Tag Archives: Coaching

Like parent, like child. Like coach, like player.

Coaching styles may vary.

“There are no bad children, only bad parents” is a phrase which is known by many. Essentially, behaviour is learned, mimicked, whichever you feel applies. The same principle applies to sports and over the years I have certainly seen it first hand.

I should stress before continuing that ‘bad’ is a bit strong in most cases. A coach is not setting out to be a bad coach. They are not sitting at home before heading to an event wondering how best they can upset people and have a counter-productive influence on whoever they are coaching. They do want the best outcome for their athletes but their approach has somehow become misguided.

Judo is predicated around mutual benefit and welfare. As a result, the attitudes of the vast majority of coaches and indeed the players has been exemplary in my experience. Yes, perceived bad calls from the referee team are challenged but it is an absolute exception when any behaviour starts to become threatening! This just goes to show how enforcing such principles from the very beginning of the coaching process reap benefits throughout a judoka’s life.

Football, however, has a long-running battle with behavioural problems. The fact that the Respect campaign exists in the first place is testament to this. There is conflict between players (even those on the same team), managers, coaches, spectators and referees. The second game I refereed ‘featured’ an altercation where one manager allegedly assaulted the other over a confrontation regarding a child swearing at some of the gathered parents.

Particularly with youth football, the coaches set the example. If I meet a friendly, relaxed, professional and balanced coach it comes as no surprise when his or her team are there to actually play football. There is precious little dissent. In the unfortunate event that I had to dismiss a player for violent conduct (the irony is appreciated), a manager I am thinking of said after the game “I have no problem with the decision, he deserved it, he has to learn somehow”. Such a well-balanced view is sadly rare.

Compare and contrast to, shall we say, the more shouty coaches. The referee’s decisions are likely to be targeted to compensate in any short falls in team ability. A referee may be pilloried for getting a penalty decision wrong, but the fact that a team missed several open goals will be conveniently forgotten!

That said, some such coaches are ‘balanced’ in that they are just as likely to shout in the same way at their own team. This does, however, result in the players having the same form of attitude (high levels of dissent) which the referee has to deal with firmly. It is important to set the boundaries EARLY.

Referees are there to control the event and enforce as required. Coaches, however, should have trained their players in such a way that the referee should never NEED to be dealing with discipline issues.

However, it is very important to keep an open mind despite the general trends. I was surprised when the latter style of coach who had very loudly criticised a penalty decision during a game was very polite and listened afterwards. He just wanted to know the reasoning. I also heard him complimenting an opposing player on a run. More balanced than perhaps someone just hearing the shouting might have realised.

During my cup final there was one player getting VERY angsty over an offside not being given. I took him to one side and explained what had happened. Once he understood, the angst immediately vanished and he apologised.

Let us not forget the parents as well. They are not just instilling behaviour (good or bad) in their children at home but also when standing and watching at the side of a sporting event!

Coaches, parents, referees… we all have our role to play in education.It is NEVER someone else’s problem: We all have a responsibility to help!

I would love to hear about any behaviour, good or bad, you have witnessed at sporting events and how this may have been linked to any coaches and/or parents present!

Randori: Encouraging movement, keeping it upright

I was getting a bit more practice tonight in terms of assistant coaching. This is quite a good introduction as the main coach handles the lesson plan and…well… to be honest they handle pretty much everything, leaving me to wander giving advice when the students put it into practice.

When it came to Randori, some of the physical differences between some of the players came to light. Now, these are juniors, and although some may be roughly the same size, there can be a great difference in age and therefore strength.

Thus sometimes a player would be pretty much pulling their partner all over the place, forcing them down, and it was not uncommon for a throw to occur by means of sutemiwaza.

Sacrifice throws are an important part of any judoka’s toolkit, but executing one on a player who is clearly weaker and smaller than you does not prove much.

Some of the advice I felt appropriate tonight was as follows:

  • To a player who had thrown their partners several times with sutemiwaza (as above): No more sutemiwaza for you tonight. Use other throws. Encourages broadening horizons. Seconds after this, the player executes a beautiful O goshi. It had the “Ooooh” factor.
  • To players dragging smaller ones around: Reiterate the point of Randori. Emphasise technique and subtle breaking of balance over RARRRRGH. And, just as importantly, to their partner, give a few tips as to how to handle someone who is stronger (Stay upright, keep moving, attack!).
  • To hip-blockers. Hip-blocking is a totally valid way of blocking a throw, but to attempt Tani Otoshi afterwards when their partner is clearly stronger is not good. Try stepping round instead and attack. A player tried this after having their Tani Otoshi countered each time, and managed to throw their partner repeatedly with Tai Otoshi. Beautiful.
  • To the wrestling stance! Two players end up bent right over wrestling. Normally the only throw attempts that result are sutemi waza. Emphasise standing up more, brings out more opportunities (back to movement here!).

All of this is Judo 101 and common sense. But I feel it does have to be pointed out quickly when spotted before bad habits set in. I speak from experience. I know very, very well how reliance on sutemi waza and counters stunted my Judo growth. Now I try and be more upright I am always thinking to myself, “I wish someone had made me do this earlier!”.

Safeguarding and Protecting Children


The majority who are involved in Judo are children. You can apply this to sport as a whole. As a result, child protection is a big deal. While it seems child abuse is more prevalent nowadays, that aspect is due more to the media and greater public awareness.

It’s a requirement for coaches in Judo to go on the sports coach UK Safeguarding and Protecting Children workshop. I went on one of these courses, hosted by a combination of the British Judo Association and the British Army.

It was a good course, and essentially goes through everything from the definitions of abuse, the signs, through to the actions to take. The key is to do something if there is suspicion. It is not down to us as coaches (or others involved in the sport) to decide whether abuse has occured, but ignoring the signs is wrong.

The other side of the coin is to protect ourselves! For example, not being in the position where you would be alone with a child: Avoiding one-to-one coaching, or giving a child a lift home. THankfully, Judo is very open as a sport: Clubs are typically run by quite a few people, and parents always made welcome to view sessions in their entirety.

A lot of this stuff is naturally common sense. Good practice would be having at least two coaches on the mat. Dubious practice might be inviting Gary Glitter to coach a session on his own. But it was good to go through it all and get the materials, so if a situation ever arises, I know who to talk to next. Note that clubs should have a dedicated Welfare Officer who have more advanced training (“A Time To Listen”, via the NSPCC).

There is some crossover here with Long Term Player Development (LTPD). As athletes are at different ages different types and levels of training are more appropriate than others. It is important to avoid pushing too hard, as this in itself could be abuse (Think ‘pushy parent syndrome’, berating their child for crying, or losing at a competition). Not to mention ‘helping’ a child meet their weight category with the likes of saunas and wearing bin liners when training!

Very early days for me on the learning about coaching front. I am already thirsty for more.

First steps in coaching (gently, due to broken toe)

I had my first steps in coaching last night, albeit in the role of an assistant coach during the session. This is obviously the sensible way to start – There is no way that I can possibly claim to have the experience yet to take a session on my own.

In fact, the UKCC Level 1 Coaching Course that I am going on soon is classed as “Assistant Coach” level, so it will be perfect. Slow steps!

My steps are particularly slow at the moment as I broke one of my toes at the weekend. Unfortunately, despite attending two judo sessions over that weekend I can’t give some story here about some amazing thing I did. Instead, I broke it when falling down the stairs. Sigh.

So, how did the coaching go?

It was the junior class and I would say the average age was about eight or so. The numbers were lower than normal but this made it easier, as we had just the right number for each coach on the mat to work with a pair.

Children are a marvel to work with. So distinct in their personalities, and even in the warm-up I became very aware that I really did have to be setting as an example, as they were watching!

I think one of the main challenges for me was explaining the Judo exercises we were doing in the right language. Getting the points across by way of demonstration and talking it through. Part of me was wanting to start talking about the fundamentals of a throw (kuzushi etc) but I realised that these are very young children and everything has to be done at the right level.

So I can’t wait for the coaching course and, of course, much more experience to start learning all the tricks.

I stayed on for the senior session, where I was training myself. Chris Doherty, Regional Technical Officer, was there to show some exercises, which were great. He is also a big fan of the fundamentals, which I suppose you would expect from someone in his position!

Plus it turns out he is a tutor on the Bath course I have applied for. Excellent.

Toe very painful. It stunted a lot of my Judo and I was forced to find workarounds. Forward throws were pretty much out. Especially ones involving bending the knees. Newaza was not so bad as I could try and keep the toe out of harms way, and it was nice to try and find an advantage when a “foot down”!

Worked on Ko Soto Gake in tachiwaza randori, as once my foot was hooked behind, the toe was out of danger! In a way, it made me work harder to complete the throw as I didn’t want to back out as it could injure the toe. Hmmm. I should be careful…

IJF to ban coaches from matside

Lance Wicks was quick to post that the IJF seem poised to ban coaches from matside. As with the upcoming rule changes (removal of koka and so on), this is to come into effect from the beginning of 2009.  Unlike those rules changes, this one has been sprung very suddenly! The BJA have confirmed it, and there is a copy of the announcement available for download.

An athlete is alone against his opponent in a fight. In the educational concept of judo, the role of coaches is to prepare his players for this autonomy. We must reserve for a Judoka the decisionmaking and ability to manage this confrontation.

Mainly for this reason we made a decision to remove coaches along the tatami from 1 January 2009. A specific location will be reserved for them in the competition hall.

Some outbursts on coaches’ side have also hurt the image of our sport at the Beijing Olympics. Unjustified and continuing criticism against referees had undermined our refereeing in public and media’s opinion.

It will be interesting to see at which levels in the UK this is applied at (if at all). Plenty of other sports allow coaching from the side, although the BJC do not allow it…

I feel this is a positive step.  Shouting at the players aside, it also prevents abuse and attempted coercion towards the referees (it is annoying for a coach to scream for the same penalty you intend to give anyway!).  By the time the players step out onto the tatami, they should be able to handle the contest by themselves…