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FEATURE: Bobby Douglas enjoyed coaching U.S. women’s university team, learning new things about bein

Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
08/29/2005


You might think Bobby Douglas has done everything there is to do in wrestling. An Olympic athlete, Olympic coach and NCAA Champion coach, among so many other achievements, Douglas is one of the most prominent people in the sport of wrestling.

A Hall of Fame member, Douglas is currently the head coach at Iowa State Univ., a perennial college wrestling power. One of his top pupils was Cael Sanderson, who won four NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal. There can't be anything in wrestling that Douglas hasn't done, right?

What Bobby Douglas had never done, until just a few weeks ago, is coach a U.S. women's wrestling team at a major competition. In Izmir, Turkey this summer, he served as coach for the U.S. team at the World University Games. The best college women wrestlers in the world came together to battle for honors in this prestigious event.

The United States had a strong performance, with four bronze medals won from the five-athlete team. The field was very strong, with numerous World and Olympic medalists in the competition. Joining Douglas on the tour were coach Tadaaki Hatta and Team Leader Greg Strobel, both who also have extensive experience leading U.S. men's teams.

When he returned, Douglas was not only a major advocate for the women's wrestling program and the athletes on the team, but he realized how much he enjoyed coaching women athletes.

"The women did a splendid job," said Douglas. "There was a logistical nightmare for the team, and they handled that. The handled the adversity of difficult travel. I was impressed by the way these ladies represented themselves and their nation. They are our future. They have gotten so much better technically and tactically. They have become so much more coachable."

Claiming bronze medals for the United States were Sara Fulp-Allen of Menlo College at 105.5 pounds, Mary Kelly of the New York AC at 112.25 pounds, Marcie Van Dusen of the Sunkist Kids at 121 pounds and Alaina Berube of the New York AC at 138.75 pounds.

Fulp-Allen wrestles for Menlo College, Kelly for Northern Michigan, Van Dusen was a wrestler at UM-Morris and Berube competes for Cumberland College.

"Greg Strobel and Tadaaki Hatta worked with the ladies and their approach to wrestling," said Douglas, "They both have raised daughters. Greg hit a grand slam in the administrative area. Tadaaki was more able to handl e the emotion and the stress than I was. There was some great chemistry with the team and the staff. The ladies flew the colors. Everybody should be proud of this team."

As a coach with the Sunkist Kids, Douglas witnessed the development of women wrestlers, as many of the World's best female athletes were members of the club. The WUG team displayed to Douglas that U.S. women's wrestling has come a long way.

"Coach Terry Steiner had them well-prepared technically," said Douglas. "The problem was with tactics. We have not studied enough video and worked with coaches on it. There just wasn't enough time. After next year, these athletes will make great leaps forward. They realize that they aren't that far away from being the best. It will make a big difference in their future. They plan on being in Beijing in 2008."

Douglas was most impressed how the athletes rebounded after tough losses to come back and win a medal. The ability to stay focused after a loss is a key to success, and this group of women wrestlers got the job done.

"I think you have to look where we came from behind and won matches," said Douglas. "Everybody came back to win during this tournament."

Douglas had praise for every member of the U.S. WUG women's wrestling team. According to Douglas:

* "Sara Fulp-Allen realized in her match against Japan that she could be one of the best in the world. After that match, she could have let down, but she did not."

* "Mary Kelly improved with every match. Her experience wrestling the Olympic champion will be the best thing to happen to her. Her confidence could have been broken. To see Kelly and Fulp-Allen come back says they have the right attitude. If they can come back now, they will eventually get to the top."

* "Marcie Van Dusen was tough. Some things happened physically where her body didn't allow a full effort. Had she been 100%, she had a shot to get the gold."

* "Alaina Berube had an unbelievable performance. They lost her luggage, and she never had her clothes at all. Under stress, she performed outstanding. She has a few technical corrections to make, but she is not far from being a World champion."

Douglas also was impressed by the American who did not medal, two-time Junior World champion Ali Bernard at 158.5 pounds.

"Ali is going to get there. They were prepared for her. They shut down her offense. She has the right attitude, though. I see greatness in her. She has a will to win. She is also flexible, like a piece of spaghetti, and she is very strong, a factor to being a champion," said Douglas.

Douglas saw improvement in the athletes during the time he spent coaching them.

"Once we got them used to studying video, doing a match plan and working on specific techniques, they did better," said Douglas. "They will bring experience and success to the women's program."

Douglas is among the many respected coaches who made a name within men's freestyle wrestling who are now taking women's wrestling assignments. He did not know what to expect, but is now excited about working with women athletes in the future.

"I was kind of skeptical at first about how I would come across," said Douglas. "I came across the right way. I never dealt with girls before. When they became emotional, I became emotional. I had to treat them just like any other wrestlers. I also had to control the pitch of my voice more. I had to explain things differently than I usually do."

Along the way, Douglas also learned more about himself.

"It was a great experience for me as a coach to sharpen my coaching skills and my communication skills," he said.
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