|The Mat Rats in action.|
By Gary Rubin
Wrestling is a challenging sport, both physically and mentally, but it is one in which children can excel regardless of size and athleticism.
Local youths are encouraged to join the Annandale Mat Rats, a wrestling club affiliated with the Annandale Boys and Girls Club and Annandale High School. The club is open to boys and girls ages 6 to 14.
Registration is currently under way. Practices will be held at Annandale High School three times a week. The schedule hasn’t been set yet.
Meets are held on Sundays, from mid-December through February, with league championships the first weekend in March. Wrestlers typically have three matches per meet with pairings based on age, experience, weight, and record, ensuring both fairness and safety.
Originally started in the 1980s, the Mat Rats club was revived in 2005 after several dormant years. The club has experienced an explosion in participation over the past few years, growing from a handful of wrestlers in 2005 to over 85 in the 2013-14 season.
Mat Rats coaching follows the philosophy that strong fundamentals are key to success and, therefore, focuses on developing and strengthening core techniques. Technique and mental focus are more important than pure strength.
The Mat Rats’ volunteer coaches stress sportsmanship, discipline, confidence, and respect – all of which benefit children on the mat, as well as in school, other sports, and in all aspects of life.
Coaches also stress the importance of academics, health, fitness, and a balanced athletic career. While practices can be physically taxing, the Mat Rats coaches also understand that success depends on each child’s personal commitment. Practices are kept positive and fast-moving to keep kids engaged and having fun. Experienced wrestlers are given additional instruction on more advanced techniques.
“Being involved in the Annandale Mat Rats is a true community experience,” says Scott Force, a volunteer coach and father of two young wrestlers. “We have so many coaching volunteers who all chip in to make the program successful. It's always a joy to see the parents, who don't see the progress in practice, amazed at the poise and confidence that their kids - their wrestlers - show in competition. Their pride is unmistakable.”
“Being in the room with the boys and girls from so many walks of life, seeing them focus on camaraderie and teamwork, is a real testament to the diversity of the Annandale community and the unifying power of a great program like the Mat Rats,” Force says. “It’s a rewarding experience to be alongside so many dedicated coaches - a group that brings a tremendous amount of experience - who work so well together to strengthen tried and true fundamentals, while bringing in new ideas to enhance the program.”