AnnMaria De Mars and Jim Pedro, respectively the president and vice-president of the USJA, resigned a few weeks ago. Pedro did so during a conference call meeting of the USJA Board of Directors, and De Mars resigned the following day.
Emotions are running high. Some USJA members are threatening to pull out of the USJA and join USA Judo. Makes sense to me- NOT. If there was ever a dysfunctional, worthless group to join, it would have to be USA Judo. So guys, knock yourselves out and join USA Judo if you think it’s going to care more about your opinions and welfare.
Fingers are also being pointed. According to a few lost souls on the Judo Forum, I am to blame for some of what just happened. How? I have no idea, but it may have something to do with my blogs. Rest assured that my blogs held no sway over the board members. They have eyes and ears. They saw the De Mars misdeed at the January board meeting, and they acted accordingly in due time.
Prior to that fateful January meeting in Las Vegas, I had phone conversations with both De Mars and Gary Goltz. I had heard that Goltz, the USJA’s COO, had momentarily thrown around the idea that he should be president. Ultimately, for the good of the USJA, Goltz told me that he and De Mars had agreed that she would be the president and he would be the vice-president. She also told me that she would resign from the board if she wasn’t elected president. She had an agenda to fulfill and she needed to be president in order to carry out that agenda. Made sense to me.
In spite of the agreement, the die had been cast. De Mars could no longer trust Goltz, so she foolishly stabbed him in the back by masterminding Pedro’s election as vice-president. From that point on, it wasn’t too hard for the board to lose trust in De Mars and to force her resignation.
Lots of folk think the sky is falling, and irreparable damage has been done. I’m not one of them. I applaud the board’s quick actions to resolve the issue, which could have festered for years and divided the board in two factions like the previous board. We know how well that worked. While it is sad to see De Mars and Pedro go, the board should be able to run more smoothly…but honestly, I’m not holding my breath.
On the positive side of the resignations, we are finally about to move forward- I think!- with a real coach education program. Bill Montgomery is now in charge of the Coach Education Committee (CEC). I pray the board implements the majority of the CEC’s recommendations promptly. For starters, approve Successful Coaching as our manual for levels 1 and 2. Then, provide the CEC with the manpower and funds to develop an Internet-based educational system to facilitate the dissemination of technical information, continuing education units, and testing. Lastly, return the USJA’s coaching program to its rightful position as leader in the U.S. Let’s not seek parity with other programs, but rather have them seek parity with ours. If you know what’s out there- and it ain’t much- this is not that difficult to achieve.
In addition, I’d like the board to consider two other suggestions that go hand in hand. First, let’s define who and what we are. Are we a Judo organization as the name implies, or are we something else? Ever since the selling of high dan “service to Judo” promotions, and the inclusion of other martial arts in the USJA, in particular the jujitsu crowd, we have had quality, agenda, identity, and vision problems. Although it was Phil Porter who started all of this, thinking of the financial windfall but ignoring the eventual political and culture wars, successive boards have continued the practice. Many of the board problems we have had recently stem from the fact that we are no longer a unified Judo organization, but rather a Balkanized group with many purposes, goals, and visions.
Under the current administrative set-up, the jujitsu people are not happy. Many will abandon or are threatening to abandon the USJA and join USA Judo or some other jujitsu group. I say good riddance and good luck with that. While the USJA may want to be everything to everybody, it winds up not pleasing a whole bunch of people. I say return to our sport roots when we had 22,000 members, stood for something, and had quality programs and high standards.
Rather than try to retain members from different arts who no longer share our vision, let’s do a better job at improving our sport by developing better Judo coaches and more clubs, and providing them with the knowledge and wherewithal to compete in today’s crowded martial arts world. Without a doubt, this is a full-time job for someone. Thus, my second suggestion is to hire a person responsible for coach and club development.
One of my philosophies is to always seek to turn a negative into a positive regardless of how tragic a situation may appear at first. The USJA is now in a position to do just that. Yes, it’s going to lose some disenchanted members, but others will be inclined to come back now that De Mars and Pedro are gone. None of this is surprising or new in the Judo world. People come and go depending on which way the wind is blowing.
It’s time to check the emotions at the door, do some real soul searching, redefine what the USJA stands for, confirm whom it represents, and improve its root product, which is Judo. In the end, the USJA will become a better organization.