As a father of a Junior on the mats and somebody who rolls himself I have sat in on many junior BJJ classes. We have been lucky as my daughter has had input from an array of coaches with very different and yet in many ways very similar approaches. What follows is an amalgamation of the comments from those individuals.
Initial thoughts before they started?
When I talked to the coaches about their early teaching days a number of comments occurred consistently.
“When I started I was apprehensive and unsure of myself, I didn’t know if I would be good for this age group.”
“I wasn’t a parent and didn’t understand kids.”
“I had never taught my own class before.”
“I was worried, could I hold their attention long enough to teach them something useful?”
“What would their parents think of me as an instructor?”
“What would I do in difficult situations?”
“What if I failed?”
Now the consistent factor is that they all do a great job.
How did they start?
The first classes were often small with just a few kids. This is often looked back on as being both a good and bad thing. Bad because, they found it was up to them as an instructor to grow the program, but also viewed as a good thing because they were not thrown into the deep end with a large class.
It amused me to hear how the coaches handled a moment they all had in common. That moment? The one when they realize they had lost all control over the class. The moment they stood there watching the class running around laughing and screaming. The answer to this dilema that amused me? “Call for a water break as loudly as you can”.
All the kids coaches said the promotions have brought some of their best moments in coaching. In reality the kids don’t really know what they’re working for, a piece of tape or a different colour belt just makes them happy it gives them a feeling of success. The fun comes from seeing their delight and excitement when they’re called to the front of the class. There is a flip side to the belts as it can be difficult to get children to understand that they are all on different journeys. They all learn at different rates. They have to come in, pay attention, and apply the lessons in order to progress. Some come every day there is a session, others don’t. Some pay attention all the time and latch on to details better than others. The lesson for many children is that just turning up to class isn’t enough.
This was probably the area where coaches differed most in their views from regular attendance is enough and should be rewarded with stripes and belts, right through to others feeling progress is on merit and ability alone. I’ll leave individual coaches to decide what they feel is best for their classes, I don’t have the wisdom to judge.
Impact of the coach?
The role of a coach stretches beyond the mats. The coaches start to feel like an extended part of the family. They listen to students talk about highs and lows of life off the mats.They cheer the kids on when they succeed, console them when they’re crying, and tell them off for bad behaviour. All the coaches commented that there had been times when they overheard a student speak rudely to their parents and they interjected, pointing out to the student that that’s not how we talk to our parents, so moral guidance creeps in as well.
The coaches for juniors do a great job. They do things in different ways, but the core of what they do is the same across all academies. Their input today builds the sport for tomorrow, gives kids discipline, teaches them perseverance and builds fitness.
On a personal note I believe the kids coaches through BJJ, teach children to deal with pressure, mental and physical, it teaches them to deal with winning and losing. These simple concepts are the fundamental foundations for a happy life. Perhaps society needs more BJJ , or is that just me?