Five Point Move is proud to host USA Greco-Roman National Team head coach Matt Lindland each week for Coach Lindland’s Report. Here is where you will find detailed perspectives from Coach Lindland regarding results, training, upcoming events, and other Greco-related news that isn’t available anywhere else. ALSO — if you would like to donate directly to the US Greco-Roman program, just click here. Your support is appreciated!
Depending on how you’re keeping track, the United States Seniors are 40% through their training phase for the 2018 World Championships. Two camps down, three to go. Or, two camps down, two to go, that is if you’re not counting the acclimation period in Hungary leading up to the big dance. Either way, the most recent training camp for the squad, which took place in Las Vegas a week ago, offered an important step in the overall process given its focus on organizing match plans and drumming up offense. Coach Lindland explains why Vegas was a success for the Seniors, as well as the impact it made on the age groupers who were also in attendance. From there, the conversation shifts to Germany and how the Senior World Teamers will use their experience overseas to make critical adjustments prior to Budapest.
5PM: Knowing what the general plan was for the Seniors entering Vegas, do you feel that the directives and goals in place were accomplished?
Coach Matt Lindland: I don’t think we can just talk about the Seniors because having all of the teams there together was such a valuable component to what we did. Yes, that was all part of the Senior plan but it worked really well to have our Juniors, U23 athletes, and our #2 Juniors which is essentially the Pan Ams team there, as well. Yeah, it was my vision and what Coach (Gary) Mayabb helped us create with building a system around what we wanted to accomplish, and he was able to construct graphs and charts, and really help these athletes lay out their own master plans based on my own philosophy, but also on what I’ve learned from other coaches since I started.
I’ve picked Momir’s (Petkovic) brain to understand him, I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions what a scientist Coach (Mark) Halvorson is, and having Coach Mayabb to help organize everything with Mohamed’s (Abdelfatah) brains behind it, I mean, we’ve just got a lot of knowledge. And I’m not just talking about those guys I mentioned, there are a lot of guys outside of that who are pouring into this program. So, we’ve got a lot of that, plus we have help from the Sports Science department at the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) and their physiology team. I really can’t take credit for this. It’s my philosophy and thought, but the men who helped put this together is where the credit really goes. I’m grateful to have everyone contributing to this program.
5PM: Did the layout at the South Point Hotel and the logistics involved with everyone being centralized provide as big of a benefit as you hoped it would?
ML: Yeah, I think the camp worked out better than I expected. There was a lot of help behind the scenes, and not just with myself and Coach Mayabb. We had a lot of organized committees there in Vegas. We had local coaches who were plugged into the state of Nevada and Rob Cate, who has great relationships with people all across the state and especially in Las Vegas and at the South Point, which is where we host a lot of events. Regionally, the state leaders’ summit was going to be in Las Vegas. We originally planned on taking more of our camps on the road to be able to better expose our athletes. We’re limited at the (Olympic) Training Center sometimes with the number of beds we can get. If we bring in athletes we have to get them a van, there is no hotel right across the street. It’s just not that convenient sometimes. We want to get more people at our camps, the kind of athletes we want at our camps — our top-level Juniors, our top-level Cadets, and our under-23 athletes. We’re trying to build a program here and not just a select group of Seniors, so I think it’s really important to have all of those guys together.
So, with the idea that the state leadership summit was going to be held there I thought, This is incredible because they can watch us train, we’re the only show in town. When we hold stuff in Colorado Springs we sometimes get drowned out by the Jordan Burroughs’, Kyle Dake’s, and David Taylor’s of the world, guys who really came out of that college scene and are known for their exploits in the college system. Some of our elite guys kind of get looked over when people come to the Olympic Training Center for events in Colorado Springs. It’s like, Where’s Burroughs? But they ended up moving the leadership summit to Colorado Springs, though we were still very, very pleased with the way things went. You mentioned having all of the guys in one place, well, we also had some coaches there and we were able to hold some meetings and discussions about making adjustments and tweaks to the plan. Having everyone there was incredibly efficient for what we were trying to do. I think it was a really positive experience.
There were a lot of people who were nervous about going to Las Vegas and all of its distractions but when you are there and you’re focused like our athletes were this camp — which I was very pleased with — you can get a lot done. And what we got done was helping these athletes to understand who they are as far as the way they want to approach the fight. We’re not letting the fight come to us, we’re taking the fight to our opponents. We have a plan, we have a strategy, and we’re stepping into a fight. It’s complete chaos. On one side of that same individual is structure and discipline. When he steps on the mat and into the fight, he’s in complete chaos. If you don’t have order, structure, and discipline when you step onto the mat, your whole life is chaos. Too much chaos is not good, it is not a good thing. Too much structure, order, and discipline — well, discipline is always good — but too much order, rigidity, and structure is not fun. It’s not enjoyable. That’s why we fight and do what we do, because we love the chaos. We love the uncertainty.
But it helps going in with a plan and a strategy, and our athletes were able to take the time to work on that, and play with it and experiment with it. When you have your top Seniors going with your top Juniors, maybe the Juniors are not quite at that level and things work better sometimes. They are still going to give you the right look, they’re Greco-Roman athletes. We still have some dual-path athletes and we are going to embrace them however we can and create opportunities for them, as well. But it was an incredible camp. I was very pleased.
5PM: Athletes writing out match plans, is that part of the order and structure you’re talking about? Just because, science shows that writing things out helps you retain information better, so is that why the match plans have been a point of emphasis?
ML: I think that’s a really good point of emphasis. It allows you to come at this with a different approach, a different perspective. A lot more of our athletes are probably kinesthetic learners, I mean, that’s why they became athletes to begin with. There are some guys who learn in that fashion and there is no question that research has shown that writing things down helps you deliberate and own it, understand what you’re doing. I think it is really about taking ownership.
A lot of what we’ve talked about is taking ownership of everything we do and that’s key. We’re trying to create a bunch of guys who can coach themselves. We’re working with men in their early 20’s, so we are really trying to create that sense of ownership for them in everything that they do. They are responsible — they’re responsible for what they put in their bodies, what they eat, how they train, how they recover, and how much effort and attitude they put in. We as the coaches for our program in the United States cannot want it more than our athletes do, so they have to take that kind of ownership. We’ll be there to help, guide, and do whatever we can, but we have the same exact goals as the athletes. They want to win and we want them to win. We are very aligned in that manner. All we want to do is help them reach their goals and get to the top of the podium. That’s where they want to be so we want to provide the environment for them and allow them to take ownership of everything they do in their careers. A lot of the early part of what you’re doing is teaching them how to do that, teaching them how to be responsible and take that ownership.
5PM: Coming out of Vegas several remarked how positive and influential the Seniors were for the younger guys. The Seniors enthusiastically worked with the Juniors and whomever else and that left an impact. Considering how well this all worked out, I’m gathering that you will attempt to go back to this format in the future.
Coach Matt Lindland: This is a format that I have been trying to incorporate because we want to raise the levels of these athletes. For the Senior level, we’re leaving for Europe to test ourselves against the best guys in the world that we can chase down this week. Our Juniors should be challenging themselves against the best Seniors, and our U23 guys should be right on everyone’s heels. We want to build up the depth in our program and get our numbers up to where everyone is challenging one another, and that is going to raise everyone’s level.
There are no favorites, it is about preparing the best guy you can on the mat. That is all anyone in our program wants, even the athletes. They want themselves, but they also want to be the best guys for the job. They need to put in that kind of effort, structure, and discipline in everything they do to get themselves to that point where they are not only the best guy in the country, but they are also the best guy for the job, the best guy to send to the World Championships and the Olympic Games representing the United States. I think we’re really starting to see that the training plan wasn’t just for the preparation of our athletes, it is still building that cohesiveness and unity, working together as a program. We can go a lot further as a Team than if we try to do it as individuals. I think everyone is starting to see that vision.
5PM: Does a trip like the one this week to Germany serve that purpose in a way? Being together overseas, will that boost the gelling of the athletes even more as a complete unit?
ML: I absolutely think that will contribute to the gelling of the squad. The guys are really growing to respect each other and trust one another. The program as a whole, that was one of our five priorities and an area we wanted to close the gap on, respect and trust for one another. I think not only being together, but also putting ourselves in different situations where we have to rely on one another. Maybe it’s something like, I left my bags and I need to borrow your clothes. There are going to be those moments throughout the trip. It can be as simple as, I need money for an adapter. Can you share yours until I go to the store? Those things, helping one another, and I think the more that these occur, the more the guys get the sense that we’re in this together.
These situations, they are going to arise and we’re going to have to deal with them and rely on one another. They are going to happen more frequently, especially when we travel overseas. We are going to need to rely on our teammates, our coaches, our trainers, and they’ll see that we’re all in this together and there to help them reach their goals.
5PM: When this trip is over and you’re assessing the performances of the athletes and their match plans, are those adjustments that will be made posthaste, or leading up to the big camp at the OTC early next month?
Coach Matt Lindland: That’s what we’re going to do. We are going to be able to evaluate the athletes and whether or not they got to their ties and if they got to their scoring position. So, yeah, we’ll be able to make those adjustments in the upcoming months and that was kind of the purpose of this whole thing — to create a plan, see if it works, and make those adjustments. And then revise the plan and go to the World Championships with a very solid plan that has been battle tested. I think that is going to be key for our athletes.