In our last episode, we talked to Jordan about his experience with the now departed Coach Henson and we started to scratch the surface about how the assistant coaches work in the room with Coach Brian Smith. Today, we start to dig a little deeper into the role of the assistant coach.
The Beef: Previously you talked about the number of assistant coaches with whom you worked over your college career. Obviously Coach Smith provided the consistency over the course of your career, but what effect does the change of assistants have on a wrestler? Do the assistants specialize in certain things where others might not? Single leg vs. Double leg takedowns? Cradle vs. half nelson pinning combos? Or at the collegiate level, is Coach Smith dictating what he wants to see coached? Or is all of it coached at this point and wrestlers just pick and choose what they are most comfortable with?
Jordan Gagliano: The changing of assistants does indeed have an effect on a wrestler. With wrestling, there are so many styles and combinations of moves that every wrestler is different in how they practice and perform. No matter what a wrestler’s personal style or go-to moves are, coaches will no doubt put an extra focus on their(the coaches) own disciplines when it comes to technique. With coaches having different specialties, it’s necessary to have a variety of coaches on a team, and when new coaches come and go, there will no doubt be an impact. I don’t agree that there are any negative impacts to bringing in a new coach and a new focus, because it helps wrestlers strengthen their areas of weakness or brings new ideas into the wrestling room. It can be very frustrating in the college wrestling room, wrestling the same guys every day who know exactly what you are going to do before you do it. In order to succeed in wrestling you must adapt and change to be successful, and that’s why I think changing assistant coaches can actually have a positive impact. They get that new view that they never had, and were blind too before.
Assistant coaches do have their specialties, and they can be divided into many of the different styles you mentioned above. Every assistant coach can coach every position, because naturally after being in the sport so long, you have a great variety of skills, and your weaknesses are still much stronger than a novice wrestler. As wrestlers we actually have great flexibility in what we want to learn, but also what coaches we really want to work with, as well as what coaches we want in our corner during a wrestling match. I’m not going to say you always get to choose what you want to do, because sometimes only a coach knows where your weaknesses are, or your too ignorant to realize where you need the most help.
Coach Smith still does dictate what he wants see coached, depending on what areas of weakness he saw in the last competition, or areas to prepare us for an upcoming competition. Assistant coaches do put in a lot of input on the matter as well. In the beginning of the year, most of our practices are together and we will concentrate on the skills as a group. As competition begins and it gets deeper into the season, we frequently have small group practices where coaches can give better input to each wrestler. This is especially good when focusing on some of the smallest details at a high level in wrestling. This individual or small group drills were by far my favorite practices because of the improvements I saw in myself and others.
Since it is the summer time, talk to us about how your summers would go as a collegiate wrestler. Organized training on campus? Independent workouts and tournaments? All of the above?
Just because it was summer, we still had the expectation to practice and workout every day. Summer’s really made you accountable for your actions and your training, and were one of the best times to better yourself for the year ahead. Besides the work, it was the best times of my life. Waking up, working out usually twice, going to the pool, and taking a summer class was the extent of my regular responsibilities in the summertime. Summertime was really a great time to bond with my teammates. Of course we are together every day in the wrestling room in the fall, but as weather gets colder, school gets busier, and season starts to approach, free time seems to go the way of the dodo bird. Summertime allows the outside activities such as barbecuing with your friends, playing Frisbee golf, and hanging at the pool, which are community functions that can host a lot of people. You really never know what’s going on with all of your teammates during the school year, the summer allows you to take a deep breath and talk to someone you don’t always get the chance to.
Summer practices are organized to the point we have a general consensus what time everyone should show up to work out. The times were usually nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, and would be split between wrestling and weight lifting. Our coaches would be at practice and available for help and comments, but it would often times be an open-mat where it was your responsibility to train under the supervision of the coach. There was also the issue of balancing the predetermined limits set by the NCAA of how many hours a week practice was allowed, but it never caused any strife. Like I said before, summer training and practices were a great opportunity to excel in the sport during a time period that didn’t cause all that much stress.
With regards to tournaments, competition was pretty infrequent during the summertime unless you were training for freestyle and Greco on the world team. We consistently have several guys training for that, but not everyone can go. Especially during that time, being a good training partner for people preparing for world team trials or even Olympic trials is just as essential as training for a national championship. Still summertime was an opportunity to train for the long-term, rather than all the stresses of trying to improve wrestling skills week-by-week during the long wrestling season.
How different was it than when you were in the summers in high school?
There are so many differences to training in the summertime between high school and college. In college, summertime is surrounded by wrestling, if it’s the people you hang out with, what you do during the day, and what you talk about with your friends. College wrestling influences everything you do, and it doesn’t bother you because you know what your wrestling goals are and what you need to achieve them. High school summers in comparison are basically the minor leagues. In high school, wrestling is just what you do during the summertime, and you just hang out with friends from childhood who not necessarily wrestled at all. It was much harder to focus during summers in high school, because you were surrounded by people who weren’t as committed as you were to training. In college, you are surrounded by the best athletes in the nation, who didn’t get where they are now but taking it easy. One of the most basic rules in life would have to be to surround yourself with people you want to be like, and you’ll eventually get there. It is pretty much the same concept when it comes to athletics.