Sunday, September 23, 2007
I AM UNREPENTANT - Yet Again!
Some people don’t like me. Yes, I know, I find it hard to believe myself, soul of sweetness and light that I am. The funny thing is, it isn’t that they don’t like me for the reasons you might expect, like that I said to them during one practice,
“If you don’t start doing those throws faster than that I am going to skin you alive and tack your hide up on that wall as a warning to other people not to waste my time.”
That, I could understand.
No, some people don’t like me because they think I focus too much on competition. They think I should not mention in a magazine like Growing Judo that Ronda won a silver medal at the world championships last week. They say it has nothing to do with grass roots judo. I completely disagree. It is good for young girls to have someone to look up to who is successful in her sport, who is a strong enough physically and emotionally to win. When I was a twelve-year-old girl at the Alton YMCA (you can’t get much more grass roots than that!) I would read about people like Diane Pierce from Minnesota, winning the U.S. Open and British Open and think, “Some day, I want to be just like her.”
We are just starting a clinic program with some of our USJA members who have been on World and Olympic teams. The purpose is to keep more teenage players in the sport. Every club has a problem retaining high school age students. As much as I hate to admit this, people my age are not considered very cool. (I am sure the word we’re not isn’t even “cool” any more, it is “phat” or “rad” or who knows what.) We will be having clinics with players like Ronda, like Asma Sharif who is not only a world team member but also graduated from UCLA with a degree in biochemistry and now works at Harvard University. Talk about a role model for your girls! Asma, Ronda, Rick Hawn and others will be doing clinics in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Texas, California, Mississippi and Indiana, for a start. We have been very careful in selecting our clinicians based not only on their competition experience but their teaching ability and rapport with young judo players.
The new USJA/ USJF West Coast Judo Training Center just opened, made possible through gracious donations from local judo supporters such as Jesse Jones , Frank Sanchez, Gerald Uyeno, Jai Hall, James Lally and many others. We hope this will be a model for similar programs throughout the country. This center is in response to requests from our local clubs who want additional training for their players so that the more dedicated, more advanced players in their clubs don’t need to move away from home to get the extra workouts they need. These training sessions are open to anyone 13 and over.
Some people send nasty emails to one another about me every time something good happens, like setting up a new training center or starting clinics with Olympic athletes. They say,
"All she cares about is competition. She doesn't care about grass roots clubs like us. She shouldn't be in a grass roots organization like the USJA."
I think what they mean is, "It should be all about me."
All of those people who say how much they care about their students. Do they? Do they really? Then why do they want to stifle their dreams before they even begin? Why do they want to make their children, their teens think small? Maybe you live in a small town in Arkansas. Maybe you live in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin like Olympic silver medalist, Lynn Roethke. Maybe you work out at a judo club for children in a community center, like Ronda did for years. Maybe you are at a club in a YMCA in southern Illinois, like I was. Who says you can't win a world championships, an Olympic medal? How DARE people assume for children that they will never accomplish something great. Yes I DO think it is a wonderful experience for people to represent their country, to win a gold medal, to watch the American flag go up and hear the Star-bangled Banner play. I think it is possible to develop strong communities, good people and great athletes, all at the same time. If you really cared about those children, you would want them to be part of something great.
I believe in shooting for the stars. Even if you miss, you will land some place high. I won't encourage anyone to be less than they could so someone else can feel greater than they really are.
With the help of many people generous with their time, money and talents, I am working on building something great. If people don't love me, well... I remember reading a quote from a woman executive twenty years ago when there were almost no women in management. She said,
"Men at work try to tell me how much they appreciate what I do instead of give me resources, the people I need to get the job done. They have me mistaken for their wives and mothers. I want love from my family. From the people I work with I want respect, cooperation and support for a common goal."
As for me, I want to see judo in America become something great. As for anyone who that threatens because it makes them feel less, who is afraid they cannot accomplish it, who is willing to hold back the children they teach so they themselves can feel more important, if they don't like me - good! That is kind of like being called ugly by a toad. And I remain unrepentant!