This month, I will be discussing the roles and responsibilities of a coach at judo tournaments. I recommend getting the most out of the experience for your athletes and for yourself! We all know the benefits of competing (in any sport) but many of us show up the day of the event, run around all day coaching our athletes, and then head home to get back to training. There are many things we can add to our “job” and we will explore each facet of coaching at a Judo tournament.
PRIOR TO TOURNAMENT
As a note, it’s important to make sure that the students you are encouraging to compete are in fact ready to compete. Do not set your students and dojo up for failure by having ill-prepared athletes that do not have all of the necessary tools to succeed.
Leading up to the event, you should select a time, and place to meet at the venue. Once your team arrives, bring your athletes together, go over what they practiced, and the competition rules. Remind them that when they are competing to focus on trying their hardest and practicing what they have learned at the dojo. Once you have gone over the game plan, goals, and expectations for the event, pick a student (preferably one with maturity and someone who has earned the leadership position) to lead your team on warm ups - these can be the same ones you do during class but end with some tachi waza and newaza uchi komis.
PRIOR & DURING THE MATCH
Before your athlete gets into the chute or on deck, make sure their gi is on correctly, and he or she is wearing the correct color gi, belt, and sash (it is your job to be prepared)! Help guide them on and off correctly. During the match try not to get too excited. Too much coaching can be overstimulating to students and cause them to focus on the wrong things. When you are coaching, give the same or similar adjustments to your student like you do at practice. This is extremely important so your student can hear the same corrections they hear at practice. This will help them be prepared in the future to make the quick adjustments you want.
AFTER THE MATCH
There are two possible results from the matches; one will be a win and one will be a loss. Try to be even keeled to either result. Always take time to review with your student what happened during the match. Remember to always be encouraging and never disappointed. This is key to retention for your dojo, athlete morale, and ultimately continued growth in the sport. A young student's first competition can be a challenging event for them (and their parents). In some cases it can be difficult emotionally, mentally, and physically. Show them how proud you are and let them know how good they did. However, be genuine in your approach, kids and adults know when we are lying and not being our genuine self - be sure you mean whatever you say! Ultimately, it is your job to make sure this is a good experience for them.
THE NEXT PRACTICE
As in any sport, you practice to prepare for competition and self improvement. After the competition, as a coach, and teacher you must evaluate the results of your student’s performance and decide what adjustments, if any, are needed to your teaching. This is crucial. Perhaps you need to spend time on gripping the gi, more time on posture, or more time doing randori. Before the class starts you should speak to the entire class letting them know your feedback and feelings on everyone’s performance. Remember, be genuine.
As a coach of young students, I never judge wins and losses, I only judge growth. We want to continue to grow and get better.
It is my hope as Head Coach at the American Judo System that we can bring coaches together from all levels, dojos and the country and give you access to the knowledge we have. Our team is full of coaches who are eager to grow the sport from the Basic Level to the Elite Level. We are also unique in the fact that Jimmy Pedro and I, have experience in coaching all the areas aforementioned (Day One to Olympic Podium) and we are excited to share our experience and systems with you. I also hope that you will share your knowledge and experience with us because if we are going to grow Judo we must work together!
Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you!
See you on the tatami!
US Olympian & US Olympic Coach
Head Coach, American Judo System
P.S. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or topics you may want me to cover.
About Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen has been doing judo for over 60 years. Starting judo at the age of 5, Steve had a long successful competitive career ending in 1988 at the Seoul, Korea Olympics. Steve along with his brother, Irwin ran a successful judo program in Illinois producing the first Olympic Silver Medalist and first Junior World Champion for the United States. They also had many athletes on Pan American Games Teams, World Teams, and Olympic Teams. Throughout the years they ran local, regional, and national tournaments. Every Summer, they held a camp where the best youth and junior judo athletes in the country would come to learn and develop, and the best senior judo athletes would attend, teach, and train. Many of those young athletes that attended went on to great success as competitors. Steve became the National Coach for the United States in the 1990’s becoming the Head Junior National Coach for 4 years and following that became the Head Senior National Coach which included being named the Head Coach for the 2000 US Olympic Team. Steve is still active in coaching and developing athletes out of Illinois and works with athletes all over the country.