Much like Amazon has changed the world of retail and made life better for consumers with super fast deliveries and low prices, Penn State is changing the sport of wrestling for the better. A sport that has in the past been dominated by old-school stare downs and low scoring affairs is now being dominated by a team of guys who are regularly seen laughing and goofing off before matches and who rarely win by a decision. And the great thing is, the fans are the ones who win in the end.
This year was easily the most exciting NCAA finals I have watched, and it was because of Penn State. In years past, the finals have been known for being boring, low scoring, and riddled with stalling. There was still a little bit of that, but this year most of the guys who weren't aggressive didn't win. It was the guys who were having fun and went after it who won. Penn State's style of wrestling is exactly what the sport needs. (especially if we want ESPN to keep airing it)
And much like the retail world, where Wal Mart, Macy's, and other big box retailers are getting left behind and having to close down stores, wrestlers and teams that don't change are going to be left behind and it will continue to be a battle for second place.
My challenge to any wrestler or coach out there right now is to watch what the Penn State team does. Listen to what they all say in their interviews. It is not an accident that they are making everyone else look silly right now. They are doing some very specific things to build a culture where domination thrives.
The biggest thing I noticed was Penn State's relentless commitment to having fun and wrestling free. In almost every interview with the Cael or one his wrestlers these two things were brought up. If coaches can get a handle on this concept I think they will see massive improvement in the performance of their athletes.
Many coaches say they want their wrestlers to have fun, but their actions and demeanor say something else. This is where Cael separates himself from every other coach in the country. While most coaches seem like they on the edge of a mental breakdown all tournament long, Cael is always calm. If you watch him in the corner during matches, he never looks tense or upset and he rarely raises his voice.
One of the most important things any coach (or leader for that matter) can do is have a relaxed, positive demeanor. Athletes will always take on the emotions of their leader. If a coach wants his wrestlers to have fun, but is always yelling at the ref and letting the wins and losses affect how he acts, his athletes will do the same thing. His words are useless. They may even have a negative affect.
The old-school coaching style of yelling at your athletes and threatening them to get them to perform is a thing of the past. If teams want to compete now they are going to have to realize that. And if they do, it will be amazing for all of us because there will be a lot more guys out there letting it fly like the Penn State boys do. And that will be awesome.