It’s September. School is back in and you’re starting to think wrestling again (or maybe you never forgot about it). If you’re like me, you got your email from USAW about the new membership season beginning. That prompts us to starting planning for the season. We think about how we’re going to train our athletes. What kind of pre-season conditioning we’re going to do. What our line-up is looking like and maybe how we can plug a few holes at certain weights. Let me remind you of something that one of the best wrestling coaches in the country said. J Robinson, head coach at the University of Minnesota, 3x NCAA team champions, a team that has set the record for the highest attended dual meet ever at the time. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that our sport will not survive based on how well we teach single-legs and double-legs but on how well we market our sport. That means you. The coach. If you doubt the benefits of marketing your program, look no further than some of our most successful teams around the country. Rob Koll at Cornell has built a fan base that now covets season tickets and packs thousands in the seats for matches.
Brian Smith at Missouri has likewise focused on his fan base while he has built his national powerhouse. Virginia Tech, as much as I hate to admit this as a UVA alumni, is doing a great job of marketing their sport as evidenced by the fact that they put a record 3,500 people in the stands for a dual meet last year. It should be said that they are not a top 10 team. If you think that these coaches are getting full houses now b/c they are successful, you’re wrong. Unfortunately there are a few successful programs all across the country that get fewer fans. You have to care about your fans. And if you do, you’ll get their support. What kind of support? Well, since most coaches that watch this are probably club coaches or high school coaches, let’s address your situation. You want more kids coming out for the team. Cultivate your fan base and put butts in the seats and see if more kids don’t want to be a wrestler. Put more butts in the seats and sell more tickets at $5-$6 a pop and see if your AD doesn’t change his attitude about wrestling. Pack the stands and see if your local media doesn’t begin to give you more coverage.
That’s how it works. But you have to tell your story. You have to engage your fans. You have to be where they already are. Where’s the first place that people go when they turn on their computer in the morning? Their email inbox. Do you have an email newsletter? I mean a regularly published newsletter where your fans get the latest and greatest scoops about your athletes, coaching staff and events? Do you publish quality content on your Facebook page? Is your website up-to-date? I see so many HS websites that are updated once a year. Fans go there and expect to get an update and instead they see last year’s roster. Don’t let your AD be your excuse (I can’t update my website b/c the school controls it.) Find a way. Rob Koll, J Robinson, Brian Smith… these guys found a way. Set a goal. A REAL goal. When you do and you write it down, then you’ll find a way. Take action today. Show your fans that you care. Tell your story. Build your brand and watch success come your way.