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Posted January 17, 2011
Coaches vary on taking notes from competition

West Delaware assistant wrestling coach Scott Litterer speaks into a recorder during Saturday's J-Hawk Invitational at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. West Delaware coaches use recorders to keep notes during competition, while others use written notes or rely on video. (G. Wyatt Schultz/The Predicament)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Alburnett Coach Kane Thompson doesn’t need to do it.

West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss integrated technology into the mix. Longtime Cedar Rapids Jefferson  Coach Dick Briggs has used various methods over his nearly 30 years of coaching but has reverted to pencil and paper similar to Waverly-Shell Rock Coach Rick Caldwell.

Coaches have various ways to record notes in order to determine shortcomings and strengths during competition and translate them to wrestlers in practice to better prepare them for the next event.

A coach is not focused only on guiding their wrestlers through duals and tournaments, but they have to observant and identify the areas for improvement.

“You’re coaching at the moment, helping them with the situation at the time,” Briggs said. “You’re taking notes for the future for both the individual and as a team.”

The practice is common among coaches, but the manner in which they do it vary.

Voss and his assistant, Scott Litterer, could be seen speaking into voice recorders at various times during Jefferson’s J-Hawk Invitational on Saturday. They use the audio devices to capture thoughts immediately before returning them to their pockets until the next noteworthy thought. Voss estimated he has used recorders for 10 years.

“It’s slick,” Voss said about using a recorder. “I always had my stat girls write down on the scoresheets when I saw something, but it was a lot for them to keep up with.”

With 14 wrestlers competing in up to four to five matches in a day, it is a lot for a coach to keep straight. Voss joked about how his memory has decreased as he has gotten older, but was serious about how the mental grind of competition has its effect on coaches. So, notes are key when he reviews the performance.

“The next day, after you’ve had a chance to rest and clear your mind, to try to think of everything you saw the day before out of all those matches is pretty tough,” Voss said. “I rely on it quite a bit.”

Which is what makes Thompson so unique. Thompson does not take any notes during competition. He prefers to be hands-free to be hands-on and focus directly on his competing wrestler. He can retain the entire events of the day before going home to log them later in the evening.

“For me, it’s not tough at all for some reason. I don’t know why,” said the 30-year-old Thompson in his fifth season as Pirates head coach. “I can remember scores of matches from the first year I started coaching at Alburnett and how the match went.”

Thompson has taken post-competition notes to fill a notebook with practice plans and areas for his athletes to develop. They address the topics while watching video of the matches, which still remains one of the most vital ways to improve.

“Sunday and Monday I watch film,” Thompson said. “I watch it first by myself. Then I have kids watch it with me so it’s fresh in my mind and I remember the matches and break it down.”

Voss and Litterer revisit their audio files the Sunday and Monday, structuring practices around their observations. Voss said he’s had to wait until after a match to make comments and he can tell his displeasure by a louder tone of voice.

“It’s funny to listen to because if it’s something I wasn’t real happy about my voice is a little louder,” Voss said with a laugh. ”Sometimes when I play it I have to make sure I’m not in class.”

Waverly-Shell Rock head wrestling coach Rick Caldwell takes notes during the finals of the J-Hawk Invitational Saturday at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. Caldwell relies on the more conventional method of recording thoughts of his wrestlers' performances during events. (Wyatt Schultz/The Predicament)

Caldwell had a folded packet of brackets from the Jefferson tournament where he scribbled simple notes for a handful of wrestlers. He had advice for 119-pound state champion Eric Devos from the top position, a note on how to better score from a front-headlock position for the Go-Hawks 103-pounder Andrew Steiert and another for a wrestler to down block and keep an opponent off his legs.

As important as the process is for the individual, there is alos a team dynamic to it. Coaches have to address the needs of the individual while pikcing up on team problems.

“I focus on the individual at the time,” Voss said. “I just taker all that information and map it out. if I see four to five kids with the same problem then it’s something we as a team have to concentrate on.

“I look for patterns from each position. If I see one that’s a good indication that as a team we need to get better at it.”

Briggs used recorders but decided transcribing was an extra step that could be eliminated by handwritten notes. He, like the majority of coaches, use video as the main tool to teach their wrestlers.

“I have used, and do use, all three methods,” Briggs said. “I also like the video as well. It’s probably the best. In the future, you can show the wrestler that.”

West Delaware also uses a software program called HUDL, which is an online system used to upload and break down video of various sports. The Hawks can log in and watch video whenever its convenient and even use it for demonstration during practice.

The most vital aspect is incorporating those notes into lessons for the wrestlers to work on in practices. It becomes a balancing act, trying to remain on course with conditioning and training while addressing different deficiencies with wrestlers of a variety of skill levels.

“Everyone is so different that we have practices where I have a list of each kids’ needs to work on individually,” Thompson said. “Each coach floats around to help each kid with what they need to work on. More of it’s individual, but you do have a lot of team concepts you need to work on. You want to be able to reach everybody in your room.”

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