Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sometimes the best time to make a difference is now

Maybe it is running a start-up gaming company, which can feel like it is consuming my life, but I often find myself feeling like I am wasting time when I am not working - coding, marketing, meeting with artists, preparing pitches for funding, testing.

This weekend I spent two days with the students from Gompers Middle School judo program, from south Los Angeles. Yesterday, Ronda was on the mat teaching, along with Richard Elizalde from New Breed Jiujitsu and UCLA Judo, Josh Rodriguez from Mojica Judo and Mark Hidalgo.
Today, Victor Ortiz (the judo one, not the boxing one) and I were teaching.

When I start thinking I don't have time for this, I ask myself why I am so committed to making 7 Generation Games a success. I suppose venture capitalists want to hear that we want to make A LOT of money. (Our Chief Marketing Officer tells me, yes, we want to make A LOT of money.) Why, though? I'm not that into stuff.

For me, making a lot of money is necessary so that we can make more games, better games, that help people learn, and not just little kids, either. Millions of people are held back in this country because they are not good enough at math, reading or writing to get a job, or get a better job. You can't affect millions of people around the country on $312.86 .

Still, it's worth stopping some days and looking at the people right in front of me. Weekends like these, which we try to do two or three times a year, are an advantage for our Gompers kids, whether they realize it or not.

They get to just be kids for a few days and not worry about anything.

They get to meet people from lots of different clubs from all over Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, or, at some events, from all over the U.S.

We keep the program purposely small - currently 17 of 16 available spots are filled. Yes, the math does not work out, but José Gonzalez, our teacher supervisor from the school is a social studies teacher (-;  Thank you to generous support from Dollamur Mats and Universal Studios, we have just been able to buy 10 more mats, which will let us expand to 22 of 20 spots.

Often, the "good kids" that are quiet, do their school work and stay out of trouble are overlooked while teachers deal with the students who are disruptive or failing.  With a program like our judo class, there are usually four adults on the mat, giving us a ratio of 4 teachers to each student. Similarly, at the away events, we have a chaperone for every 3-4 students.

This gives each student a load of time to talk about what is going on in school, get nagged by me about any grade less than an A, get advised on charter or magnet high schools where they can apply, complain about anything that is on their minds.

While the budget is always being supplemented by me personally (that is where my book royalties are going) and by Ronda, between that and generous donations we are able to provide each student good experiences like a team dinner at Rainforest Cafe, a plane ticket to Kansas City. Of course, not every student can participate in everything, but keeping the program small provides more resources for each student.

It's like with parenting. You can talk all you want about quality time but what kids really benefit from is great, big heaps of quantity time. If a student goes to every practice and event during the year, they will spend over 200 hours with us.

As I have said before, the purpose of the Gompers Judo program is not to run through hundreds of kids so we can find one or two with a shot at the Olympic team. It is to give every kid in the room a better shot at life.

Speaking of games, if you are in a giving or learning spirit, for every game you buy this month, 7 Generation Games will donate one to a school. Or, you can donate two if you are feeling particularly generous. I'd suggest you download and play the game yourself, though. It's fun. It will give you a taste for what our next game coming out next month is like - it's three times as cool.

Or, if you want to buy Winning on the Ground, not only do the royalties go toward our team dinner every year, but you can also learn some matwork and get some good training ideas.
The photo above is from one of our first drafts of Winning on the Ground when our models were goofing off. If you look closely you can see how hard Crystal is trying not to bust out laughing.


Jacob said...

Thanks for another blog doc! I really like the way you run Gompers because reading this reminded me of how I never wanted to ask questions when I was little. I was always afraid that I would look dumb for asking something too obvious, and I just never got that one-on-one time to ask questions about a subject. That's why I think giving the student's time to open up about what's on their mind, and receiving guidance on judo is a great idea. As far as the donations for the games go, I'm not sure if the offer looks attractive enough for the customer. Perhaps if you did something like a free autograph from Ronda for every two games you donate, or maybe a signed copy of Winning on the Ground? Just ideas I thought would be cool. I look forward to playing the games when they are available on cellular devices.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

We're working on an iPad/ iPhone game as we speak, er, type

Ventus said...

I think thats a very smart and valuable conclusion there, that kids really need big heaps of time, not just "quality time", that usually looks like some forced show all compacted and pressed into some small frame of time.

People, especially kids need time to be ordinary, silly, even bored a bit, tired, exhausted, or just normal everyday self and all other kinds of states with their family and loved ones, not just extremely happy which, when one looks at it realistically isnt even possible.

If you try you just burn out after a while, no matter what you do.

So, again... the matter of balance, balanced living and balanced emotional states comes to mind here. First, as realization that you cannot be in one kind of state all the time, that life in general is a lot of ups and downs. A road to travel, a way, a journey.

And the same can be said for your judo program i think. Instead of forcing a few to Olympic levels, you work with more kids and in a much more balanced manner, without that crazy amount of pressure that training for the top brings, which means the world for those kids that are not strictly Olympic level athletes.

Then there, a very good observation that actually, some good and quiet kids or people get overlooked while more time and effort is spent on those who are disruptive or negative. Which is the unfortunate consequence of simple human evolutionary instinct to survive. Its practically hard wired into us all, and thats easily seen in the way media works for example... but its much less distorting when one is aware of it.

I can only imagine how awesome it must feel for such kids to not only be trained and taught by a world champion, and that champion being you mrs Demars. And then miss Ronda too.... but also to be able to spend time with you and rubb off all that wisdom and down to earth smarts.
Man... ! Wish i could enroll.

Really have a huge respect for you both.

I can hardly stop myself calling you sama all the time, sama DeMars. :bows:
And that only because im thinking it would probably sound too theatrical written like that. But i do feel like it.

Due to how i became aware of miss Ronda and you, just recently, which is a bit too complicated to explain shortly, and i already wrote a lot... it just so happens that all i know about Judo, which is at this stage just the basics and some very simple stuff i learned directly from both of you. And i keep learning with every short clip or short video of your practices or trainings which are so amazingly freely available today.

So, very probably ill buy your book in the near future. And i will try to help with your games as much as i can. Very good idea btw.

Hope you are all having great holidays.