Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Some People Can't (and Shouldn't) Chill the $%^* Out

Please read this if you referee, run or otherwise volunteer at tournaments

I used to be one of those people who would watch someone lose it at a tournament and think:

"What is wrong with these people? Why can't they just chill the $%&( out? Don't they realize we are all volunteering here, doing our best and their kid lost so they should just get over it?"

I was enormously proud of our West Coast Training Center team today. We had five players under age 12. There were two in the same division so the best they could possibly do was four gold medals and one silver. They got four gold medals and one silver.

We had seven players 13 and over, though we hedged our bets a bit because one 12-year-old fought in the brown and black belt division and Ronda fought in two divisions. In the older divisions, we came out with two gold medals and five silver.

So, it was a good day, overall.

The San Jose Buddhist Sensei Memorial was, as usual, an extremely well-run tournament where almost everyone got a lot of matches and very good competition. There were, in my opinion FAR too many penalties given. I can't say there was any particular bias that I could detect. Our players "benefited" as often as they were penalized, and I saw plenty of people I didn't know receive penalties.

Part of the problem was the new rules, which I would say were zealously over-enforced. None of our players got a penalty for this as we had expected it. I had everyone check their gi with that contraption Ronda refers to as "the referee stick" before the tournament. Several people had to change gis before they fought. No one grabbed a leg, thanks in part to the extensive clinic at the All-Women's Tournament and the other extensive clinic at the Nanka Senior practice. All of our players had attended at least one of those and had the new rules drilled in their heads.

I did see one player receive hansokumake for a drop seoi nage. I know, I know, this is a legal move but northern California has its own rules and in their tournaments drop seoi is illegal for players under 13. My personal adaptation to this has always been not to bring any players under 13 who do drop seoi nage. It's hard enough to get them not to do stuff I tell them not to do every single week. This young player went off the mat crying. In this case, the referees handled it MUCH better than I have usually seen. Usually, they give the player some kind of lecture about behavior.

In this case, the head referee at that table said simply,
"Let it go. Come back and fight another day."

In two other matches, we had two of our players disqualified for armbars in the men's brown belt division. Apparently, this is another rule unique to northern California, brown belts are not allowed to do armbars. For the record, I want to say this is one of the stupidest rules I have ever heard. When I asked someone at the tournament about it I was told "It was on the application form, you should have read it."

In fact, when I registered my two children, on-site, all that was on the table were registration forms. It never occurred to me that armbars for brown belts would be illegal any more than it occurred to me that o soto gari would get hansoku make that day (as far as I know, it didn't, but none of my players happened to throw with o soto on Sunday, so maybe it did).

My advice is if you have brown belts who do armbars, do what I would do with kids who do drop seoi nage - leave them at home.

My advice for anyone running a tournament is if you have random rules that are NOT standard you should announce them at the beginning of the tournament. Here is WHY people don't think it is okay to randomly penalize players ...

Many, many years ago, I had a teammate who told me about her first world championships, she said,

"It was the worst day of my life. I lost in the finals and I am crying and just when I think I can't feel any worse my mom comes up and tells me not to cry that it is not that big of a deal and I yell at her that it is a big deal it is my whole $#@&ing life! And then I feel even worse because not only have I lost but I have yelled and sworn at my mother. And I can tell you guys because you'll understand how I feel."

And I DID understand. While everyone else would have thought she was a complete ungrateful spoiled athlete who did not appreciate that she had just won a silver medal in the world championships I could imagine exactly how it would feel to have thrown so much of your life into training that you made it to the finals of the world championships and then lose. Maybe a year or three years later you might realize it was not the end of the world, but at that moment, it seems like it.

Some of those people you see with big teams screaming at tournaments are just complete jerks. Much more often, though, they are people who have sacrificed an enormous amount of time, money and other resources, as a coach, a player or a parent, to get to that point. Every kid who comes to the training center works out seven and a half hours a week EXTRA on top of the regular practices at their club. Of course they aren't the only ones in the country like that.

When you have someone who works out twenty hours a week, who gives up school proms, sleepovers and a hundred other things for judo and then they go to a tournament and feel as if they are treated unfairly, they are going to be upset. They are NOT going to accept an answer like,

"Those are just our rules, you should have read the tournament announcement in case there were rules specifically for this tournament or region."


"Everyone gets bad calls sometimes. That's just the way it is."

(Of course, that is true, but when you are the person getting the bad call, that still doesn't make it okay.)

We try to teach people that if you work hard, it pays off. That is a very important lesson from judo, and when that does NOT happen, when you have someone who works hard and it does NOT pay off, either because of some arbitrary rule change applied world wide beginning last month, or some arbitrary rule applied at the tournament that day, they are NOT going to be okay with it.


Anonymous said...

I understand where you are coming from. It sucks to lose, but like you said at the opening ceremony "It's only one day in your life." Where you go from there is up to you. Lesson learned. Don't let it happen again.


Dr. AnnMaria said...

Hey, I didn't see you in San Jose. We want to come to Arizona for a tournament. We were talking yesterday about places relatively affordable where our players would get matches with new people.

We try to have variety so it is not fighting the same four people every month.

Anything coming up out that way in tournaments or weekend clinics/ camps?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

My point though isn't just that it sucks to lose (though it does) but also that it sucks MORE to lose when you feel you were treated unfairly, and I think that is why sometimes people lose it.

It is important to treat people fairly and I think we need to focus on that a bit more than we do.

JudokaJoe said...

True, it does suck to lose.

But, there have been times where I have learned more from a 'good' loss than I have from a 'mediocre' win.

It must have been tournament weekend or something. I participated in my first competition in something like seven years this past weekend. While I did see the type of frustration with local, or in my case provincial, rules being in place, they were explained upon registration, prior to the start of the whole thing, and again just before you got on the mats. It went a long way in making the whole experience very fullfilling