Coaching Judoka aged 9 - 12 years old -
Moving on from our previous post of coaching 5 - 8 year old children, we will now look at coaching children aged 9 - 12. Although I am using very specific age bands it is worth stating the obvious here, children do not “change” over night. Coaching must be altered gradually and subtly as the group develops.
“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” – Erik H. Erikson
Use older Judoka
Competition is a training tool but use it wisely
Focus on the task in hand
Play Judo - As Judoka “We do not ‘play’ Judo, we fight!” an expression often repeated by high level judoka, and at elite competitive level, it is true. However, aged 9-12 it is very important to encourage them to ‘play judo’. What is ‘playing judo’? Applied in a randori (free practice) scenario, it can be anything from asking your judoka to only use a specific Waza (technique), or even trying to use as many Waza as possible or only throwing on the weaker side. The most important thing is the mindset of how they approach the randori. It should not be at full pace and there should be lots of encouragement for clearly trying to achieve the set goal, regardless of the outcome. This approach begins to teach Judoka from an early age the idea of working towards achieving a task and also using a process to do so.
Ways of playing Judo -
Use older Judoka - This is an invaluable tool to every Judo club. In Japan they encourage their older Judoka to regularly train with their younger club mates. The benefits of this practice are numerous. Firstly it enables the younger judoka to start practicing with people who have a higher skill level which pushes their development. It helps with ‘playing Judo’ as the older Judoka will encourage them to try the goals of the session and give them instant feedback (often difficult for the coach to do on a busy mat). Lastly it builds fantastic team spirit and creates role models for the younger Judoka to look up to.
Competition is a training tool but use it wisely - Competitions are integral to long term Judo development and a useful teaching tool especially if we apply the ‘play Judo’ philosophy and set tasks and objectives to complete in competitions. Success should be measured not by medals but by effort to achieve the set goals. We must keep in mind children are able compete as early as 8 years old with the competitions most weekends, this is young! However the training and competition program should take into account their physical and psychological immaturities. Emphasis should be on ‘play’ and set tasks, do not allow a build of pressure and expectation too young as it will stifle development and ability to 'play'.
Focus on the task in hand - This has been the theme throughout this post. By the age of 12 some children will become more competitive. Help them focus on the present moment, what they are learning and the task they are trying to achieve, rather than letting their thoughts run away to thinking about winning the next competition! Set process goals for them (rather than outcome goals) in training and competition. As coaches working with children we are laying foundations for the future, both on and off the mat. Most experienced Judoka will agree that Judo played a huge part in shaping them in to the adult they became.