what will get you better, practice or competition?

I have had extensive conversations with the best coaches in the country regarding what to do in the off season. We have discussed what prevents burnout and how to become a better athlete. It’s interesting because when I talk to parents there is significant variation between what they think kids should be doing and what great coaches know kids should be doing. I see so many parents thinking that they way for their wrestler to get better is they should get as many matches as they can. Other parents of wrestlers think you need to pack your summer full of camps and go to JRob’s intensive camps. Other families and students pull back on the private lessons and enjoy the beach. When I talk to the wrestlers, I see the same, really no idea what they should be doing to prepare for next year.

Chase Pami Confused on what he should be doing
Chase Pami confused on why he is not getting better wrestling 10 tournaments a week. Im only joking, Chase 😉

The Problem with Wrestling Tournaments

I coach a wrestler who I would like to call Giovanni. He is doing a freestyle tournament every weekend. Some local, some national. For 7 weeks in a row. Now, it’s great that he is doing freestyle and not folk style. Thats an entire other topic I cover here where I discuss Freestyle or Folkstyle in the off season. This wrestler Gio will spend 8-10 hours a weekend at or traveling to a competition, and wrestles for 2-20 minutes at that competition. So he is investing 8 hours of his time to actually spend 20 minutes improving. 30 if you add in 10 minutes for wamup and mental pre-match prep.

What is the major benefit for Giovanni? He isn’t really getting better at wrestling, and in all likelihood he is reinforcing bad habits. Defending leg attacks the same way he did in high school season, not exiting front headlocks correctly, any technical issue he has he is practicing again and reinforcing them. Now Gio could get a bit more out of this tournament by going into those tournaments with intentional things to try and execute in live competition ( ie. we are working single leg setups, execute that setup 10 times this weekend against lessor competition in a match ).

Bri being intentional about the way she trains wrestling for the NYC RTC
Bri thinking about how much of a waste of time going to a tournament every weekend would be for her. Bri was a senior level Pan Am Champion in 2018.

I would like to contrast him with another wrestler we can call Jimai. Jamie, I mean Jimai plans out his week in advance. This day I will head to that session and work on this, they next day I will go to NYC RTC and practice getting in that position and working through it in live. Then I will come back and work a private lesson with coach and focus on the gaps I have from live wrestling. And he does this again and again. Imagine Jamie err, ok yea. His name is Jamie. He spent 8-10 hours per weekend getting both competition ( matches in the room or situations ) and technically improving by assessing his gaps in those specific situations.

Between Jamie and Giovanni, if they start this process equal on April 1st who will be better come November 1?

Don’t hate me for Data

  • They both start with the same 8 hours on the weekend:
  • Jamie – 7 months x 4 weeks x 8 hours per week = 224 hours intentionally improving
  • Giovanni – 7 months x 4 weeks x 30 minutes per week = 14 hours unintentionally improving

The secret of off season improvement revealed

 The above data quickly demonstrates the difference in how Jamie and Gio used their 8 hours on the weekend. When compounded over 7 months, Jamie has invested 224 hours into improving intentionally ( we talk about that more here ) while Gio has put in the time, but the actual benefit from that same 224 hours invested really only results in 14 hours of unintentional improvement.

World Champion Wrestlers Training and studying video
I watched Helen and the Russian Jr World Champion study film with Kendall Cross and then go out and practice. Come back, study. Go play and practice. This continued for 40 minutes as they slowly increased their intensity as their understanding of the technique improved. This is practicing with intention.


But please understand ‘The Fallacy of one size fits all’ presents itself again. If Gio needed to get more comfortable at tournaments, great, let’s go compete and work through some mental bugs and get your routine warmup down. But this athlete needs to get better technically. The biggest gaps for him right now are strength and seamlessly tying positions together. He competes like an animal. So my recommendation for Gio? Go pair down your tournaments to one every other weekend or three weeks is best. Come back and train things from that tournament to improve, but don’t let it throw off your off season progression. What is progression and why is the off season so important? I discuss that here


Next article will be on what Ray Brinzer believes the off season should be and why it’s radically different than anything you’ve ever heard before.. After that we will dig in with Rob Saluver of Bandana Training on your out of season strength gains and he will offer his e-book to us CHEAP

Your action steps? Create a 12 month cycle/ plan and discuss with your coach. Include potential competitions and time allocated to review things you need to improve from those competitions. 

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