Appropriate relationships in sport

Appropriate relationships in sport

By Shannyn Gillespie

Sport is a microcosm of society… What does that really mean?  The author believes it to mean “whatever happens in society (good or bad) — will happen in sport”.

Recently, the media has been reporting inappropriate relationships that have sometimes been related to the “Me Too” movement.  Also recently, many sport groups i.e. club, high school, college & internationally have dealt with inappropriate relationships between athletes & coaches (read student & teacher).  This paper’s thesis is to point out overlooked situations by students & athletes as it relates to inappropriate relationships.

Teacher & student

In most of the circumstances below, try to think of a very effective & productive teacher & student relationship as it relates to education in all US school systems from Kindergarten to college & university.  In all of these situations, the goal of the teacher is to impart knowledge of a specific academic discipline so that the student learns & masters the subject being taught.  The teacher, also being a mentor, reports any abuse reported by the student to safeguard the student’s welfare and enhance that student’s learning environment.  The next several paragraphs focus on ideas about inappropriate relationships amongst athletes & coaches.

Coaches dating athletes

This area seems to be straight forward — in no circumstances — should athletes date coaches.  Here are 2 reasons why athletes should not date coaches:

  1. It’s illegal with minor athletes
  2. It’s a conflict of interest

Let’s say the athlete is an adult…  Per rule #2 above, it is still a conflict of interest because the coach’s role is to teach the athlete how to improve in sport & life — while the athletes role is to learn the skills, drills, technique, strategy, etc. to improve and execute what was learned during the training sessions.

Also, when a person is in an authoritative or leadership position, it is a conflict of interest to date anyone whom they hold authority over.  

What is a conflict of interest?

To be clear, here’s what a Google search defines “conflict of interest” as: a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.

Coaches Education

Coaches Education (usually a certification) is required by most States & high schools prior to coaching while other types of testing may be required by National Governing Bodies or colleges prior to coaching.  This is also straight forward.  However, there appears to be something missing…

Another approach may be warranted due to the many occurrences of inappropriate relationships in sport between athletes & coaches.

Another approach

Below are some other approaches that may help educate athletes & coaches (parents too) about inappropriate relationships in sport between athletes & coaches:

  1. Administrator workshops to coaching staff & parents 
  2. Head coach’s talks to assistant coaches
  3. All school student lectures about relationships in sport
  4. Coaches talks with team about relationships in sport
  5. Reporting crimes, inappropriate relationships by all the above

In the event the coach is not at a high school or college coach (they coach at a sport club or own an athletic club), this type of coach could be required to attend National Governing Body seminars or lectures by the National Administrators via in person or the many internet based media platforms that allow face-to-face discussions.

This list is not exhaustive and may add some clarity to athletes & coaches on how to prevent or report abusive relationships in sport.  Many coaches & athletes may actually view the (current) required testing or certification platforms only once and these ideas offer 2-3 times of listening or viewing this important topic.

Age appropriate

The title of this paragraph is misleading…  This author believes there is no appropriate age for an athlete to date a coach due to the second bullet above in this article i.e. it’s a conflict of interest.

It does not matter if the coach is 19 years old and the athlete is 17 years old — this is still an inappropriate relationship.  It may be hard for a young coach to understand this and this is why it is being written in black & white.  In this case, it’s also illegal because the 17 year old is also a minor.

What about college age athletes?

Bullet number 2 above really addresses this topic completely — it’s a conflict of interest.  The coach’s job is to teach sport.  The athletes job is to learn & execute what the coach has taught.  Inappropriate relationships are not a part of that teaching & learning scope.


Reporting inappropriate relationships between an athlete & coach is the opposite of cover-ups.  This means when a person in a position (athlete, parent, athlete, administrator, organization), who is aware of a crime or inappropriate relationship, reports said crime — it is not a cover-up.  Conversely, when parties are aware of a crime, and do not report crimes or inappropriate relationships, this can be considered a cover-up or covering up the crime.

It is incumbent on witnesses that see or are aware of — crimes in sport — to report them.  However, as seen in the “Me too” movement, many are afraid to report crimes or inappropriate relationships for many reasons (fear, shame, losing job; position; or rank, feelings of guilt, etc.).  

This has been an issue for all parties…

It’s safe to say, now, that people are listening.  Please report crimes in sport (and outside of sport too).  

We care.

We are listening.

Appropriate relationships

For a long time, the author fought this idea that a coach is really in a position to develop a parental relationship with athletes.  But really, a coach is a mentor, teacher, coach, & parental guide — while the parents are away or not present.  In many cases, parents rely on coaches to teach “right & wrong” through the rules of sport with the notion that there will be some carry-over-value or transfer of ideas imparted to the athlete.  In other cases, parents rely on coaches to reinforce what is being taught in their very own homes like: doing things the right way, working smart & hard, and following societal rules.

Growing the sport

It is important that as we teach & coach, we also pay attention to current events.  It is our job to make the oldest sport in the world — the greatest sport in the world.  Let’s all recognize what is going on, make a positive difference, & continue to improve/grow — in all aspects of sport.

A controversial article

A controversial article

By Shannyn J. Gillespie

Why do athletic/sport leagues around the globe separate the genders in competition? 

That question is the theme of this article and the short answer appears to be a competitive advantage.  Below, will discuss several issues that wrestling enthusiasts are also faced with when males compete with females after puberty…


Wrestling, like many sports, does have injuries and this fact is exasperated when females compete with males.  In other words, males get injured when wrestling males frequently and seemingly at every tournament.  

The nature of sports & athletics predisposes many to injuries which are not limited to these factors: strength, overuse, fatigue, incorrect technique, & nutrition.  This info is not new and again is intensified when males wrestle females largely due to the first point or the strength factor.

Weight classes

The main reason for weight classes in weight class sports is to create competitive balance.  Written another way, bigger stronger athletes have a strength advantage over smaller less strong athletes in the same sport.  

Those words are not meant to be disparaging and are in fact — facts.  If this were not the case, weight class sports would not have weight classes and competitive balance would not be an argument.  This paragraph ties into the last paragraph regarding strength & injuries.


For almost a century (wrestling started in US colleges in 1903) females were not allowed to compete in collegiate wrestling nor scholastic (high school) wrestling.  In fact, the first women’s varsity program was sponsored at the University Minnesota-Morris in 1993.  The first state to sponsor or sanction high school girls wrestling was Hawaii in 1998.  Now, there are 80+ collegiate women’s wrestling sponsored programs and 30+ states that sanction high school girls wrestling.

Does the last paragraph imply that females did not want to wrestle?


Does that paragraph imply that females were not allowed to wrestle?

The author believes it is a combination of the above factors/questions based on the below rationale.

Many females were not allowed or encouraged to participate in sponsored nor sanctioned athletics really until the passing of Title IX in the US.  So, many females did not believe it was their place to participate in athletics nor sports like wrestling.  

Because female wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in US colleges & high schools, it stands to reason that many college athletics conferences and high school athletics organizations provide opportunities for female wrestling.

The challenge with the last sentence could be the word “reason”.  

Other sports

Most college & high school athletics are separated by gender due to the injury, strength, & competitive balance factors.  In some cases where a female athletic team is not sponsored at a US college or high school, a female may join a male team.  As suggested, this provides opportunity and also gives males a competitive advantage while increasing the injury risk for females – in all sports/athletics including wrestling.

Seems obvious

The reality of males competing against females in wrestling is seen frequently in US high school athletics (and below high school levels).  The other truth is that most sports in the US provide an opportunity for females to have a female only version of the sport.  The question to ask to the powers that be in scholastic wrestling is this:

Why is it okay for females to compete against males in wrestling, but not in the majority of athletics like basketball, baseball, track & field?

It is rare for females to compete against males at the college level in wrestling but many large NCAA DI college conferences like the Pac 12, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, & Ivy League do not sponsor female wrestling.  So, if females want to compete in wrestling in those very well known college conferences, they must form a wrestling club largely on their own…

This does not seem fair.

Closing thoughts

Female wrestling in the US has made great strides since 1993 & 1998.  Female wrestling has the opportunity to create even more competitive balance plus participation growth (and reduce female wrestling injuries) by sponsoring & sanctioning female only wrestling in all colleges & high schools that sponsor & sanction athletics.  This will have a trickle down effect too and impact female wrestling students below high school levels that, in many cases, idolize & emulate their heroes.

The Mongolian Experience Recap

From June 16 – August 12, 2017, Coach Shannyn toured Mongolia as a strength & conditioning coach for both the men’s & women’s Mongolian National Freestyle Wrestling Teams.

The author has been offered to write a story about these experiences by Amateur Wrestling News to be published in their print & online subscription service in the October edition – so, this blog will serve as a promotion for that article, a video recap of sorts, & a discussion on the importance of interval training for wrestling:

Please view our YouTube page & below for the entire catalogue, synopsis of The Mongolian Experience via a video recap:

  1. Mongolian Wrestling 2017 (14 videos)
  2. Mongolian Training 2017 (18 videos)
  3. Mongolian Landscape 2017 (20 videos)
  4. Mongolian Random 2017 (9 videos)

In addition to above, #coachshannynmongolia can be used at below social media for more video recaps:

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

The U23 World Champ. Blog

Mongolian “National Wrestling” displayed in above image during Coach Shannyn’s tour of Mongolia.  (This blog was written in Mongolia.)

In the below video, a discussion is lead regarding the U23 World Championships scheduled to take place November 21-26 in Bydgoszcz, Poland:

Currently, these wrestling world championships exist:

  • Olympic Games
  • Sr. Worlds
  • World University
  • U23 Worlds
  • U20 | Jr. Worlds
  • U17 | Cadet Worlds

Prior to making a national team that competes in one of the above world championships, athletes must compete in a national tournament or some type of world team trials to represent their country on the world stage and these tournaments are generally held in the spring or summer.

All of the world championships are typically held from July-November or during the summer and now fall months.  These world championships, now more than ever, have a more direct negative impact on long term athlete development for many high school and collegiate wrestlers in the USA.  This is stated because most USA high school & collegiate wrestlers’ season is from November – February or March, and, if these athletes’ competed in these summer or fall world championships, they might be competing year round.

Year round training & competing does not allow the body to adequately recover, adapt, adjust, nor supercompensate.  When the body (muscles & mind) properly recover after training bouts & competitions, there is a period of time that the body relaxes and is ready to begin training or competing again.  Many sports scientists call this part of the season the transition period while many coaches simply call it the off-season.

Because of the amount of competitions and tournaments that are available now year round, high performance training (a systematic approach to training & competing) is becoming more important.  HPT takes into consideration the entire calendar year as it relates to the athletes’ long term growth, development, & overall welfare.

The author suggests that too many competitions annually will ultimately contribute to burnout, overtraining, & a lack of motivation for training or competitions.  Too many competitions (i.e. competing year round) without a break – is not recommended by many sports scientists nor coaches for optimal training/preparation in a long term athlete development plan.

To prevent overtraining or under-recovery in today’s world of year round competitions AND to promote peak performances in major competitions, it is suggested to carefully plan, plus, have a definite understanding and application of these training principles: periodization, recovery, peaking & tapering, & high performance training.

Coaches, parents, & administrators have to keep the student athletes’ total health in mind – if they plan to prepare these students for year round competitions – due to the significant higher risk of burnout, overtraining, & injuries induced by 12-month long training & competing.  These 3 factors or characteristics are more likely to exist when athletes are competing year round and may actually reduce the total amount of athletes in our wonderful sport over the long term.

Related articleCoach Shannyn | Back to High School | Off to Mongolia

Social media: use #coachshannynmongolia for Mongolia tour video recaps:

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

Coach Shannyn | Back to High School | Off to Mongolia

Shannyn Gillespie (1)

Update: for #coachshannynmongolia video review:

After a very successful season with the Lincoln College (LC) wrestling program, where he and head coach Daryl Thomas guided the Lynx wrestlers to academic & athletic success, Coach Shannyn is embracing new opportunities as head wrestling coach at Homewood-Floosmoor (IL) high school next fall and also strength & conditioning coach for the Mongolian Wrestling Federation this summer.

The LC wrestling program amassed a team cumulative grade point average of 3.02 during the first semester and also went from 29th to 4th at the NJCAA National Championships during Coach Shannyn & Coach Thomas’ tenure.

Coach Shannyn stated “I will bring the same level of expectation and excellence to HF”.

Gillespie, who prefers to be called Coach Shannyn, also has experience as a strength & conditioning coach and suggests this was part of the reason the Lynx wrestling program achieved more success than the previous year – prior to he and Coach Thomas arriving:

“In weigh-in sports like wrestling, judo, MMA, or even Olympic weight lifting, close to maximum strength for the entirety of the season is important.”

He went on say “My experience as strength & conditioning coach at the U.S. Olympic Education Center Female Freestyle program was a large part of the reason the ladies were able to maintain their strength at the World Team Trials, Jr. Worlds, University Worlds, & Sr. Worlds.”

From 2004-2012, Coach Shannyn was the women’s program coordinator for the U.S. Olympic Education Center wrestling team.  During his stint at the USOEC, he coached at 34 National Championships, 12 international tournaments & camps, 4 World Championships, & 1 Pan American Championship.

At the USOEC, Coach Shannyn also coached individuals to: 29 National Championship Gold medals, 14 World or Pan American medals, 5 USA Wrestling Outstanding Wrestler Awards, & 1 Olympic Bronze medal.

When asked how we will transition what he has learned to Homewood-Flossmoor & Mongolia, he replied “The invaluable knowledge that I’ve learned at my most recent jobs with the U.S. Olympic Training Centers, USA National Teams, Overtime School of Wrestling, & now Lincoln College will be a huge part of the success of the High Performance Training systems employed at HF & Mongolia“.


You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

Blog 30: HPT-PST Day 7: Performance Planning

Using all of the HPT – Psychological Skills Training consistently to perform is called Performance Planning.  In this version of Performance Planning, learn how to use the very important skill of a recovery routine to recover from adversity.


In a nutshell, a recovery routine or a recovery plan is a well thought out strategy to help you deal with unplanned events.

What unplanned events can happen at a competition?

Here is a list of some of the unplanned events that have happened to me or athletes I have coached:

  • Re-paired bracket
  • Competition bus leaves you
  • Lights go out
  • Electricity goes out & stops your match
  • Tournament is delayed
  • Bad call by referee
  • Lost match
  • Losing streak
  • Feeling pressure to win
  • Competition venue too cold
  • Competition venue too hot

How do you deal with these unplanned events and still compete at a high level?

The main point for a recovery plan/routine is to apply a systematic strategy to deal with unplanned stress (adversity) that disrupts productive performance(s).

To learn more about recommended recovery plan strategies, please view the above video.

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

Blog 29: PST • Performance Planning

Performance Planning is the culmination of  Psychological Skills Training to be applied everyday in practice and at all competitions.  This plan will assist your long term athlete development for your career.

Many athletes & coaches focus their collective strategy for success in competitions on mastering physical skills that deal with: technique, tactics, and strength & conditioning.  This is very common as it should be, right?

What about the psychological side or mental training that must also be honed daily?

Let’s look at it another way…

What happens when athletes get overly anxious or tense or nervous?  Do they perform optimally or at their very best?

Or, do they freeze up and perform much less then optimal or much less than their best?

In my experience, the latter is more probable and this is the reason why performance planning encompasses Goals, Focus, Self-Talk, Imagery, & Energy Management.  These mental skills or psychological skills can be trained, combined, & executed to assist all wrestlers in meeting the results they want to achieve – if trained in an everyday fashion – just like practice.

What’s the secret to success?

Are you ready for the answer?

The secret to success is a very effective written plan that is executed and is continuously revised for improvement.  Some say, this is the essence of learning and then applying what has been learned.

Rest assured, competition breeds competition.  In other words, at most points in everyone’s life, they will be competing against others who also use effective plans or what I like to call High Performance Training plans.

Because of the last paragraph, it may make sense to start using an effective plan for success today (then execute & revise the plan) – and now you have the tools to do so!

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

Blog 28: CST • Imagery

This initial imagery talk shows how the imagination can assist & control the pictures you see in your head.  These pictures can either help or hurt your ability to flourish in athletics, academics, & life.

The above featured image, Olympic Rings, conjures up athletics at the highest level or athletes competing in the Olympic Games for many folks.  The idea that a picture or an image can induce thoughts or actions is as real as the former statement.  If this is partially true, can we use imagery to our advantage?


Using your mind to help you achieve your goals is essential in sport and in life.  So, as we travel through all of our endeavors, learning how to create images that enhance our abilities is a necessity that we can master and much needed.

One challenge could be that we are unable to control our images and/or we may be using unproductive images that either stifle our growth or hinder our performances.

Once we create a plan of attack that recognizes (we might be using imagery voluntarily or involuntarily) we are actually in control of many of our thoughts, we then can use this plan and be own our way to success more consistently.

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved

Blog 27: HPT 2 • Periodization

In this video, learn how to help athletes psychologically and physiologically consistently become ready to have their best athletic performances based on the annual plan.

Back in the 1950’s & 1960’s, the Soviet Bloc Russians and East Germans further developed Periodization to peak their athletes for the Olympic Games.  Shortly after this plan appeared to be highly effective, many of the nations inside the Iron Curtain and Eastern Europe began to emulate this type of training which is essentially training broken down into specific periods – ultimately for high performances in the Olympic Games.

The below excerpt is from the Blog Intro – High Performance Training and is a portion of the foundation for what many countries of the world, in various sports, use to train their National Teams.

“Most elite level sport programs have several training sessions per day and generally have a morning training session and another training session approximately 5 hours later. This time lag between practices allows the mind and body to fully recover and restore itself. Generally, prescribing 2 intense practices in a row is the rule while 3 intense sessions or practices in a row would be the exception. Again, the body and mind tend to recover optimally with alternating intensities and volumes during training sessions. If 3 intense sessions are planned, the next practice prescription could be a recovery session, a game, or an off session or half day.”

You can also learn more about High Performance Training right now at the below links:

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn,  All rights reserved