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Judo America San Diego

Don’t sabotage my talk!

Posted: February 27, 2018

This past Sunday, I ran another quarterly in-house developmental tournament using what I call Judo America rules- no penalties, no terminal ippon, and no banned techniques.  As players started filtering into the dojo, one of my dads approached me with his young son.  He told me his son had fallen off his bike the previous day and skinned his knee.  He brought his son to the tournament hoping that his son could compete, but was worried that he might bleed all over.  I took a look at the “wound” and told his son to get on the mat and be ready to compete.  It was pretty superficial.


A few minutes later, dad approached me again and filled in a few more details.  His son didn’t want to compete since he was “mortally” wounded.  Of course, dad was not having any of that.  He wanted his son to be a man although junior is only 8 years old.  So, that morning he talked to his son about how important it was to do his best in spite of the wound.  Unfortunately, mom overheard dad encouraging their son to compete when he didn’t want to, so she told her son that it was OK if he didn’t want to compete. Exasperated, dad cried out, “Don’t sabotage my talk!”  Priceless, isn’t it?  Much to her credit, mom said that dad was right and her son should compete.  This mom understood the message, but most moms wouldn’t have.

Does this story sound familiar?  If you’ve been teaching as long as I have, it should resonate with you.  Although I love teaching Judo to kids, and adults too, I’ve always dreaded having to work with parents, moms in particular.  It is my firm belief that moms are (far too) often their children’s worst enemy.  This is particularly true when is comes to moms and their boys.

Moms, more than dads by a huge margin, are overprotective of their boys.  They spoil, coddle, baby, pamper, and “nurture” them.  Moms are the first to allow their boys to quit when Judo isn’t “fun” anymore: in other words, when obstacles present themselves and the going gets tough.  This is all the more curious since most moms enroll their boys in Judo to make them tougher, more disciplined, more man-like.  Moms may want reengineered sons, but they don’t seem willing to watch their boys go through the trials and tribulations of growing into men.  After almost forty years of teaching, I haven’t quite been able to explain this contradiction.  Hormones?

What happens when mom and dad have different agendas, or as I like to say when parents are not reading the same book let alone the same page?  Well, it gives struggling kids an opportunity to play one parent off the other.  When a child knows that all he has to do is complain, cry, and crawl to mommy to make Judo go away, it dilutes the transformative power of Judo.  When parents fight over Judo, or any other educational activity for that matter, kids perceive the activity is not important enough to care about it.

I can attest personally to the negative effects when parents are overtly not on the same page.  When it came to Judo, and how it could benefit our kids, my ex-wife and I were in total agreement.  Our kids flourished athletically and academically.  My two daughters became elite players and my son was many times national junior champion before finding his true calling as a collegiate and later professional soccer player.

My second wife, who is Japanese, and I have been fighting the ugly fight when it comes to our daughter Alexis.  While Alexis spends over ten hours a week working on her kanji, it’s World War III if I attempt to get her to Judo practice- practice is only one hour- three times a week instead of twice.  The physical, emotional, and character differences between my kids from marriage one and marriage two are substantial.  I’m not buying that the differences exit because the genetics are different.  Instead, I truly believe that the mixed messages Alexis receives from mom and dad are counterproductive and destructive.  Consequently, since mom doesn’t seem to think that Judo is important, it has affected Alexis’s attitude, enthusiasm, and work ethic.  While Judo is still transformative for Alexis, its power has clearly been weakened because mommy is indifferent as best, and a saboteur at worst.

Our primary job as coaches is to teach our junior and senior players.  However, if Judo is to succeed in building character in our juniors, we must also educate our parents, paying particular attention to our moms.  We must make it very clear that whatever decision parents take vis-a-vis their children, there must be a united front.  There can be no mixed messages, no sabotage.  The power of Judo works best when mom, dad, and coach, are on the same page of the same book.