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Martial Arts: Judo

Characteristic Traits of a Good Judo Coach

By Elie A. Morrell, Hachidan

The traits of a good judo coach are many. The coach's basic job is to pass on his knowledge to others in a clear and understandable way. The inability to properly communicate with students can have long range adverse effects on the students' progress in judo.

The coach must be a good planner, be confident, be able to motivate, be dedicated and show some degree of humility. Possession of all of these traits by all coaches is not possible. However, one should always continue to strive for perfection. Therein lies the challenge. The fact that coaches continue to learn through experience on the mat is a reward in itself even though true perfection may never be attained.

The foregoing comments reflect coaching philosophy in part. In subsequent paragraphs, the intent of this paper will be to expand on the characteristics of the judo coach by way of presenting typical examples. These examples will constitute situations found on the judo mat which require an expression of the coach's characteristics as related to the coaching of judo.

The attitude of a coach to judo will be reflected in his class sessions. He is obligated to reflect the best possible judo image to his students.

I believe that one of the greatest injustices to the student of judo is for the coach to come to a class unprepared. Since the teaching of judo can be equated to teaching in general, class material must be prepared in advance. For the coach to stand before a class and say, "let's see, what will I cover tonight?" is unpardonable. Teaching judo cannot be impromptu or extemporaneous. Accordingly, the coach must plan well in advance of any given session to affect some continuity of material that is presented. If possible, the coach should attempt to link material from one session to the next.

Judo is a dynamic sport in the sense that teaching techniques are constantly evolving though the underlying principles associated with judo techniques remain the same. To this end, it behooves the coach to strive to keep abreast of new ideas which have been formulated by others. This can be accomplished in several ways. First, personal contact with other coaches with an exchange of ideas. Second, access to periodicals published on the sport of judo. Lastly, the coach should maintain a good reference library on the subject of judo.

If the coach attempts to stay abreast of changes taking place in the sport, he will surely be able to facilitate his short and long range planning for class sessions and preclude the possibility of stagnation and the danger of constant repetition.

The ability of a coach to motivate students is, in my estimation and based on my experience, a tremendous challenge. Motivation will vary from student to student.

Success by a student attempting a given technique is, in itself, a motivator. The coach should recognize this success with praise and encouragement. This is a positive attitude reflected by the coach which in turn can stimulate further motivation by the student.

Other forms of motivation could include frequent club tournaments on a small scale with rewards given to the best performers. The coach here can use his imagination for the issuance of rewards and they should not be necessarily limited to medals or trophies.

The coach should occasionally invite other coaches to the class for either the purpose of demonstration, a short talk on judo or a clinic for the students. Occasionally, at the discretion of the coach, films on judo may be presented. A good relationship with the parents of younger students should be nurtured and the coach should attempt to stimulate some judo interest on the part of the parent. A small amount of appreciation for judo on the part of a youngster's parent(s) can sometimes be a strong positive influence on youngsters.

Lastly, judo rank motivates both the young and adult player alike. In this instance, the coach must exercise good judgment in explaining the requirements for advancement in judo rank. This is especially important in dealing with youngsters. It becomes necessary for the coach to repeat often the requirements for rank advancement. If the coach is lax in this area, I personally believe it is one of the greatest contributors to student loss. A judo player must realize what he or she has to do for a specific promotion. The coach cannot assume that the students will take it upon themselves to know this. It is one of his obligations.

The trait of confidence in a coach is simply another way of a coach reflecting his knowledge. It virtually goes without saying that the coach who truly understands his subject will surely have confidence in himself. This should not assume however, that all other traits which go into making a good coach are there also. Thorough knowledge of his subject will reduce the chances of the coach being caught unaware. For example, suppose a student were to ask what the purpose was in slapping the judo mat. A very simple answer would probably be to absorb the shock of impact. But is that really the total answer? No text or instructor  has ever yielded any information to me regarding a question such as this. Through deductive reasoning and experience I believe that coaches rationalize answers to questions such as these by themselves. I do, however, contend that there is more to the answer than the conventional reply. I will leave this to your own imagination.

Dedication and humility I think can be related to some degree. The chances are that a truly dedicated coach will more than likely be humble to some degree. A dedicated coach is one who never looks for excuses to miss coaching sessions or is tardy for the class. This sets a good example for the students. If punctuality is demanded by the coach he also must abide by the rule. Dedication can sometimes be above and beyond the normal requirements expected of a coach.

This will sometimes vary from coach to coach. Examples would be that of spending extra time and effort with a student having problems on the mat and engaging in extracurricular activities related to the promotional aspects of the sport of judo. Humility in a coach is truly a difficult trait to foster. An example of this is the coach's willingness to accept constructive criticism and new ideas from others. The coach should always have an open mind with regard to improving his own learning.

In summary, it should be obvious that many coaching traits have not been covered in this paper. Furthermore, only a cursory look has been taken at those coaching traits which have been discussed.

If all coaches try their best to present the best possible image of judo in an unselfish manner, then truly the sport cannot help but to flourish.

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About The Author:

Elie Morrell began judo in 1955 and currently holds a United States Judo Federation (USJF) rank of Hachidan (8th dan).  Over the years Morrell has taught judo in California, Colorado, Texas and Oregon. He is the former chairman of the USJA coach certification committee (1980-1982) and has served as a certified master judo examiner and national coach.  As an author Morrell has written over 25 technical articles on judo. He holds an engineering from Brown University (1950).


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