The Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association.......

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...... now has two new qualified coaches: Jason Davidson of Rothbury, Northumberland, and Tom Harrington of Carlisle.

You might think that Tom Harrington, who has been one of the main coaches at Carlisle Wrestling Club for the past 36 years, might not need a paper qualification. In addition, he was one of the assessors for the first cohort of CWWA coaches when the certification scheme was first established, so it seems strange that the assessor had to be assessed. However, Tom is still a regular and active coach at Carlisle and sport in general insists, rightly, that those people with responsibilities for training youngsters should be properly and demonstrably qualified.

Jason Davidson's case is more as you would expect when a champion wrestler looks beyond his own wrestling ambitions and decides to pass his knowledge on to the next generation. Wrestling has always had a strong following in the Coquet Valley and the new academy in Rothbury, formed only last autumn, follows those in Harbottle and Thropton, which over sixty years have launched so many champion wrestlers.

Most areas covered by the CWWA now have qualified coaches, but the next stage is to bring on good wrestlers like Joseph Robson (Kendal), Joe Threlfall (North Lancashire), Joe Lowery (West Cumbria), and Darren Whitfield (Northumberland) to qualify, and give extra support throughout the regions.

As well as involvement in coaching, there will also be a place for an active wrestler to serve on the Governing Board. The recent Wrestling Association AGM decided that wrestlers should elect their own representative who would take a full role except for disciplinary matters. Only wrestlers who are personal members would have a vote.

Democracy has even reached the actual wrestling ring, when the AGM made clear that a wrestling fall should only be awarded if there is a majority of the three judges in agreement. In the past the referee would sometimes overrule the judges, which would seem to make them redundant. That rule was changed so that, whatever the referee thought, he had to accept the decision of the two judges if they concurred. A final loop-hole was closed when the referee is no longer able to award a fall when all three arbiters differ about the decision.

Although wrestling is trying to move forward, occasionally a look over the shoulder can be productive. On a visit to Waberthwaite Academy I saw a modern version of an old wrestling system when Tom Porter gathered up a shoe from each wrestler then threw them into the ring to make the draw for who met whom on the mat. On the village greens and in the schoolyards, at a time when everyone wore a cap, that was the system for making the draw, using caps not trainers, which cut out paperwork entirely.

Tom Harrington, in his assessment session, came up with a completely original version of this old method which all our qualified coaches could use to good effect. Firstly, he picked two balanced teams; then all wrestlers threw a trainer over their shoulder onto the mat. Those landing adjacent to each other wrestled each other regardless of which team they were on. At the end of the bout each wrestler was given a score, not for winning, but for the quality of the wrestling. Thus a tiny wrestler who fought well and skilfully against a giant could gain a higher score than the actual winner of the bout. When everybody had wrestled, the scores were added up to find the winning team which would not necessarily be the one with most wins. This coaching ploy uniquely rewards each wrestler's skill and effort.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)

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