Is my child a talented Judo player and if so what should I do?

Is my child good?” is a common question posed to Judo coaches, and one that is often awkward to answer. The answer normally is “yes and no“, all children have talents and things they are especially good at; sometimes that area is the sport of Judo. Sometimes, it is not so much the sport aspect as it is a subset of Judo. for example your child may be a wonderful official or coach in the making.

But lets look at this from the perspective that most parents pose it, in terms of winning medals and the idea of your child being a sportsperson and perhaps competing at the Olympic games. Again the answer here is “yes and no”. Your child may well be talented, but the reality is that a tiny minority of those that do Judo get the chance to compete at the Olympic Games.

Here in the UK the total number of people doing Judo through the British Judo Association is about 30,000 people. Last year in Beijing seven British Judoka competed at the Olympics. That means that 1 in every 4250 or so Judo players can be Olympians, a rough guesstimate, and actually that is not so bad, better odds than the lottery.

So, back to the question, is your child talented?

Quite possibly, are they physically literate? In other words, do they display good ability at Judo? Are they good runners? Are they good at football? Are they good at swimming? If the answer is yes to all those questions, then maybe they have been given above average gifts, they have potential. When they are at Judo, do they win against bigger, better, older kids?

Are they the sort of kid who will go out and kick the ball at a target on the wall 100 times? Are they stubborn? Do they refuse to give-up? Do they love sport? Do they love Judo? Do they love Judo when they lose? Do they love to win? Do they Hate to lose? When they lose, do they come back and train harder?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, then maybe they have the mental toughness and aptitude to be talented at Judo.

Does your club coach, the regional coach, the national coach think they have some talent? If you don’t know, ask.

What if they are talented?

If your child is talented then prepare for a heart ache and pain. As the parent, you will feel every bruise, every injury, every loss. Judo at the elite level is hard and not many people make it to the very top. So you as the parent need to be ready for the pain of watching your child push themselves to the limit and fail. You need to be able to support them through the tough times that will come, and give them the solid supportive, loving care they are going to need.

The support network you as a parent form the core of, is a key component to the success of a talented child. You need to be able to support and encourage whilst ensuring that your child is not being pushed too hard. Can you do it? You will be a taxi, a bank, a shoulder to cry on.

What to do if my child is a talented Judo player?

The short answer is get help. Start talking to your club coach, start talking to elite coaches, start learning what these people think and what they see in your child.

The longer answer is to find the best people available to support your child and build a team around them that will help protect and develop your child. Try and find the experts you need. Find a coach that is amazing, a coach who cares about your child both as an athlete and also as a person. Someone that will push them and also protect them.

You will want to investigate the national performance system in your country, and see how it impacts your childs future. If they are “that good” then they will probably need to to work with the national setup. But this may conflict with the systems you have in place, the personal coach. You along with your child need to decide what is best and how to get the best of both worlds.

There is a difference between “elite” and “good”.

Many of you are probably reading the paragraphs above and are a bit shocked. The above words are talking about the top level of Judo the sport and are not relevant to 99.999% percent of us (or at least 1/4250 of us). It is written in a intentionally scary way to help you as a parent realise that the life of a elite athlete is hard and will take a toll on you and on your child if that is the path that is taken.

It is very VERY different to being a good/talented club player, or even regional champion and in many cases even being national champion is nothing compared to the path of the truely elite player, and all those aspiring and working towards that level.

But the difficulty is that you as a parent play a key role in deciding if that path is possible for your child. If they are going to make it to the highest levels, then decisions are going to start needing to be made before your child is an adult, meaning it is you as a parent that is responsible in many ways. In Judo it is perhaps less of a issue than say Gymnastics, as Judo athletes are generally in their 20s before they hit the Olympic stage.

But… it takes time to reach that level, years of time and effort are required. meaning that your child will probably need to be starting down the path towards the Olympics whilst still in school. Definitely at the age where they are looking at University education. Will your talented child go to University or train full-time? Can they do both? What is more important to them as a person? Should sport take a back seat to education and a career?

Again, it is you the parent of the Judo child that in reality makes the decision. These decisions can start as young as pre-teen. Do you send them to a Judo camp or go to a foreign country for your holiday/vacation? Do you allow them to travel long distances to compete in competitions on the weekend. Do they go to Judo or to Spanish language lessons? Do they learn Guitar or go for a run?

It is an unenviable position, and the reality is that nobody can give you an easy answer as to what you should do. Perhaps you can seek the guidance of someone who has child who has been to the Olympics. But even then, you and your family are unique and nobody can answer the question. You and your child are the only ones who can decide what path to take.

Personally, I would say this: If your child is considered talented by a wide number of the highest level coaches you can find AND if your child loves Judo (win or lose) and your child wants to go to win at the highest levels. If that is their passion (not yours) then I say support them to follow that dream. If they make it to that elusive Olympic gold, then you have helped them achieve an amazing thing. The last thing you want your child to have is regrets that they never tried to achieve their dream or worse they felt that you their parent held them back!

Good luck!

[Update 5 August 2009] Bob over at CoachingJudo.com has posted a follow up to this post which is well worth reading. Click HERE to read his article.

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This entry was posted by LanceW on Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 12:02 pm and is filed under Judo . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Comments

  1. Bob Challis says:

    Great article Lance, couldn’t agree more. I intend to steal this idea and add some points to it on my site 😉

  2. LanceW says:

    Bob, thanks, steal away!

  3. Shelagh says:

    I’ve been busy trying to make our clubs site and facebook etc pages also a youtube syllabus collection (not happening very fast atm.) I love your Mon grade collection and really really want you to do more so I can just link to you 😀 .

    Very well done I love your blog.

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