Austria Training Camp Blog 2012

USOEC athlete Schuyler Brown performs a jump forward roll during a cross-training workout at Austria Training Camp 2012

Representatives from two USA Women’s Wrestling college teams, Lock Haven University and Northern Michigan University (aka U.S. Olympic Education Center) participated in a training camp held at Götzis, Austria organized & hosted by Bruno Hartmann. The teams were led by head coaches Terry Fike (LHU) and Shannyn J. Gillespie (NMU/USOEC). Below is a daily blog written by Coach Shannyn. #femalewrestlingblogs

Saturday January 14, 2012– Travelling is not only a job, it’s an adventure. I think the Army used that slogan about 20 years ago and it’s still applicable nowadays. Getting to see different wrestlers, coaches, parts of the world is great for all of the reasons listed below and because it’s an adventure.

Because Europe and Asia (Africa & Australia too, although I’ve never been there…) are at least 6 hours ahead if Eastern Standard Time, we always get 2 days for 1 when flying back from overseas and lose a day when travelling to training camps and competitions. I like getting 2 days for 1 even though the jet-lag and weariness still seem to have a great effect on me.

On the way back to Marquette, we saw some USOEC Greco-Roman wrestlers in Detroit along with the USOEC Interim Director. This was interesting because we all talked about the days that lie ahead and the uncertainty that they bring. I am certain of this, we will prosper if we believe it. This is what seems to driven into my head every time I travel abroad due to the ingenuity of our fellow competitors. It seems that we can get by and do great things when there are few options. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

The day that seemed to go on forever is winding down now as we sit here and wait for our baggage in the Marquette, MI airport. The van is outside waiting to bring us all home and I am typing. Lilia, Schuyler and I have been traveling for about 16 hours now and this is the end. The end of this trip…

Friday January 13, 2012– Today was the last day of training and it started with a much needed break. We usually practice on the mat 5 times a week and at this camp we basically did 2 a days on the mat except for Saturday, Sunday, and today. Well, that is what training camps are for and we definitely got ‘our moneys worth’. Rather than sum this trip up, I will give you some thoughts from my hosts mouths.

Ender Tari is an organizer and volunteer for the Austria Training Camp 2012. I’ve known Ender for 4 years now and he has been gracious every year. Today he explained to me that the Turks have been here for about 50 years (after World War II) and estimates that there are probably 15,000 to 25,000 Turks (second in foreign population to Germans in Austria) living here. He suggested they were asked to come here to rebuild Austria and Ender, who is from Turkey, came to Götzis when he was 10. Ender has been involved with the wrestling club at Götzis since he got here either as a wrestler, organizer, or volunteer. Ender works tirelessly to help this club in Götzis and to also preserve wrestling in Austria.

Stephanie Maierhofer, age 24, has been involved with wrestling in Götzis since she was 5 years old and recently placed 8th at the Sr. World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. She travels quite a bit to train because she and her sister are the only senior level wrestlers in Götzis. Eva, her sister, is now in a university in the UK and is not a everyday partner anymore. Steffi estimates she attends about 7 training camps per year and will compete in about 6 tournaments the next 2 months or so…partially to qualify for the Olympic Games in London.

The food here has been great. I found out that Northern Italy use to be part of Austria and that this could be a reason for many Italian style restaurants in Götzis. The Italian food here is good for me. The Austrian food is good for me too. Tonight I ate steak and noodles and a great sauce/gravy. The name of the meal escapes me but the great taste is everlasting in my mind. At some point, pictures of this meal will emerge…photos were taken with my phone and it cost a small fortune to use the internet via phone here.

This trip was a success and now we must get ready for the second semester at NMU and the trials for the world championships for seniors, juniors, and university students. Schuyler, Melissa Apodaca, and Erin Golston have already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and they will sharpen their blades till April. Next, several USOEC residents will travel to Japan for a training camp in March. Until then (or tomorrow), bye-bye.

Thursday January 12, 2012– Bruno is a great host. For one, he organizes all the practices, communicates with each coach as if they were equals, and has social events to break up the monotony of training. Two days ago, the Swedes left and he had a coffee social for them (that I kind of interrupted). Bruno invited me in and I talked with all the coaches and ate wonderful croissants filled with something yummy. Last night, he invited Terry and his wife Susan plus me over for dinner probably because Terry was leaving the next day. Well the dinner was great and Bruno is also a good cook. These times when we talk are some of the most enlightening times I’ve had here.

After dinner, Bruno described how he has seen the former Soviet Bloc countries train and how it may be related to their results. Some of the exercises he teaches his athletes come directly from training camps in Eastern Europe; most of these exercises are video taped in this playlist (since this writing, a new YouTube page has been created). He also described how it is a challenge to influence his athletes to learn, master, and execute the exercises partially because the exercises are hard and maybe because of motivation.

I can understand this motivation piece because I have been to Japanese training camps. The training and ability and motivation is great in Japan and after athletes see the skill, precision, and work ethic of others, this sometimes motivates them too.

In reviewing my own thoughts, I guess motivation is a big factor to success. If you or I are motivated to achieve, listen, and learn (and then execute), we may be unstoppable. Here is a question for the masses –> How does anybody know they can do anything before they have done it? Here is part 2 of that thought –> Does competition stress, fear, motivation influence decisions/actions? These questions are tough and the athletes who come close to figuring them out probably move efficiently & effectively in the direction of their goals.

Last week and tonight, the athletes did an exercise that can be seen here. These exercises are a challenge and you can do them too. Also, a partner version of a forward roll and backward roll can also be executed in a line fashion as well for great agility, flexibility, coordination, and strength.

Wednesday January 11, 2012– What a day. We started and ended the day with somewhat of a recovery day in terms of intensity on the mat and you can check out the coordination training via pictures on Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube. The middle of the day was packed with hiking of the Austrian Alps. The day was great because the athletes are really tired and sore and sick of wrestling. Well, today helped.

The Austrian Alps we hiked were spectacular. Some of the photos are simply breath taking. On the way up and down the mountains, it was really tricky to keep your feet under you – so you had to take your time. I am uncertain what heaven really looks like and imagine it may look a little like what I witnessed today. This break from training was actually hard and fun and inspiring all at the same time. The mind works in mysterious ways and has a way of enduring when things are fun and inspiring. We left the training center at 1:00 pm and returned at about 6:00 pm. That’s a long time to do anything…

Upon our return, we drilled a little (I wrestled live) and played what felt like the World Cup of Football or soccer. The Greco-Roman Jr. Men played like it was their last game. It was fun even though we lost –> Sometimes when you lose, you really win. Vitaly, Austrian National Team Coach, asked if I wanted to sauna after training and I said yes.

Prior to my talk with Vitaly in the Sauna, Steffi chatted with me about competition stress. As a coach, I’ve learned, it is very important to listen to athletes. What she said to me is confidential and it made me think again about how I must continue to improve as a coach. I’ve also learned how to ask questions, for the most part, at the right time. This is maybe as important as any wrestling technique any wrestler can learn. Again, getting to know athletes is important.

Vitaly, who is originally from the Ukraine, suggested to me many folks have or are leaving Russia and or its former Republics largely because of communism and the inability to leave and come as you please. I think it was called defecting if you left the Soviet Union back in the day. Anyway, Lilia’s parents are from the Ukraine and those two talked about the mass exodus when the Iron Curtain or communism in Russia/Soviet Union ended. Suffice it to say I can understand his plight an many other folks who have felt like they were being treated unfairly by their governments. This history has repeated itself in countries like the USA, South Africa, India, and many others. I am glad Vitaly and Lilia and others now have the opportunity to live freely where they want and get jobs and go to school and vote and be happy.

There are several cadet boy wrestlers here from Chechnya and they both explained it was better for their parents to move here than to stay in Chechnya due to wars and other types of unsafe scenarios. There is another coach here from Dagestan and he suggested there is unrest going on there now too. I am happy to talk to both the coach and the boys about living and training here in Austria. Sport really does have a way of breaking down barriers.

I am getting ready to download the moving pictures shot at the Alps. Actually, there is so much footage from those hills; I will make a different playlist or library for both the still and moving pictures of the Austrian Alps.

Tuesday January 10, 2012– And then there were 2… This camp started off with 5 countries: Germany, Italy, Sweden, USA, and Austria –> now the host country and the 2 USA university teams are training. The USOEC team will be here till Saturday while the LHU team leaves for Vienna for sightseeing on Friday. So, the practices will be primarily with various club athletes from Austria and students (males & females) who attend sportschools.

Sportschools are educational institutions that allow their students to participate in sport and also get a scholastic education. The Austrian sportschools that were described to me were high schools and allow the students to train year round in the morning (3 times per week) during school hours. The Swedish version of the sportschool is similar and also allows students to transfer from around the country similar to a boarding school in the USA. This may be a reason smaller countries like Austria and Sweden can compete with larger countries like the USA and Russia (although USA and Russia have their versions of sportschools too). It does appear, though, that many countries around the world do much more with far less. There’s gotta be a lesson in there somewhere…

After talking to the Swedish coaches and athletes again, I learned that many of the teams are primarily clubs that are not associated with the school system unless it is a sportschool. In other words, the funding for sport in Sweden (and most of the world) generally comes from sponsors, the community, parents, and the federations once elite athletes make the national teams. The club system, in most cases, is like a Community Olympic Development Program that is largely funded by businesses, members, and local government. The sportschool is a “normal” school that works with clubs which is why I suggest it is like a CODP.

Funding is hard to come by here and abroad. All of the coaches talked about this almost daily because funding helps the athletes participate in training camps and competitions. A large issue is getting funding for developing athletes when they have not quite yet become elite and or national team members. Coaches must work with whoever funds programs and athletes to develop beginners into elite athletes. This is where training camps, competitions, and believing in athletes and getting them to believe in themselves becomes crucial. There is no stopping an athlete who believes they can succeed.

Most of the athletes who travel, outside of the USA, are the nation’s best athletes. In other words, the federations will only support athletes who have proven their abilities at national tournaments. This is similar to the USA except it appears the national team foreign athletes participate in more international competitions and training camps than USA national team members and non national team USA athletes have the opportunity to participate in more if they can raise the funds to pay for travel (this seems to be an advantage for the USA). Both systems work and time + work ethic + quality training & coaching = the key factor. Of course, there is no magic formula for success or everyone would have it…

Schuyler has been to this camp 3 times and mentioned it is getting harder or more intense each year. I agree and participated in the warm-up tonight to help motivate the athletes. This evening’s work out (7:00 pm) started with games for about 20 minutes, then shifted to partner warm-ups for another 15 minutes. This second warm-up was challenging and I participated – so unfortunately, it is not captured in pictures. Fortunately, Vitaly and I won all of the warm-up competitions and I remember these warm-ups for the USOEC resident team.

Monday January 9, 2012– I’m learning a lot at this camp and most of what is learned is captured in pictures and posted via Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube. Some of the ideas which are very difficult to grasp via moving or still pictures are blogged and posted daily through the same media on the international blog page. The next 3 stories are difficult to grasp in pictures, very interesting to me, and stories from wrestlers and coaches here in Götzis, Austria.

Candy (Candice Chopick) explained the Lock Haven University women’s wrestling team participated in a training camp in Bulgaria last year that was less than ideal. Much of the camp appeared to be unstructured regarding practice times and format probably due to their host. Candy also suggested that there was a scary altercation she witnessed and the police were involved. Finally, she said the host was unreliable and not a man of his word (and she was unsure if he worked for the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation).

In most cases (especially if you contact the host country’s federation or national governing body), training camps and international tournaments are very organized and safe. I have been traveling to world championships, international tournaments, and international training camps at all levels since 2004 via the U.S. Olympic Education Center (USOEC) – and all of those trips have been organized and safe. FILA ( the International Federation for Wrestling) requests countries to organize training camps and tournaments directly with the host country’s federation and I think this a good idea too.

We traveled to Shattenburg Castle today. The Shattenburg Castle, in Feldkirch, Austria, has been around since the 1300’s – okay so that’s a long time ago. It’s an even longer time if you consider the USA is close to 3 centuries old. I forget sometimes that this country I call home essentially had a lot of wars prior to being named the USA and started anew. Well, a lot of countries had wars and have recorded history well past my homeland. Anyway, when you travel abroad, you begin to see life in a different light which could make you expand your thinking and broaden your education.

On our way back from the castle, we talked about the size of women’s teams abroad and in the USA. Since Eva (an Austrian wrestler) was our host, she gave her perspective too and she explained her team was usually her sister Steffie and their coach Vitaly. The Lock Haven crew, a team of 3, understood Eva very well due to the size of their team and explained this camp was great because of the many training partners; I agreed with them.

I chimed in by saying this is how a lot of women’s teams are (worldwide based on my experience and travels) and another reason training camps are a good idea. In fact, teams of 15-20 are probably large teams if you consider the USA and Sweden have about 600 cadet through senior freestyle wrestlers in the country. Then again, the size of the team is not nearly as important as the quality of the training, coaching, chemistry, and organization of the team.

To be certain, a lot of European countries have international training camps because of the size of their teams, to get different training partners, and to save money when competing in tournaments; many international tournaments have a training camp right after the tournaments. I am an advocate for international training camps and believe this is a way for all to learn more than just wrestling while enhancing mental abilities on and off the mat.

The athletes wrestled 6 matches today with about a minute break per match. After that, they did some cool gut wrench drills. The American’s also went shopping today and both the shopping and drills are captured on Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube.

Sunday January 8, 2012Today the athletes wrestled 3 matches that were downloaded to my computer for a future edit. The software on my home pc will be used to merge the practice matches. Sunday and Saturday were half days in terms of training so the athletes got a chance to see more of Austria, relax, and have some fun.

The Swedes, Italians, Americans, and Austrians all went to the Carnival today. The Carnival, as I understood it, is a 2 month long festival celebrating winter and or to have a good time. A big part of the Carnival was the parade.

During the parade, many folks walked, danced, and pranced around while throwing us candy. This was entertaining and reminded me of Marquette, MI. I’ve participated in parades where we have thrown candy to innocent bystanders and so have many residents at the USOEC. We stayed outside for about an hour and then we ventured over to the tent.

In the tent, there was a huge dance party going on that reminded me of a rave. This place was great for freezing hands and cold bodies. The only part that was un-great was the amount of smoke in the air. My eyes actually started burning from all the smoke up in there. The pain in my eyes was worth it though because everyone seemed to be relaxed and having fun. This is important (relaxing & having fun) and or we all must have balance in our lives and we must also understand and practice moderation as well – I think this is what describes periodization.

After the 4 hour stay at the carnival, we took a 5 minute bus ride home and got ready to eat. Tonight’s meal was at Hotel Dorfpark right down the street and consisted of an a la carte style meal that was good. The owner remembered me from years’ past and asked when I arrived. We arrived about 4 days ago and all of my meals have been either Doner kebab or pizza which made today’s meal of two different types of chicken, potatoes, and some of Schuyler’s rice grrreat!

At dinner, Lilia and Schuyler both explained they were tired and this is likely due to the high volume of training and jetlag. It’s funny to me because the day you start to feel good, it’s almost time to leave. According to experts, it takes a day for each time zone you cross for you body to recover. So, if you travel across 4 times zones it should take you roughly 4 days to start feeling good. Well, we’ve traveled 6 time zones (9 time zones for Lilia)…Good thing for the consecutive half days of training.

Saturday January 7, 2012Seems we got here a little late. Terry explained to me they (Susan Fike, Brittany Hildebrand, Emma Randall, and Candice Chopick) flew out of New York on New Year’s Eve and landed here on January 1. So that means we missed about 3 days of training with the whole group. Bruno explained to me that Germany is leaving today while Italy and Sweden are leaving on Tuesday. The training is/was still good due to the high volume of wrestlers here or 45 persons which are captured in pictures and videos.

Training camps are great because everyone can learn different types of training methods, structures, and organization if they choose to and I choose to. Most of the drills, skills, and moves that pay the bills are captured via video. However, over the years, (this is my 8th year of travelling abroad) it is the stories from athletes and coaches which fuel and motivate my brain.

Bruno explained to me his daughter Nikki was a great sportsman (athlete) as a child and was intrinsically motivated to compete and learn. Nikki did not start wrestling till she was 15 years old and eventually went on to win 5 world championships! As a child, says Bruno, she was interested in all sports and actually would wait for her trainers (coaches) to train. She liked to ski when she was younger and would promptly wait outside her house till her trainer arrived. Nikki also excelled in athletics (javelin) and nearly anything she set her mind on. Bruno went on to say he never pushed her into wrestling and that he feels that was a good approach. I believe this is a good approach too. I am often asked when my daughters will begin wrestling and I usually reply ‘when they want to’.

Bruno has a wine and cheese social each year at this camp so coaches can get to know each other and learn from each other. This year was no exception and what was clearly communicated by the majority of coaches was the short time federations (national governing bodies) are expected to develop athletes and the short time frame athletes appear to be committed to excellence.

In both of the above cases, time is the critical factor and the majority of coaches feel that federations need to expect more time to develop athletes and athletes need to invest more time to master sport. Federations are under pressure from Olympic Committees and sponsors to win now and athletes simply want to win now. Federations get money from winning and this helps coaches train athletes while athletes feel good when they win. Sometimes, careers can be lengthened when athletes feel good about themselves… For some women, however, some want to get married and have children which may shorten careers too. Time is a major factor in life and sport and we must work with what we have.

The USA college system is unique. After talking to many of the athletes and coaches, I was again reminded that most countries do not have collegiate sports or scholarships. So, to compete in sport outside of the USA, most forgo college and spend time developing or mastering sport. This concept may help develop the more serious athlete into a master of sport while not giving many the opportunity to get an education while learning, developing, and maturing. In the USA you can do both.

Tonight, the Italians will cook for us and I am excited! Last years’ dinner was great and I expect this year to be good times.

Friday January 6, 2012The USOEC contingent of Schuyler Brown, Lilia Gudzyuk, and Shannyn finally made it to camp in Austria. Austrian wrestler Eva Maierhofer found the Tweet posted by me and then communicated this info to Austrian coach and camp director Bruno Hartmann. That’s the short story and here is a longer one…

Well, Schuyler’s bag is lost somewhere in France or Switzerland and that took about 2.5 hours to deal with (and we still have no cargo bag for Schuyler). Prior to that great moment, Schuyler was unable to get all of her tickets printed way back in Richmond, VA…soooo, when we finally got to France, they would not let her get through security until the boarding pass was printed. And, when the boarding pass was printed, the plane had already taken off. This is the time when all of the social networking took place and boy did this help –> Thanks Eva!

But wait, there’s more…Okay, so really, it is difficult to read the monitors in different countries because sometimes the info you need is never put on the monitors. Today (or yesterday) are final gate was never put on the monitors. Luckily, a Brazilian named Yasmin and I thought we heard an announcement claiming our gate was 21 in terminal 2. Guess what, it was. After going to the info desk/ticket counter, two French reps from Air France explained we needed to hurry and get to our new gate.

But wait, there’s still more..Really, all of this may have been my fault or the fault of the monitors (again). Lilia, Schuyler, and I read the monitor wrong (apparently) and wound up taking a train to terminal 1 by accident. (Isn’t that crazy – and are you confused yet?) I estimate this wasted about 30-40 minutes…in our defense, the monitor did say our flight was supposed to be out of terminal 1 (along with several reps from the airport – go figure!).

Just in case you think I am a novice traveler, check out this article that we really did learn from and use.

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

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