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Two simple questions for those who want to get better

How do I get better?

The time is NOW for all wrestlers to make a plan on how to get better for next season. How do I get better? I get asked this all the time from wrestlers. As I think about how I improved so quickly in wrestling, only starting as a 9th grader at Chardon High School and later winning two Ohio State titles in my junior and senior years, including two undefeated seasons, it’s very clear to me how I did it. I CORRECTLY answered the two questions in this article. These two simple questions must be answered correctly before the highest levels of success can be reached IN ANYTHING.

Question #1: Who do you listen to?

There is a lot of information out there from many people, and it can be confusing to determine who you should listen to because of the abundance of advice and information. There are a lot of people who can help you out there, but what you’re looking for is someone that already has what you want. Make sure they have already gone through the process of achieving the level of success that you want. Make sure they have already demonstrated they can achieve the level of success you want. Listen to the coach that has coached State, National & Olympic Champions. This doesn’t mean that a coach that hasn’t coached a champion at any of these levels can’t help you, because I was Richard Depenbrok’s (my high school coach), first state champion and he skillfully and masterfully shaped and coached me to my to two state titles. His coaching created the foundation of all of my future success.

The reason my high school coach, Richard Depenbrok, was still a great man to listen to was because he was highly motivated to learn everything he could to enhance his coaching skills and insight. For example, after my sophomore year, he personally drove me, and a few other dedicated Chardon wrestlers, to a summer wrestling camp in the summer of 1972 where he and I personally met Dan Gable (’72 Munich Gold), Ben Peterson (’72 Munich Gold) and John Peterson (’72 Munich Silver), as they were training for the ’72 Munich Olympic Games. Some of the best college coaches in the nation were there for my coach to learn from (i.e., Harold Nichols and Les Anderson, Head Coach and Assistant Coach at Iowa State). Other successful college and high school coaches were also in attendance. I went to that camp finishing a 11-8-3 sophomore season and not qualifying for the state tournament to going the next two years undefeated and winning two Ohio state titles.

Was it coincidence? or was it responding correctly to these two questions? I personally know coaches that were so motivated to coach our United States Olympic athletes, that they took assistant coaching jobs at colleges that had Olympic level athletes training there, to gain experience and insight into coaching that caliber of athlete (and also gaining insight from the other coaches there). This led to many of these coaches successfully coaching U.S. Olympians to the Olympic podium. If your goal is to be an Olympic athlete, find one of these coaches and start training with these athletes.

Question #2: How willing are you to change?

Once you’re listening and taking in the CORRECT information, how willing are you to accept, adopt and use the new information to actually stop the old ways and change to the new ways?

Before you can change you must be teachable. How do you respond to someone giving you new and different information? You may want to change, but if you’re not “teachable,” or more simply, haven’t learned the skill of listening with an open mind and coming to the new teacher with complete trust willing to do what he/she says, then the desired change won’t happen. A teacher could be another athlete training for the same thing you are or a coach. What’s your “Teachability Index”? IT MUST BE AT 100 percent. You can’t pick and choose what you are going to learn. I’ve coached people unwilling to learn and they think there’re doing well learning from me, but as a teacher and coach I can see the flaws and weaknesses, and ultimately so can the competition.


I know this sounds too simple but as a coach I’ve watched many athletes fall short of their goals because of answering these two questions incorrectly.

So, again: Who are you listening to and are you willing to learn from them?
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