Sunday, November 16, 2008

The World of "Let Someone Else Do It"

We had dinner with Anna and Steve Seck last night. For those of you who don't remember, Steve was a member of the 1980 Olympic team which did not get to compete in the Olympics because they were in Russia that year and the U.S. boycotted. He was also one of my old teammates at Tenri, several time national champion, etc.

After a few glasses of good red wine, we got to discussing the fact that in "our day", Tenri had five or six national champions training there from all over, and now if someone from southern California places in the senior nationals we make a big deal of it. Steve said,

"We used to laugh at those east coast guys and now they have passed us up. All you need to do is look at the results and there's no denying it."

I asked him why he thought that happened and he said,
"Everybody is all about me and my club. You've done a good thing starting up that West Coast Training Center but how many people won't support it. That's our problem in judo on a large scale in this country. Everyone wants to be the big shot walking around his dojo lording it over other people and walking around 'HIS' mat. No one wants to develop something bigger than themselves. I am not saying I am any better. I teach at the community college in my own classes and that is about it. One way I do think I am different from some of those other former Olympians and so-called 'top coaches' is I do have the utmost respect for the guys like Gary Butts and Tony Comfort, like Ron, the other instructor down at LACC. They're all teaching judo to kids, opening up their clubs to let other people train, helping you with that training center. I have a lot of respect to for the coaches who develop kids and then encourage them to go train with someone else to help that kid get better, like you did with Ronda. I remember us talking about that when she was sixteen and I encouraged you to let her go somewhere she would have more people to train with and learn from. We could have that here again if people were willing to look outside their own little clubs. It's at every level, from the guy with the little club, to the coaches at the national level who don't have the sense to go down and recruit from those feeder clubs. They should be establishing relationships with them like wrestling programs do. Do you think the college wrestling coaches denigrate those high school programs? No way! They say, oh you went to such and such high school. That coach is really good. Then they go to that coach and talk about you and ask the coach to talk to you about going to their college program. "

[Are you impressed with how, yet again, I essentially got someone else to write most of my blog for me?]

I mentioned this to someone else, that I thought most of those people who thought they were the "big names" in judo waited for other people to develop players, run camps, raise money and only showed up if everything is done for them and they were paid to appear. On the other hand, I had been criss-crossing the country for years visiting one small club after another, trying to help out whenever and wherever I could, from southwest Missouri to Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan to West Warwick, Rhode Island. When people are doing judo, I try to help in whatever small way I can to provide one more person on the mat to help an individual player or send a check to pay for someone's hotel room. He said,

"Well, it doesn't seem to be working. I don't notice judo getting any bigger."

For about an hour, I was upset at that response, and then I realized that he was just another person who was willing to let someone else do it and he looked at me as a sucker for teaching for free, and, when I do get paid, donating the money to the USJA Development Fund.

Ronda had a very sensible comment on all of this, she said,

"Mom, if you are doing this for recognition, appreciation or money, you better quit. If you are doing it because you are starting and supporting programs that help people in judo, then you should keep doing it, because you have done a lot of things that helped a lot of people whether they remember it or not."

I am a great fan of Mahatma Gandhi, kind of unusual for someone who spent years in a combat sport, but Gandhi managed to change the world by changing how people think. That is amazing. According to his granddaughter, Indira Gandhi,

"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there."

I try to be in that group. Some days, though, I get tired of working to grow judo and feel like I am trying to push water uphill. So, today I am going to be in the third group, the group that takes their ten-year-old daughters to the aquarium and watches sea lions instead of a judo tournament.

BTW There was a good practice at the training center yesterday. I will post some of the video clips later this week.

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