Saturday, November 15, 2014

Judo in Whose Best Interest

At Gompers Middle School, we're so tough we don't even need light to practice. Electricity is for wimps.

I guess it is a cost-cutting thing that the lights don't get turned on until after 5 pm. So, with daylight savings time, we are now practicing in semi-darkness. It doesn't stop us.

We have a great group of kids at Gompers and I know the judo class is good for them.

This experience has also been an insight into some of the adults in judo. Many times, the suggestions people make for our judo students seem to be much more in the best interests of the adults making the suggestions than for our students.

For example, several people have suggested that middle school programs like ours are a great opportunity for judo organizations to grow their membership.

Keep in mind that we practice at a school, during the after-school program, so we are already covered by insurance. If I were to pay $50 per student to join some organization, that's $1,000 for twenty kids. That money could pay for the team dinner AND our team t-shirts. Since the money for this program is raised by me and my family, that is $1,000 more we'd have to raise, and none of us are exactly sitting around wondering what to do with our spare time.

Our students take a test to get promoted and they receive ranks. I record their tests. Sometimes I post them on youtube. There are always at least two black belts with a rank of fourth degree or higher that watch the tests. I think that's adequate to get promoted to green belt.

Then there are the people who suggest I should bring all of our students to a tournament at $50 a piece (after I pay the $50 fee for some organization). I should do that many times a year, they say, because it would be good for them. Again, taking 10 students to two tournaments would be $1,300 - $1,500 if the tournaments were local. That is counting the fees to join some organization and two entry fees. That is also assuming that there was no issue with not all of their judo gis being regulation.

Or, there are the people who suggest that we fund one or two of the more gifted students to attend tournaments and compete nationally, maybe even internationally. We have a couple of students who have that kind of talent. It would probably cost $10,000 each to get them the training they need, not counting having a coach or parent travel with them. I don't have the time to do it and their parents need to work.

Here is the real clincher - if I raised $10,000 for one of these students, I would spend it on summer science camp, weekend SAT classes, music lessons for Ryan (who is really into playing the trumpet).

One thing I am really proud of is the number of students from Gompers Judo who are now attending magnet schools.

Steve Seck isn't just an Olympic judo player, he is also a teacher at King Drew Medical Magnet High School, who has come as a guest instructor at Gompers, and has encouraged our students to apply. Two of them are at King Drew now. One brought his report card in on Friday - he has a 3.8 GPA. Two other students are at USC Hybrid High. Two others are at charter schools in the area. Over two-thirds of our students have gotten into high schools other than the local school, and they continue to do well.

Patty Chirino isn't just the mother of a very gifted judo player, she is also fluent in Spanish. She has volunteered to help students and their parents in completing applications for charter and magnet schools.

I understand how having a couple more talented kids at a judo camp may benefit some adults, but I don't see it as the best use of limited resources to help our kids.


Frank Cruzata said...

Reads as though you are preparing your kids for life more than only the mat and that is just awesome!

Sylver said...

On a similar topic, the IJF just decided to forbid all IJF ranked Judokas from competing in all other combat sports.

"Judo in whose best interest" sadly is the question of the day.


Anonymous said...

Dr. AM if it hasn't been said before, I will say it now. I have so much respect for you and what you are doing at Gompers. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, would your mindset change if there was that one kid among your students who was really talented and hard-working and really, really, really wanted to compete? Assuming their parents can't afford to take them to tournaments on their own.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Anonymous -
No. I have limited time and I really, really want to help children have a better opportunity in life, which math is much more likely to do than judo. That's why I make math games for a living and teach judo for a hobby.