Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trends in Judo Competition in the U.S.

Amazingly, it is twice now that my "judo" and "real" lives have intersected. I'm preparing a presentation I'm going to give in San Diego on bettering your programming skills and your community. Coincidentally, Jerry Hays just posted to the Judo Forum a file with the data on male and female competitors in the U.S. Senior Nationals from 1990 - 2011.

Not being able to resist, I wrote a quick SAS program to do correlations and regressions on these data. I also used Graph-N-Go to create two quick plots. First, we can see that for 21 years there has been a downward trend in the number of male competitors in the national championships. These data include only the regular senior divisions contested in Panamerican and Olympic competition, NOT masters divisions, visually impaired or kata. So, essentially, this is our supply of potential Olympians.


It is a pretty definite negative trend with a correlation of  about -.74.

The female picture is also negative, but more complicated. Initially, there was a negative correlation of about -.48, which means the number of women has been going down also, but not as rapidly, but when you literally look at the picture, it is somewhat different.


In fact, the number of female competitors increased from 1990 to 2001 and then went into a sharp decline. Statistically, there are some really interesting (to me) ways to look at this but since this is my judo blog and not my statistics one, I will just do this.

1. Take a look at the picture from 1990 - 2001 where you can see that the overall trend was for the number of female competitors to slightly increase


2. Take a look at the picture from 2002 - 2011 whee you can see that the number of female competitors has decreased at an even faster rate than the males.


This year, there were 66 female competitors for 9 contested divisions (including 44kg and Open).  In fact, only two women's divisions in the national championships (63 kg and 70 kg) had more than eight competitors. 

Because I thought I remembered this but I didn't want to be one of those old people going on about how the divisions were bigger back in my day, I went into the living room and checked a picture hanging on the wall from the podium of the 1984 Senior Nationals in Los Angeles. (I have it hanging there because I was holding my one-year-old baby, Maria, in the picture and she was  really adorable.)

For some reason they handed you a giant cardbook copy of the pool sheet to the first place winner. My women's division at 56 kg in 1984 was larger than most of the current men's divisions - and back then, men's divisions were regularly two to three times as large as the women's divisions. It was also about double the average size of the 57 kg division over the past decade and triple the size of the current year's division.

I'd be really interested in hearing similar statistics from other countries to know if this is just a U.S. phenomena.

19 comments:

Aaron Dodd said...

Great post. I don't have any statistical data for Australia, but anecdotally and through my own observations, I'd say that similar trends would be evident.

What we really need to understand though is the "why". When we understand that then we can put measures in place to address the slide and reverse it.

plam said...

Quebec provincial championships, -60kg senior male: 2011 6 (with 1 from -55, which had no division); 2010 5; 2009 6; 2008 9; 2007 11; 2006 11; 2005 11.

One could collect all the numbers from provincials and nationals, but I don't have time to do that right now.

I understand that Quebec's membership may be higher than it was in 2005, but the competition population, especially at senior level, is smaller.

Dee Hamaguchi said...

Thanks for posting the data. I will resist ranting about the long term "plans" of USAJudo and JudoCanada and note that the #s from Que are shockingly low; Quebecois seemed to have a sense of cultural pride associated with judo.
Are similar trends evident in judo powerhouses such as France & Japan? It might not be appropriate to look at the # of entrants at their national championships, which are a "fixed" #, and look one level before that.
Are potential judo competitors choosing a different sport? If so, why? Or, are there just fewer young people interested in athletic competition overall?
We do want to address this "wart" before it grows large enough to jeopardize judo's status as an Olympic sport.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I missed judo today because I was at my youngest daughter's soccer tournament. I can safely say that soccer is a sport that has dramatically increased in the U.S. over the same period of time. Soccer is now a school sport in many areas, but this is a relatively recent addition. For example, my daughter's school added soccer as a sport last year.

Whereas soccer started out in the U.S. primarily as a recreational and community sport and then moved into the schools, many schools have just recently added wrestling for girls.

Several studies I have seen, for example, this one

http://www.cnbc.com/id/32238333/The_Top_10_Most_Interesting_Trends_In_Sports

Report mixed trends across sports - from 200- 2008, participation in lacrosse was up 117%, in boxing down 42%

Other statistics I looked at from 1992- 1998 were equally mixed - soccer was increasing in participants, basketball was pretty stable, volleyball and swimming seemed to be declining slightly

So
A. This is not a trend across all sports and
B. It should be noted that population in the U.S. has increased significantly over the years so sports SHOULD show an increase in absolute numbers to maintain their same percentage of participants

JudoWill said...

Great post ... I love to see real data!

I'm not sure if you have this data but it would be interesting to normalize this by the number of players who "could have" qualified for these divisions. I'm not sure if USA Judo releases this sort of info.

It may be that we have less competitors at this age and skill range. Perhaps more brown/black-belts are "aging out" of this division then new players are entering. While I agree this is also not a good sign, but it would help us focus on solutions.

It would also be interesting to look at whether Nationals is becoming a more "elite" event. The decline in attendance may stem from players believing that the high-level players just aren't worth going out to fight since they're just going to be trounced and waste ~$500 in entry-fees, hotel and travel fees. I know that I personally love fighting at Nationals even though I know I will barely make it past the first round ... but if its not within driving distance I don't want to spend too much being reminded that I'm not that good.

gbutts said...

it was because of US judo dumbas requirement for getting a world team spot. WTF, US JUDO. Tell US JUDo to lick me.

plam said...

JudoWill, anecdotally I think it's no easier to win tournaments than it used to be; that is, the top players are currently as good as they used to be. However, there aren't as many people who aren't top players competing anymore.

Dee: Well, we are talking about -60 in my data, which isn't huge anyway.

I have no evidence for this claim.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Plam -
I think it is definitely easier to PLACE than it used to be. Some of the divisions are so small that if you get a bye and then win one match you are in the finals.

Also, for the women's division, I would question whether overall it is nearly as hard to win. In the 1984, the 56 kg division included the 1982 bronze world medalist (Eve Aronoff) and 1984 gold world medalist (me). There were women who won world medals competing in 48 kg (Darlene Anaya) 52 kg (Mary Lewis - moved up from 48), 61 kg (Lynn Roethke), 66 kg (Christine Pennick) and Open (Margie Castro). Lynn, Eve, Christine and Margie all ended up with multiple world and/or Olympic medals.

Judo Tom said...

Its sad... that is one of the reasons I started cross training was becaus judo is on a downward trend as far as particpants go. I partnered with a bjj guy just to get more students and training partners.

Stephen said...

I think part of what has happened is that there are so many alternatives, far beyond what there used to be.

It is like the old days, when karate meant Shotokan. Now, most often, I hear people say "karate" and they mean "Tae Kwon Do"

I went to watch a nephew at a Tae Kwon Do belt test, and they had a number of parents speak, and all of them started with some variation of "I'm so pleased my kid is doing karate."

plam said...

I heard that this year's upcoming Canadian senior nationals are gonna be small. A lot of Quebecers who really should be going won't be, even our carded athletes. (But, apparently, not in my category).

Speaking of placing: well, obviously there comes a point where there are so few people that it becomes easier to place; it's just that it hasn't happened yet in my divisions.

Is there a proliferation of international tournaments? Does that contribute?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting data! Why are the numbers declining? I could offer some reasons for the decline of Judokas in the US but Judo numbers are decreasing here in Japan too. Other sports or activities are what are behind the numbers drop. In the past, if all you knew was Judo; then, you stuck with it and that was the end of it; however, nowadays anyone can find information about other sports or activities that might seem more interesting and enjoyable than judo. What are the rewards in Judo? There are no senior trips or junior trips anymore unless you are number one. There is no team A, B, or C. Did you notice the numbers started to go down about the same time that Fullerton lost the US Judo presidency? I don’t know if there is a correlation with the drop in numbers and all the things that I mentioned, but it is a start.

DK

Emily said...

Curious if the soccer trends vary by geography. Our oldest sons (graduated from high school in '94 and '95) played varsity soccer in New York and their high school made soccer the 'homecoming' competition to alternate with football in '92.

Tennessee William said...

A number of factors have not been constant over the Time period studied. Sometime, mid-80s, I think, Sr. Nationals became an event in which one 'needed' to qualify at State championships - although honored more in some states than others! The leadership has also contracted with 'convention' cities and their CoC rather than with experienced judo event organizers- thus costs per player has - as others mentioned- have escalated extensively! The 'black-belt requirement' has , I would estimate, eliminated an entire round (half of a previous division)! However, I am sure the overall pool of judoka is smaller than it was before 'Kung Fu' and then BJJ and MMA dipped into 'our' pool of potential judoka. I would suggest that the E-Level events would provide a more stable set of conditions for a time-series analysis.

Tennessee William said...

A number of factors have not been constant over the Time period studied. Sometime, mid-80s, I think, Sr. Nationals became an event in which one 'needed' to qualify at State championships - although honored more in some states than others! The leadership has also contracted with 'convention' cities and their CoC rather than with experienced judo event organizers- thus costs per player has - as others mentioned- have escalated extensively! The 'black-belt requirement' has , I would estimate, eliminated an entire round (half of a previous division)! However, I am sure the overall pool of judoka is smaller than it was before 'Kung Fu' and then BJJ and MMA dipped into 'our' pool of potential judoka. I would suggest that the E-Level events would provide a more stable set of conditions for a time-series analysis.

aj said...

I wonder the fact that BJJ has been getting more popular over the years has taken a effect

www.avila-3d.com said...

Here, I do not really consider it will work.

Dave said...

All my boys and myself, did Judo. Now we, (they) wrestle. Why? Closer to home, rules stay the same for the most part, less costly, it's in most high schools, and for kids who watch mma, they here constantly how this guy or that guy was a high level wrestler. We still love Judo more, but it's just not as easy or supported by schools, parents, etc.

Jonah Ewell said...

I don't know if anyone will see this comment, I didn't realize the post is from 2011. But anyway:

Those are some really shocking statistics on participation in the Senior Nationals. When I wrestled in high school, we had six teams in our league, so the league final was a very small tournament. If you won league, you could go to the sectional tournament, where the bracket was LIMITED to 32 competitors, and if more than 32 had qualified, the lower seeds had to "wrestle-in" to qualify for a spot on the real bracket. If you placed in the top six or eight at North Coast Section, you could go to the state tournament. I never placed that high so I don't know how big the brackets are at state, but I assume they are either 32- or 64-person brackets.

So for perspective: a high school sectional tournament, representing a admittedly large slice of California, has at least 32 competitors fighting for medals. The Senior Nationals for judo, representing ALL OF AMERICA, has in some divisions only eight competitors. That's just amazing. I know that wrestling is much bigger than judo in America, but still.