Defiant or Incompetent?
Posted: February 27, 2018
Every now and then, I stumble across a concept that is so obvious that I wonder why I hadn’t thought of it myself. Last week, I read that a good portion of a student’s non-compliance to directions is caused not by his defiance, but by his incompetence: the student misinterprets or doesn’t know how to follow directions. Honestly, it had never crossed my mind that incompetence could be the root cause of not being able to focus or follow directions. ADD, ADHD, yes. Incompetence, no.
We take it for granted that a student knows how to “cut it out”, or “focus”, or “pay attention.” Sometimes he does, but sometimes he doesn’t. The truth is that he’s probably not been taught how to pay attention or focus. In this case, the teacher is partly responsible for the student’s being incompetent. While we have exhorted our students to not do this and not do that, often we have failed to provide them with specific, concrete, sequential, and observable directions that will enable them to overcome their incompetence.
If your junior class is anything like mine, you have kids who stare out at space, play with their toes making sure all ten are still there, pick their nose, or talk and play grab-ass with their next door neighbor. Although we are told kids are capable of multi-tasking- kids can apparently read, watch TV or listen to music, and do homework all at the same time- my experience indicates that they suck at learning Judo when they are multi-tasking: in other words, when they are not paying attention because they are counting toes, picking their nose, or messing around with another child.
While I have good control over my kids when I’m demonstrating and talking, there’s always room for improvement. I’ll admit that I have failed to directly teach them how to pay attention. That’s about to change. “Sit up straight in seiza, hands on your thighs.” This should prevent counting toes, picking noses, and messing around. “Eyes on me no matter where I move.” That helps junior focus on the actual Judo demonstration. “No talking while I’m demonstrating.” It’s hard to listen to someone, and more importantly hard to comprehend what he is saying, when you are talking at the same time, right?
While we are on the subject of teaching kids how to pay attention, we also need to teach them how to improve each and every practice session. I have a few players in my class who think they’re doing a great job during practice. They honestly think they’re working hard to become better at Judo. The problem is that they don’t realize how little Judo they actually do in an average session.
While I have mentioned to them that you get better the more repetitions you do- garbage in, garbage out- it hasn’t been enough to make them change their work output. Consequently, I have asked their parents to videotape them during practice so they can see how much laughing, giggling, and walking around in a daze goes on, and how little Judo is performed. I hope that seeing is believing.
To help our students overcome incompetence, we coaches and teachers need to be more competent at giving directions. Teach students what to do and how to do it, even when we assume they know how to.