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  • Writer's pictureJosh Hagen

What Are the Benefits of Sitting in the Chair as a Judo Coach?

By Joshua Hagen

With all of the recent restrictions placed on judo coaches, I have been wondering what the actual benefits are of sitting in the coach's chair, and whether I should bother continuing to do so.  

I ask this question honestly.  As coaches, we have far less rights than parents of athletes do, and those we do have seem to be disappearing quickly.  

Coaches now have a dress code.  I can understand wanting coaches to look professional.  Coaches must wear closed-toed shoes, and cannot wear any type of hat or sunglasses. At IJF events, coaches must wear their country's tracksuit during the preliminaries and are required to wear a business suit during the finals.

Coaches are required to have a coaching card at IJF events the cost of which is approximately $50. 

Coaches must go through coaching certification, in Canada it is the NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program) with different levels for how prestigious event you may coach at.  This costs hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars and requires hundreds of hours of study, filling out forms and attending both in person as well as online training.

Coaches are NOT allowed to coach during the action.  Our coaching can only occur during the breaks in the action.  If we coach during the action we are given 1 warning. If we do so again we are removed from the chair.

Coaches must stay seated.  If we leave our chair in the excitement of the moment we may receive 1 warning, the second offence is a removal from the chair.

If we are told to leave the chair and continue to cheer or coach from the stands we will be forced to leave the venue!

Coaches are not allowed to hold a camera to record the matches.  I honestly don’t know why this is a rule, I see no reason for it.

To show the extremes with which these rules are implemented I recently spoke to a provincial coach, that had an athlete in a golden score match fighting for a medal.  Their student attempted a throw, which they thought as it was happening would result in a score and started clapping.  He was taken aside after the match and told that clapping was not permitted in the coaches chair, and if he continued to do so he would be removed from the chair!

Now with all of these rules put in place, which for the most part I can understand there must be certain rights given to coaches that are not given to the general public.  Examples of these in other sports would be but not limited to:

A challenge flag.  When you believe a call was missed and you would like to start the video review process, we see this in Major League Baseball, the NHL as well as the NFL. A right to dispute calls, this is often a conversation between the coach and the referee, so long as the coach is respectful of the referee crew. Timeouts, the coach literally gets a chance to takes his athletes aside to have between 30 seconds to as long as a couple minutes to reaffirm the game plan or make in game adjustments.

In judo coaches neither have a challenge flag nor any other way to have a reasonable discourse with the referee crew, and admittedly I think timeouts are not in the discussion.  Whether a call is reviewed is entirely in the power of the individuals that made the call in the first place.  We have no right to dispute calls, the referees are told not to communicate with the coaches so no conversation can be had.  If we raise our voices to bring attention to what we perceive to be a missed called we are usually given a warning and if it occurs again we are removed from the chair.  

Compare this to the rights of a spectator.  There is obviously no dress code in place. They may cheer or coaching at anytime during the contest.  They may record the matches with a video camera. Most events are free to be a spectator. They may stand at any point during a match and yell as loud as they wish so long as they are not harassing the officials.  The only time a spectator would be asked to leave the venue would be for some sort of harassment or entering the fighting surface.  

Ironically attending events as an enthusiastic supporter of judo would give me far more freedom to do what I love, coach judoka. You would have the potential to have more influence on the mats as you can coach during the action. You are not required to follow any dress code. You would save yourself the money of paying for an IJF certification card and would feel less pressure to have a higher level of certification. If no one else is available you would be able to record the match for future video review.

So, to conclude, I see no advantage whatsoever to actually sitting in the coaches chair during judo competitions and I am unsure as to whether I will continue to do so going forward. The rest of the sports world seems to be moving in the direction of putting more power in the hands of the coaches with the video review process, as well as the ability to argue calls, in judo the rights of the coaches seem to be regressing

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