The IJF’s Assault on Coaches

Months ago, the IJF decreed that because coaches were making a “spectacle” of themselves (by yelling at referees when they screwed up) they would be banned from matside coaching. They have thankfully revisited that decision. Now, instead of being shuffled off to some holding pen away from the mat, coaches are once again being allowed to sit matside, albeit behind the barrier of advertising panels.

In addition to not liking our behavior, the IJF also doesn’t like the way we look. So for the medal rounds, coaches will have to wear a suit and tie! Apparently, the IJF has decided that we need to have a uniform just like the players and referees have. The IJF thinks we should look like basketball coaches, but again it’s only important that we look like basketball coaches during the medal rounds when apparently the TV cameras may be rolling.

I was in the Bahamas running a training camp when an international referee from the Dutch Antilles informed us that the IJF had changed the rules governing coaches. Present in the room was Rosicleia Campos, the passionate women’s national coach from Brazil. When she heard that coaches needed a uniform like the players and the referees she went ballistic, and rightfully so. Coaches do have a uniform. They wear the official warm-up suit of their nation.

People are going to ask me why I care what the IJF does at IJF events since most American coaches and I won’t be sitting in chairs during the medal rounds at the World Championships and the Olympic Games. Well, this is why I care. The IJF is a trickle down organization that produces “monkey see, monkey do” follow-up actions by national federations like USA Judo. If the IJF decides to treat us like second-class citizens, which it does, national federations will follow suit.

I will be the first one to admit that coaches, especially at the local levels, need to clean up their act. I too am tired of seeing coaches in flip-flops and shorts. If coaches are to be taken seriously, we need to act and look like professionals. However, we coaches are the ones who should clean up our profession and write the rules that govern coaches, not the referees or the IJF Education Director. At present, we don’t really have any organizational body run by coaches for coaches, either national or international, which would empower coaches to control their own destiny. That needs to change.

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