Despite my countless training camps in Eastern European countries, I have never been able to see how some of these powerhouse countries train their young talent to produce huge quantities of world class wrestlers… Until yesterday!

Before my own training started, I was a very interested spectator of a local Odessa club.  There must have been 20 kids on the mat – at least – all around ages 7 or 8.

What I witnessed was just incredible!

The skill level and physical ability of these children was off the charts!


Despite preconceived perceptions, the coach was no Josef Stalin-esque figure leading the practice like a dictator, terrifying the kids. Quite the contrary, he was so relaxed with absolutely no shouting (nor need to).

He took them through the warm up then straight into technique, very structured.  The children went at their own pace during the technical part and extra support was provided when necessary.

The most important point to note was that, although it was well structured and there was lots to learn… the children were having FUN and making friends (much like a school environment but with added enjoyment)!

When it came time to wrestle, no timer was necessary as the kids just wrestled with their partner in their own time.  And yes, at times, the kids would be running around not wrestling but the coach left them to it and eventually they would get back on task, demonstrating a real sense of responsibility at such a young age.

As for the technique they were displaying at that age, it was frightening – especially in the set-up department.  They were snapping the head well, misdirecting their partners and other various set-ups which demonstrated real maturity.  When they got in on a leg, it wasn’t just a case of bulldozing the other child over; they transitioned off to some intricate finishes on each attack.  It was wonderful to watch.

To finish off, the coach gave no specific time or number of reps, the children were to go and do some pull ups and rope climbs – a routine they were obviously familiar with.  Firstly, the rope climbs… Put it this way, I would be getting nose bleeds at the height this rope went up to.  Without anyone on their case telling them what to do, the kids amazed me by flying up this giant rope, to the top I may add, and doing it more than once! To further shock me, they then completed a couple sets of about 6-8 pull ups, and I mean proper ones, arms straight down and everything!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to observe such great practice… Children hard at work and having the time of their lives (a very rare thing) and believe me, I was taking notes.

This obviously led me then to think, HOW CAN WE GET KIDS AT A YOUNG AGE WRESTLING LIKE THIS IN BRITAIN?  I should add at this point that this is something I have been attempting to do for a while now (hence taking notes).


1) Technique is crucial.

Technique is crucial and with regards to working the hands for set ups, leg finishes, leg defence and so on, these are the finer details that really need to be developed.  It is important that we pass these details on at a young age because bad habits are hard to break and when young wrestlers hit their teens, it will be difficult to break, so we need to catch them YOUNG!

This is where I think my generation and the generation before me will be vital to technical growth of British wrestling… We have had it better than any other generation before us as we have got to train with some of the best coaches, best wrestlers and at some of the best camps all round the world.

2) There can be no egos in coaching.

People need to work together for the better of the development of wrestling in this country.

An example I like to relate this to, is when my coach Vlad came to this country… Despite him being a technical genius (I have personally never worked with a coach better for improving technical ability), some coaches were resistant in working with him and even stopped letting their athletes work with him!  Opportunities like this should be embraced and coaches and athletes should be collaborating with other great coaches when at every given opportunity rather than shunning them.

You can learn from anyone and, as a coach, I am continuously doing this.  I learn bits and bobs off everyone, when I can, to ensure I am teaching technique the best way possible.

You never stop learning and can never know it all.  In the coaching field, egos need to be dropped at the door!

3) Make it fun.

Yes, you need a rough structure but not so rigid that it sucks the enjoyment out of it for the children.

By alternating between teaching technique and playing games, you can still hit key areas of development but keep their interest levels high.  This way the children gain a sense of responsibility by following a structure that they are motivated to do due to the enjoyment wrestling provides…  This motivation and responsibility can then be transferred to any area of learning throughout their lives.

4) Develop ‘super-strength’.

I feel not enough is done to develop young athletes physically…  You get the age old answer that it damages their muscle growth, but would doing pull ups, rope climbs, dips and push ups really damage a child?  I reckon the answer would be negligible.

They must be doing something right over here anyway, because it is a different strength these guys have!  I believe this is because they have been working on their strength from such a young age.  And so from my experience, it does not stunt muscle development but in fact develops MACHINES!


There is a lot to take on board to help our young wrestlers and hopefully inspire them too!

I’m aware this has been a long piece, but I feel strongly about this, it’s important (and I hope it proved a good read too).

I would REALLY like some feedback on this topic so PLEASE canvas opinion on the subject…

Drive for the dream, shoot for success.

Kieran Malone

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