As a sport that uses weight categories, it is important that parents understand the risks to health that can potentially affect your child.
Judo is a sport where children compete in age and weight based divisions. This is a wonderful thing for many children (and their parents) as it means the physical differences between participants are limited; increasing safety and enjoyment. However, we need to be aware of the negative health risks such as compromised nutritional status, diminished physical performance and impaired growth and development.
A very common issue is rapid weight loss, typically called cutting, or weight management.
Recent research in 2016 investigated this in children and found it was being done by 80% of participants. This included such activities as fasting (not eating at all) and skipping meals along with increased physical activity; with the aim being to make a specific weight.
For many of us in Judo coaching this is very worrying and as a parent it should be of concern too.
There are many coaches and health professionals that do not feel any child (specifically under 18 year olds) ever “make weight”. Parents play an important role in monitoring the subtle pressures (and direct pressures) from club mates and coaches. In the literature two thirds of children indicated that the coach was prime influencer for rapid weight loss activity.
No Judo coach should ever tell your child to cut weight to make a category. Children in Judo simply do not need to do it; the perceived benefit of making a weight category do not balance the risks caused by fasting and skipping meals in a developing child. Then their is the added risks of eating disorders.
Even if your child is overweight (as described by a doctor or other health professional), it is not the coaches role to tell your child to lose weight. They should encourage a healthy lifestyle (exercise and healthy eating); never losing weight.
As experienced coach will not be telling a child to lose weight for sports reasons. Parents should listen to the coaches and be aware of any suggestions from coaches to lose weight. This is a safety and professionalism issue and I recommend you speak with the coach or the club welfare officer.
As always, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you might have.