Now while I often speak about High Performance Judo, I have always had a kids program and I strongly believe that it is the backbone to any strong judo program. Without kids coming up, how will you ever have high performance athletes down the road? While it seemingly takes a different energy level than an older clientele, there is a lot you can learn from your kids program and vice versa.
Keep things interesting! It is so easy to fall into a pattern of the same thing over and over. In a kids program you are always teaching new techniques and playing different games to keep the kids engaged and having fun. High performance should be no different. Learning is exciting and doing the same things over and over can turn a passion into a grind. When a judoka has practiced judo for many years they will obviously have a very strong understanding of much of the gokyo as well as a number of techniques that fall outside of that category. Teaching techniques to your students that you may even feel confident that they won’t use is not a waste, it could potentially help them to defend against it if someone tries to utilize it against them, as well as the benefit of just the excitement of learning.
The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know, always be a student of the art! This is single-handedly what keeps me so fascinated by judo. I am now 33 years in and on many days I feel like I am just getting started. Judo has evolved partly from rule changes but also in large part to the brilliance of coaches and athletes all over the world. I study not only my favourite techniques but also how different judoka create the opportunities to enter those techniques. I put the most time into the techniques that I never used as I have many different students, experience wise and in body type. Recently I have worked on kata guruma, mongolian ura nage and reverse seoi nage. This keeps me excited about judo which in turn leads to an engaged group of students eager to add to their skill set. This is every bit as true with my younger kids classes, not only do I want to learn new games to play with the group, but a 7 year old will be just as excited to learn the “Korean grip o-soto” as a 19 year old who competes internationally.
Enthusiasm is key! This can definitely be trying. I love judo and look forward to teaching class everyday, but I am not perfect. Being as fortunate as I am to teach judo for a living there are still days that are hard to get yourself going. I find the more I engage myself in the physical activity of the class the more I live in the moment. Enjoying the interaction with the students, working towards a common goal of improvement. It breaks me from the other distractions in life, much the way it did when I was a training athlete.
Positive reinforcement! They is probably pretty obvious when it comes to your children’s programs and we do it all the time. Stripes, belts and feedback that the child did a great job is common in every dojo, but how often do your adults and high performance judoka receive a similar amount of praise? If they are a black belt then you are no longer grading them with either stripes or belts, but letting them know when they do something really well can go a long way towards building their confidence.
Professionalism! We already talked about the benefits of weight training earlier than previously thought, but having younger athletes learn how to do video review, as well as the benefits of it, will help them better understand the requirements of being a high performance athlete in the future.
No matter the age or skill level of our athletes many of the same skills apply. When you apply strategies either up or down the ladder, I find that it makes the job of coaching judo a much more enjoyable process with some great results from my students.