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Uniform Change: Why changing our uniform will NOT save wrestling

This has been an ongoing debate for the past few years and its time to address why a uniform change will not save the sport of wrestling, as many who have chimed in on this will lead you to believe. However, let me point out that I'm okay with the addition of board shorts/rash guard. Personally, I think they look dumb however what I'm against is those thinking a uniform change will suddenly increase numbers by the millions and somehow our sport will be plastered on the billboards as the new cool thing to do.

The singlet has been around for as far back as any of us can remember. The singlet is tight fitting and as a uniform, helps to keep athletes on the move and from getting fingers caught in shorts/shirts and possibly getting pulled or broken(yes this happens). Is it perfect? No. But it serves its purpose. However, that's not what the uniforms main issue is, at least according to those against the singlet. All of us coaches have heard the excuses, "singlets are gross, singlets are gay" and so on from kids, as we try to recruit them to the sport. Fact of the matter is, we were all kids at one time who had never worn a singlet, yet managed to get it on and compete. So why is it that now, the singlet has all of the sudden become an issue with coaches/media? The answer is laziness.

For years, the sport of wrestling has had to endure poor leadership over and over again, from top to bottom. Get rid of one and like a hydra, another one takes their place. We've had rule changes upon rule changes, that have drastically changed our sport and for the most part, destroyed the very essense that is wrestling. We've had our own scandals from the murder of Dave Schultz to Russians finally being caught using illegal supplements. We've seen the costs of travel teams increase from some several hundred to several thousand dollars, card prices have doubled in price, tournament fees have tripled or more. Every week there's a new "National" tournament, new coaches teaching new "world beater" technique. Unless you are maybe 1 of 100 senior level wrestlers, there is no real end game for the sport(pro) and you make dogshit for wages in the process. All things that have much more impact on our sport, all things we can work together to fix and all things no one wants to really address. That's what makes attacking the singlet a no brainer to some. Its easy and a typical response in todays society.

I've been coaching for nearly 22yrs now(yikes) and coached everything from little kids to high school. I've coached on many state and national teams and in that time, I've heard nearly every excuse in the book, as to why a kid won't compete. I've had kids say their parents won't let them, costs too much, I only play "this" sport, I have to babysit, I like to eat too much, I'm getting a job, my girlfriend won't let me, and on and on. On occasion, I'll ever hear the singlet excuse. However, that's usually the least one I hear. The one you almost never hear though, the excuse that is the REAL reason why our numbers suffer is, "Its too hard."

Wrestling is hard. Its probably one of the hardest things you'll ever do in your life. Its the reason why the military recruits wrestlers so much. Not everyone is geared the way lifetime wrestlers are. Tell a kid he needs to stop eating Cheetos and Redbull for breakfast, has to workout and run for 2-3hrs a day in a room likely above 75 degrees, have someone beat on you during that time, get up at 4am and ride a bus for 4hrs to go weigh in(give up their entire Fri/Sat), go step out on the mat by themselves and if they lose its all their fault, then say "hey can you come back and do it again next week?" Yeah right. Not in todays society of lazy kids, suffering from obesity/diabetes, too lazy to do any chores and can't put the game controller down. Kids look at you like you are crazy. Its not as easy of a sell as a sport like soccer, "hey go kick this ball sometimes and you'll get a medal." (No offense to my soccer friends because I love soccer but you get my point.) And don't get me wrong, I appreciate any sport, especially those who take it serious. They all take some kind of work to be good at. Someone once told me "we work just as hard as you do." And I said "Maybe, but now do your sport while on a very strict diet and while someone is smashing you into a mat."

Back to my main point, attacking the uniform is the easy way out. The lazy way out. Its an easy thing to attack because most aren't willing to address the issues that really matter. Its something they feel is easy for them to fix and they accomplished something really important. Fact is, making a uniform will not fix a kids work ethic. It will not get them to practice on time. It will not improve their grades. It will not change their poor attitudes. It will not change their crazy parents. All it does is give them one less excuse to use when they really just don't want to work that hard in the first place. The ONLY thing that will fix those real issues is, hard work.

Until you fix all the issues I listed above, we will likely never see a drastic increase in numbers.

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