. Traveling to tournaments every weekend can add up fast especially if you have more than one child participating. Even the coaches take some weekends off. Remember this should be a positive experience for you and your child. Wrestling practice should build skill, strength, character and confidence; don’t let competition have a chance to tear any of that down until your child is ready to compete. The coaches can help with this decision, but the parent has the final word.
I hope you chose to give your child a chance to try a sport that can affect them for life.