...on the Importance of Dual Meets
I have talked to many people over the last decade, concerning the lack of home fans following their teams. We decided it had a lot to do with fewer "dual meets" in team-schedules. Here are my thoughts on the importance of dual meets to the sport of wrestling.
The contemporary mind-set in wrestling is to compete in as many matches as possible, via the weekend tournament circuit. Thus, the matmen will be exposed to a plethora of experiences during the course of the season.
The reasoning behind this coaching philosophy is to fully prepare the wrestlers for the state-elimination tournaments at the end of the year. Sometimes it works and sometimes it backfires.
I have witnessed many teams peak mid-season due to an overabundance of tourney action. And let's not forget those serious injuries that often occur when a wrestler is competing in grueling two- and three-day, in-season competitions.
Another problem with a tournament-ladened schedule is the loss of a strong "fan following." If you care about truly promoting the mat sport in your school, return to a dual-meet, enriched program. This is extremely important if you are initiating a new mat program or revitalizing an old one. Remember, athletes like to hear people cheering for them.
It has worked in the past. The high school team I competed for had a schedule that included one tough Christmas tournament and 14 dual meets throughout the season. Back then we strived for a perfect dual-meet record each year.
More importantly, we had a large contingency of supporters that would attend our many home dual meets. In fact, at many meets, it was standing room only. Our coach saw to it that we wrestled other tough teams with great fan backing as well. It was an approach that really worked.
Lack of local followers is a big problem when scheduling too many tournaments. People who would support their team at home dual meets are not willing (or can't afford) to drive hours for day-long tournaments. Of course, attending districts, regionals, or states is a different story.
Dual meets can be just as competitive and exciting as tournaments. In some cases, even more so because the crowd gets to watch grapplers from their team wrestling in every match of the evening.
Yes, we need to get the fans back in the sport. This can be accomplished through dual meets. And it does not have to be at the expense of good competition. If you build a solid "dual meet" schedule with at least half the matches at home, they will come.