InterMat Rewind: Wrestling: A Boy's First Book

Mark Palmer

8/27/2009
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

How do you introduce a child to the sport of wrestling?

Some kids discover the sport through family and friends -- a dad or uncle or sibling who wrestled, or a neighbor who coaches. For others, an interest in wrestling comes from attending wrestling events in person and watching them on TV. Still others have been inspired by the success of a particular wrestler.

Now there's another option that's very much "by the book."

Wrestling: A Boy's First Book by William Bauer is a book designed for parents to read to their youngsters ages 7-9, to introduce them to amateur wrestling. The book, an illustrated paperback with 8.5 x 11" pages, is published by Palaistis Publishers of Palm Harbor, Florida.

Meet the author

If anyone were qualified to write Wrestling: A Boy's First Book, it would be William "Doc" Bauer. He's a former wrestler and coach who has been involved in education as a teacher and administrator for most of his life.

Bauer's introduction to wrestling didn't come from a book. "I went to North Allegheny High School, which, back in the 1950s, had a great wrestling program," according to the Pennsylvania native. "Back then, my dream was to make the football team. I was 123 pounds soaking wet. As hard as I worked at practice Monday through Friday, I usually found myself on the bench Friday night at the game."

Dr. William Bauer reads Wrestling: A Boy's First Book to his son, Ken (Photo/Wrestling: A Boy's First Book)
"A friend had suggested I enter an intramural wrestling tournament at my high school, and I won," says Bauer.

"After high school, I attended Slippery Rock State Teachers College. They were just starting a wrestling program."

"I went out for the team," says Bauer. "Being the lightest guy on the team, I was the first guy to wrestle for the team, first to get a win, and first to score a pin."

After graduation, Bauer became a sixth-grade teacher in the North Hills district in the Pittsburgh area, where he was able to attend wrestling matches. Subsequent jobs -- including two years in the Marine Corps at El Toro, California -- took him away from wrestling… but made it possible for him to earn his masters degree and doctorate, and build a long-term career in college administration, culminating as president of the Community College of Beaver County in Pennsylvania.

Birth of a book

It was at this point of his life that "Doc" Bauer reconnected with wrestling. "I now had a family, and my youngest son seemed to be suited for wrestling, so we pushed the furniture aside in the living room."

"When Kenny was 7, we took him to North Allegheny youth program," Bauer continues. "He had confused wrestling with boxing -- he was looking for a roped ring, the heavy bag… His expectations weren't atypical. Many 7-8 year-olds and their parents don't know what wrestling is about. It's not like baseball or football, which are so much a part of culture, everyone knows what they are, even if they never played."

"Later on, I thought about how to solve this problem -- with a book that's a primer to wrestling, designed for parents to read to their child, rather than an instructional book aimed directly at the child."

That's how Wrestling: A Boy's First Book was born.

"The idea (behind the book) was to have the parent and child bond by reading, and, yes, by pushing the furniture aside and doing some hands-on demonstrations," according to Bauer.

As it says in the opening paragraph of the foreword of the book …

Just as this story is not intended to be read by the child for whom it was written, neither is it meant to be simply read to the child. The concepts, practices, and actions that follow as well as the terms that must be used to properly describe them as far too abstract, complicated and advanced for a child at this early stage of intellectual growth to comprehend, without the help of a favorably inclined grown-up.

With that in mind, the book encourages the parent to become an active part of the learning process, by talking about what's in the book, practicing some of the moves, and even visiting a wrestling room and a high school dual meet.


A proper introduction to wrestling

Wrestling: A Boy's First Book opens with two seven-year-old friends -- Christopher and Michael -- watching professional wrestling on TV. Christopher's older brother Kevin tells the boys, "Those guys aren't wrestlers." As a high school wrestler, Kevin knows the difference between the real thing and the showbiz stuff … and makes it clear to the two youngsters. As Bauer explains, "I thought it was important to start with pro wrestling, 'the dark side,' because that's what so many people think of when they hear the word 'wrestling.'"

Bauer anticipates the kinds of questions a 7-9 year-old (and his parents) might have about wrestling, and answers them in his book by taking Christopher and Michael to Kevin's wrestling practice … and to a dual meet for Kevin's team. At the practice session, the boys (and readers) learn about the basic starting positions and scoring moves, what wrestlers wear to practice and at a match, even what a wrestling room smells like. The description of the dual meet provides an equally clear picture of what a new fan could expect in the gym in terms of action, scoring and crowd reaction … along with positive lessons about what makes a good team member, and what the characteristics of a winning wrestler are.

Words and pictures

Wrestling: A Boy's First Book introduces the sport of amateur wrestling to youngsters and their parents through William Bauer's text, and colorful illustrations by Rachel Mindrup, a noted children's book illustrator.

When asked how the format of the book came together, Bauer says, "I wrote the book completely, then realized it needed some illustrations."

"There's an organization that brings together writers and artists. You spell out what you're looking for, and artists respond. I was lucky to find Rachel. She sent me the first illustration in the book, and I immediately said, 'This is the one for me.'"

That was the beginning of the collaborative process. In the year that it took to produce the book, author and artist talked on the phone only twice; otherwise, they did everything by email.

"She would read what I had written and provide recommendations," according to Bauer. "She'd say something like, 'Page 12 seems suitable for this kind of illustration' and would email me a rough version of that illustration."

"She knew the sport. She knew what needed to be done."

In addition to the full-page color-pencil artwork that visually tells the story of the text, Rachel Mindrup also provided the more realistic, black-and-white line drawings illustrating specific wrestling moves such as an escape and takedown.

"We wanted to make the book instructional and appealing at the same time," says Bauer.

"My background is education. A critical part of that is understanding issues of human growth and development. I tried to apply that knowledge through the writing, design and production of this book, to make it appropriate for the intended age group."

To learn more about Wrestling: A Boy's First Book -- now in its second edition -- visit the Web site www.drwkbauer.com. There's a link on the website for ordering the book via Amazon.com; the book can be ordered directly from the author at Y PHD 77@aol.com, or 727.532.9379.

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