His coaching resume includes serving as head coach of the World Team in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1994, and 1999, according to www.cstv.com. It also includes the fact that he was the head coach of the Goodwill Games' wrestling team in 1981; his team won the Bronze medal. He retired from coaching in 1997, ESPN writes, because after a dozen knee and back surgeries, he was no longer physically able to get down on the mat in order to "…demonstrate holds and escapes" (ESPN).
In Gable's book, Coaching Wrestling Successfully, he covers many issues that of course revolve around wrestling, but he also delves into subjects that coaches may need to know no matter what sport they are coaching. For example, the skill of communicating is important for a coach, so he recommends starting "in small groups" that a person feels comfortable with. Once a coach's confidence is built up, and he (we'll use "he" though this applies to female coaches as well) believes he is ready to speak to larger groups, the best advice from Gable is to "…tag along with another coach or friend who is an accomplished speaker" to a speaking appointment. Carefully observe how that person first prepares the speech, then how he delivers his speech.
Gable said he watched Olympic champion Bob Richards (who used to be on the cover of Wheaties) speak, and gained insights on how to "entertain" as well as inform. On the other hand, he warns readers not to try to copy a polished speaker.
When it comes to relating to a wrestling team as a coach, he says wrestling is "one of the most honest sports" Gable (p. 13). Why? The coach can't hide, he explains, his emotions are going to be known by the wrestlers so he can't pretend to be nonchalant because they will know he is churning inside. "Very simply, be yourself as good as you can be." And along with that he urges coaches to be honest with their players and be open to listening -- and if a wrestler "…has a problem, he's more likely to come to you for help if he knows he's going to be dealt with honestly (p. 13).
Yes, Gable admits, having an incredibly impressive won-loss record brings respect, but those records and "fame" do not constitute "real respect. Real respect is earned among the people who really know you" (p. 13). A coach can't be a role model for younger wrestlers all by himself, he has to first establish leaders on the team, "typically upperclassmen" and their leadership will "rub off on some of the younger wrestlers" (p. 15).
Some of the changes he made when he began coaching at Iowa after his great career at Iowa State. When he got there, the wrestling room was "…basically off-limits outside of regular practice" sessions, but he was accustomed to having it open, so he opened it up. When competing in a tournament, wrestlers who had lost tended to disappear from the venue, but Gable asked them to stay and spend time "…studying the championship matches of their competitors" (p. 16).
Teaching athletes to wrestle is only part of a coach's job. He also has to be friends with them, to a degree. But he warns on page 16, "Maintaining some distance has its advantages" because when they need special favors "or leniency when they let the program down," they won't "take you for granted as they might if you are always in close contact with them."
In conclusion, it is not likely that any wrestler or wrestling coach will accomplish what Gable has been able to accomplish in wrestling. He will always be known not for one thing, but for the many championships he achieved as a coach, the incredible 182-1 record in high school and college, and the Gold medal he won in 1972. However, the class that he showed, and the leadership, should always be a part of his legacy, as well.
CBS College Sports. "Dan Gable." Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://www.cstv.com.
Gable, Dan. Coaching Wrestling Successfully. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999.
Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. "Dan Gable, 1977 Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee."
Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://www.iowawrestlinghalloffame.com/inductees/dan-gable.html.
Premier Athlete & Celebrity. "Dan Gable." Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://athletes-celebrities.tseworld.com/sports/olympics/dan-gable.php.