Recently I was asked by a parent whether or not his son should continue to wrestle. A Junior, for a good football program in NY, he was already receiving several scholarship offers from Division I football programs. The father felt that his son benefited from wrestling but the son felt that he should just focus on the sport he was going to play in college. The father asked me to outline the benefits of wrestling for football players and attempt to “prove” to his son that his scholarship offers would only increase if he continued to wrestle his last two seasons. I happily agreed as there is no doubt that wrestling greatly benefits football players on all levels.
“I love wrestlers; they are tough and make great Football players.” –Mike Stoops National Championship Football Coach at Oklahoma University.
Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding sports that any athlete can partake in. It is a total body sport requiring athletes to be flexible, strong, explosive, agile; to have a great sense of balance; and have the level of conditioning that rivals any other endurance sport. Wrestlers, through the course of their training and competition, are often subject to physical discomfort and pain at a level that far exceeds most sports. These skills benefit football players at all levels, from the ability to move laterally, keep a man in front of you and close the distance quickly, to driving a 225lb running back into the ground and forcing the fumble. There is no doubt that a wrestler’s physical-ness is a skill set desired by all coaches.
“Wrestlers make coaching football easy, they have balance, coordination, and as a staff we know they are tough.” -Tom Osborne College Hall of Fame Coach for the University of Nebraska.
Weight management, the discipline to maintain a healthy diet for 6 months or more out of the year, the drive to give a 100% every practice, and the drive it takes to wake up early everyday to get an extra run in are just some of the mental skills that it takes to be a successful wrestler. But none compare to the mental toughness it takes to walk out on a mat, alone with no teammates to help you win and take on an opponent one on one. Nothing compares to that feeling; whether you have a broken finger, bruised ribs, strained or torn knee ligament, a wrestler knows that for 6 minutes nothing else matters but putting his opponent on his back and getting his hand raised in the end. What football coach wouldn’t want an athlete on their team that is always going to give them 100% An athlete that they never have to tell, “hit the weight room,” or “you should get extra laps in after practice?” A true wrestler always wants to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. A wrestler is self reliant and will never blame his teammates for his loss. Wrestlers are mentally tough.
“I draft wrestlers because they are tough, I’ve never had a problem with a wrestler.” –Joe Gibbs Hall of Fame Football Coach.
Hand eye coordination, proprioception and anaerobic conditioning are three skills that are vital to both wrestling and football player! The definition of proprioecption is, “the ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts.” It utilizes all of the senses in the body. It is the ability to know where your body is in the space you are in, without having to look at your body. In other words, when a wrestler is in a scramble and his head is stuck underneath his opponent and without looking he is able to move his whole body, all four limbs, often in different directions at the same time, while simultaneously keeping track of his opponent’s entire body and staying in-bounds to finish the takedown; this is proprioception. On a football field an offensive linemen, for example, has to keep track of the man in front of him, his body, the bodies to his right and left and the quarterback behind him all at the same time. A wrestler is forced to hone this skill everyday in a competitive practice environment. This repetitive practice can only benefit a football player.
“I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.” –John Madden, Hall of Fame Football Coach and Broadcaster
Anaerobic conditioning is defined as as your ability to perform at a rate faster than can be met by oxygen supply. Short bursts of intense exercise tax your anaerobic system. Wrestling is a combination of Anaerobic and aerobic metabolisms however, it relies heavily on anaerobic conditioning within a match or tournament. It is because of this that wrestlers are often saught after by football coaches because they are in superior shape to athletes who do not work their anaerobic system.
“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” –Dan Gable Hall of Fame Wrestler and Wrestling Coach