Famed coach Terry Steiner teaches high schoolers about adversity on and off the mat
“I’m not spending my life’s work in the sport of wrestling because we’re chasing gold medals.”
As the coach of the United States national women’s wrestling team, Terry Steiner’s wrestlers have indeed competed for more than a few medals over the years, and even won some in the process. But when the celebrated wrestling coach came to the Peninsula to put on a clinic for female high school students during the first week of January, his big picture focus maintained a superior position throughout the day’s activity.
“The values that they are learning in struggling to become a better wrestler,” Steiner explained, “are the same values and principles they are going to use to get through the struggles of life.”
Steiner came to Menlo-Atherton High School for a specialized training session of the girl’s wrestling team (and also welcomed high school-age athletes from Sequoia and Woodside high schools, and others from the San Francisco, Oakland and Bakersfield areas), reinforcing the region’s reputation as a hot spot for the burgeoning sport of female wrestling.
During the first half of the session, Steiner demonstrated offensive and defensive techniques with individual athletes from the crowd seated on the red mat of the M-A wrestling room. The girls then practiced the moves with one another.
Kiely Tabaldo, a freshman wrestler for M-A and a 2018 Pan American Wrestling Championships competitor under Steiner’s coaching, said she appreciated the specific training on how to recover from being in a troubling defensive position.
“Defense in general is an area that is under addressed,” Steiner said. “There are always issues where wrestlers get caught under as they are trying to attack their competitor’s legs and you have to go from a bad position to a good position.”
After three hours of wrestling and a lunch break, coaches and athletes listened to Steiner speak about his career trajectory and the pressure that comes with the sport on and off the mat. They asked Steiner about his experience at the Olympics, about pain management and how to overcome confidence issues.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the athlete,” said Philip Hoang, the M-A women’s wrestling team’s head coach. “You are here to support their goals.”
Much like Steiner, Hoang put the main emphasis on the sport’s benefits beyond the mat.
“There are a lot of kids around here going through adversity and who don’t know how to cope with it,” Hoang said. “We are trying to teach these kids life lessons with the hope that they learn to deal with adversity.”
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