Friday, February 18, 2011


1. Understand that quality can’t completely make up for quantity
Over the years, many people have explained to me, usually in that voice reserved for small children and people with mental disorders, that they work smarter instead of harder.  Okay, two things:
  • One, you don’t have to choose between,smarter OR harder.
  • Two, harder doesn’t necessarily mean more of the same.

If you have practice for two hours three times a week, doing two hours of randori with no rest isn’t necessarily the smartest choice. People don't fight two-hour matches. What can make a difference, though, is more time, and particularly more individual time. If you add another practice each week when you can work on new techniques, improving their existing techniques, combinations and gripping.

If you can’t add another practice, maybe you can make your current practices more effective. I’m always surprised when people spend the first half-hour of a ninety-minute practice on conditioning. People don’t need to drive 35 miles to get to your club so they can do push-ups and sit-ups. Have them do that on their own.

2. Have a reason for what you do
This seems pretty obvious but you would be amazed how many people, to use Mark Guerrero’s term, “Phone it in”. That is, they aren’t really paying all that much attention to their practices, often doing the same routine day after day.

I just said above that your practice time could be better spent than doing a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups and yet I have run practices where we did exactly that for an hour or more – sprints, jump rope – and very little judo. Sometimes I’ve done it because we had just done so many throws, so many rounds of randori, so many drills over the past few weeks that I thought it would be good for the players to have a different work out for the day.

At the training center we do a lot of conditioning because we have the extra hours in the day and it is more fun for people to do their sprints, strength training and cardio together once or twice a week. They do it alone the other days (or they should!)

In visiting clubs, if I see the coach doing something I wouldn’t have done, I ask why and I am always impressed when the person has an answer, regardless of what it is, because it shows he or she has put some thought into running practice. For example, I know clubs that do free practice right after warming up. Their argument is that people get injured more often when they are tired, so you should do your lower risk activities near the end of practice.

On occasion, I have made players do a two-hour randori session. Part of mental strength is having kept fighting when you just felt like you were going to die. And you didn’t die. That teaches you something. Unless you’re completely stupid, in which case you’re on your own.

3. Know your players’ goals
At the same club that did randori first, I asked wasn’t that a bad idea. After all, you need to be able to compete in a tournament when you are tired. In fact, the most important matches may be at the end of the tournament, when you are tired. What about that? The instructor laughed and pointed out that they were a bunch of old people at a small club and almost no one competed, so who cared. The one or two people who did compete on occasion in local tournaments would get one or two matches. He said,

“Our big goal isn’t to win the Olympics, it’s to be able to get up and go to work on Monday.”

4. Chill
I once looked at a player’s pool the morning of a tournament, saw the name of the little girl she fought first match and immediately started worrying about how our player was going to do against her. I was going to ask some of my friends if they had ever heard of her and how good she was. Then, I caught myself as I realized:
"Everyone in this division is under eleven years. How good can any of them frigging be?"

Just like the better players, the better coaches are the ones who can remain calm under stressful situations. I still need to work on that personally, but I’ve gotten better at it. When you are screaming at the referee, constantly pacing nervously back and forth, swearing at your players, getting drunk the night before the tournament – basically, any dysfunctional way you can think of that people deal with stress – it is not helping. Your players are nervous. They need you to be calm. If you aren’t calm, fake it. I mean this very seriously.


Loren said...

Your 4th tip I've heard in so many different leadership development books, courses, and trainings I laughed when the last two lines came up! I've heard of leaders being told they need to take acting classes just so they can fake being calm!

Another great entry. I'm having computer issues right now and haven't had time to do a blog up so far this month.

Anonymous said...

The most common thing I have seen is that no judoka are alike and not everything is going to work for everybody or result in the one same way of teaching. Another word's.. coaches tend to "generalize" curriculum because it works for them..not the judoka.

There is alot of good information out there by lots of good coaches but the real challenge is "what works for the judoka" as an individual, and failing to recognize that as a coach will bring undesirable results. Israel Hernandez said it best.."do a technique in wich you are not going to fail it, and it will not fail you" and that is the kind of individuality that all judokas carry within, the challenge? bring out the best in your students from an individual standpoint.

Humberto Montiel

Anonymous said...

If it were easy to adjust to “IJF rules” there would be no complaints and no one would be quitting their clubs but for most students, parents and coaches the “easiest” thing to do is get upset and quit.. I know I’ve felt the same way before. nonsense!

I have done some adjusting since and along the way I have come to realize that there is no one certain way of doing judo, and I say this as a parent who has seen firsthand the development of all four of my children in the sport, and you know what? there is a lot to learn from the little ones if we listen to them. Most of the time it’s a judo technique but they don’t speak Japanese so they say it to you to the best of their ability. Quick story, we were on our way to the dojo for practice about an hour drive across international lines, and my 5 yr old son kept calling on me pa’? pa’? with his “enthusiastic” little voice as he was buckled up in his booster seat he was telling me that he knew what he was going to do today in randori. As I saw through my rear view mirror he motioned his hands up in the air in a backward motion I had no idea what he was talking about but encourage him to do so, Turns out it was judo! As the coach yelled out hachime! kid came at my boy like he always did and the next thing you know.. tomoe nage, ippon! Shouted the coach. I was so proud.. You know we always jump on our kids for not listening to what we tell them to do in competition but we never take the time to listen to them as they discover themselves to know what works for them. It’s that enthusiasm of trial and error that keeps students and parents coming back and coaches from having to shut the doors to their dojo.

We can all adjust our judo to “IJF rules” the same way judokas adjust to their opponents every day in randori you know what’s coming adjust to it! if you can’t adjust then maybe you are not ready to compete in an IJF setting or at all for that matter, but if a 5 yr old can do it we all can. It doesn’t mean you have to practice or do randori with the rules of the IJF in your dojos, students and parents trust that the coach will do what’s needed to prepare and train for competitions but if you fail as a coach you will surely fall peril to loosing membership to a fading judoka enthusiast. The simple ability to adjust is a skill on its own and judokas that have that ability should compete and those that don’t will probably end up not competing in IJF events anyway. It is a frustrating dilemma but it shouldn’t be a reason to choose the easy way out.

Humberto Montiel

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I agree with you about listening to our kids / students. I think one of the reasons kids quit judo as they get older is that we have a very rigid system where I am the "o-sensei" and you lowly students must receive my pearls of wisdom.

Now, I am not suggesting that if the student says it is more effective to do juji gatame using your arms as opposed to locking the opponent's arm against your body that I won't say it's wrong. What I am suggesting is if a student asks me why do you do juji gatame that way, I give an explanation.

Or, if a student says, "Hey, I have a new way of doing juji gatame, what do you think?" I am going to look very seriously at what the student recommends and try it myself.

You have hit on one of my hot buttons, I could go on about this point for a long time.

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