When Helping Actually Undermines

From time to time, I have fathers with little or no Judo background who insert themselves into their child’s Judo training.  They’re well-meaning, perhaps a bit overly-involved in their child’s sport experience, and usually create problems for the coaching staff and by extension the child they seek to help.  This problem is not unique to Judo.  It’s pervasive anytime sports and fathers come together.

Not long ago, one of my fathers with limited Judo experience indicated to me that instead of bringing his 7-year old son to one of my 1-hour classes, he would work with him at home for two hours.  He was upfront with me as to the reason: he wanted his son to do better.  This was certainly a valid reason.  Most parents want their child to do better.  Unfortunately, many want their child to do better NOW, not later.

No parent wants to see his child struggle and lose for months or even years before some modicum of competence is developed.  It’s painful.  I understand that very well.  My third daughter, Alexis, who is now 13, is a late-bloomer.  I’ll admit that after having developed her two older sisters into international level players, it’s been a struggle for me to see her thrown and pinned so often,.  Thankfully, I understand the value of long-term development, and I know that she’ll eventually become a much more competent player.  In the interim, she’s living our core values of courage and perseverance.

To help you coaches out there who struggle with fathers who know more about Judo or what’s best for their child than you do, and for you all-knowing fathers too, I’ve developed these talking points, which I hope will be persuasive.

  • By training with you, his training partners are deprived of his presence, and vice versa. The team camaraderie and dynamics that are a great allure to participating in sports are absent.
  • By using your adult body to practice, he’s working with a model that will negatively affect his biomechanics.  Bad habits will ensue because the training partner is unrealistic for his size and skill level.
  • By training your son, you undermine my well-thought out syllabus hgh tablets.  I teach certain things, and conversely don’t teach certain other things for a good reason; long-term development vs short-term development.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your child.
  • By training your child on skills we are not covering yet, you are creating information overload and potentially dangerous situations for his club training partners.  It would be nice if your child could perform well what I have taught him before adding to his inventory.
  • By teaching your child, I’ll undoubtedly have to undo bad habits, like the dropping seoi you want him to do just to mention the obvious.  Not good for him or me or any of the other coaches.
  • Since you’re his training partner, you’ll miss many of his mistakes because you can’t see him perform.
  • Keep in mind that the number one reason kids quit a sport is parent over-involvement; too much, too soon, too many pieces of conflicting information, much of which undermines the syllabus and the coach.  Again, it’s an issue of long-term vs short-term development. Parents don’t know much about that because they have never lived through it, until it’s too late for a do-over.
  • If you must absolutely help your child- which I don’t recommend your doing- reinforce the things we’re teaching him without adding to his technical load.  However, you must absolutely be sure you know what you’re talking about.  To help with this, my suggestion is to get on the mat and assist us during class so that you know what we’re working on and how to reinforce it.  This still doesn’t make it OK for him to miss a group class.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to handle parents who want to coach their own children from the bleachers is to challenge them to become part of the coaching staff and to fulfill its requirements: buy a gi, practice Judo, and attend coaching clinics or seminars.  Even if these parents never become skilled players, having an extra pair of eyes and ears on the mat to manage your juniors and keep them on task is a benefit to any club.


6 thoughts on “When Helping Actually Undermines

  1. You left out one important one to me. He’s seven! The focus there is on development, not competition. Yes, certainly let him compete. But if the focus is winning, then it’s defeating the purpose at that stage.

  2. Hi Coach,

    I wanted to read your article as I recently found myself being one of these fathers. I know very little judo and have committed every error you have mentioned here. I came to the conclusion that they only want to understand is to start learning myself, but more importantly – to let the coaches teach, and only offer moral support.

    I asked Israel about what my daughter needs to work on, but came to the realization that the best approach will be a hands off approach. After all, you guys are the experts.

    Thanks again for the enlightenment

  3. My son just asked me that same question yesterday. I’ve simply been swamped with several other important projects, but I should have the next post out in the next few days.

  4. In 2005, you were putting on a clinic before the 2005 jr. nationals. I was one of those dads yelling/incouraging my son as he did randori. You looked at me and said, “Come out here and help out”, I apologized, then you responded, “No, I meant it, come out here and help, the more the better”. So I guess there is a fine line somewhere………..

  5. Yes, there is a fine line. While I don’t remember this particular situation, it’s almost always better to have another set of eyes on the mat under the guidance of a master coach. What doesn’t work out as well, actually almost never, is daddy working with Johnny behind closed doors without my supervision or input. Recently, one of my little guys (age 7) showed up for our Friday Night at the Fights trying to do Sode tsuri komi goshi, which I don’t teach to my young ones or lower junior ranks. The potential for injury to uke is too great. Besides, how about mastering more fundamental throws, and easier throws, like O soto, O uchi, Ippon seoi, Uki goshi, etc. before attempting to learn a more complex throw?

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