School League Or Club Team?
The answer to this largely depends on you and your wrestler's commitment to this sport. While we'd love it if everyone came to Red Hawk, we understand that school leagues are needed.
There are beginners of all ages, and the league serves as a great introduction to wrestling. This is mostly if the parent has never been a part of wrestling to a large degree. You really don't know what you're getting yourself into, so a league can often soften the blow.
School leagues are also a good place for those who don't have the money to spend for a club. This is very noble and important for the parents as it gives their kids a place to wrestle and compete without causing a bigger dent in their wallet.
Technical Side Of Practice
Having said that, the league can be detrimental if you really plan on taking this sport seriously. While it can introduce your wrestler to the sport, the teams are often taught by those who have little to no experience wrestling, coaching, teaching, and managing kids.
Even if they wrestled, they likely have not been to the higher levels of the sport and so they don't understand the intricate details about where your wrestler is headed. Technique with wrestling is incredibly important, especially good technique. There are a lot of moves being taught that will not work in the future, which creates bad habits that are often tough to correct.
There are moves that work great at eight years old, that fall off by ten, like a headlock, chin-whip, murkle, far side power half with no legs in, etc. Area coaches, we implore you - please stop teaching these moves, you're hurting your kids' futures. We penalize them with push-ups for using them in our room to help them break that habit. The more you reinforce their 'effectiveness', the more we have to backtrack to help the kids when they see us.
There are moves that will span their entire career, like a good high crotch shot or an outside single, that they need lots of practice with in order to be good enough at them later. Then there are moves that are extremely technical like leg riding or scrambling. These techniques take years of proper guidance to master and are used frequently in the higher levels (college).
Too often do league coaches focus on the now, instead of focusing on the future. At Red Hawk, we will always focus on where your wrestler is headed, and whether moves we teach will work at the end of their career. We teach college level technique to the young ones because at that age their minds are sponges and we want them to have as much time working with the technique as possible before they hit high school.
Intensity Of Practice
The intensity required to produce a good wrestler is also important. The school teams tend to take things slow, going at the pace of the slowest kid in the room. This drags every wrestler down to the level of the worst.
At a club practice, it should be the opposite. The pace stays at about the upper 10% of the room and the beginners are forced to keep up. They learn how to drill faster with the moves so they don't get left in the dust. This is survival of the fittest at its best.
It's tough at first, we understand, but they will get used to it. They'll at least show you what they're made of. We call this character building, being able to stare adversity in the face.
Level Of Competition
Another bad thing about the league is that it focuses all too much on the league itself, and seems to forget about the country we live in. Parents and kids alike get so engrained on trying to win the league tournament that they're blind to the bigger picture. There are state tournaments, national tournaments, that you should focus on training for and winning.
If your goal is win the league tournament, how could you ever hope to win states?
Everything you do as a parent, your kids will mimic. They've been doing that since they were babies, learning to walk and talk. If you set their goals low now, they'll set their goals low later.
Frequency Of Competition
Another area the league lacks is the frequency at which your wrestler is able to compete. As with most things, the more you do it, the better you get. Real matches are no different. Aside from a technical standpoint, the more matches you get the more you are able to perform at an optimal level when put to the test.
We refer to them as 'gamers', those who seem to do better in matches than in practice. They get that way purely with time spent in the situation. They learn to understand how to put it all out there when it's time to go. You could be the best practice wrestler in the world, but you're only as good as you can perform.
In a league season you can get around twenty matches at most. Through club competition, with dual meet tournaments and individual tournaments, you can easily exceed one hundred matches in a year. It doesn't take a genius to see why club wrestlers tend to get better at a faster pace - they put more time into it.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you're just trying to have fun or using it as a social scene for the parents, the league will be just fine. For the competitive and the serious, those who want to get a full scholarship to college someday, we recommend you join a club.
We're not trying to slander those who are happy with their league and/or don't have high goals. You can live your life however you see fit, and that's completely fine. We only want to shed light on what it takes to achieve the bigger goals should you have them.
Some are under the impression that this sport is based on the kid, and not the environment in which he grows up in. That couldn't be farther from the truth.
Having the ability to learn, adapt, and improve is a big deal. Some are naturally better at that than others. However, if the environment doesn't facilitate the best interest of the wrestler, he'll be led to do exactly the wrong things, on and off the mat, and won't prosper because of that.