This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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Coaching styles... 

Recently, Bob posted an article reflecting on his coaching style. It resonated with me as did some articles from the every open AnnMaria De Mars. Then I attended the BJA "Matside Coach" training and this blog post is me processing all these things and sorting out my thinking on and around the topic(s).

Like Bob, I am not an autocratic "my way or the highway" type coach naturally. In Bob's article he mentions high profile examples of successful coaches that are. And he goes on to consider if his style needs to change.

That got me thinking near identically, do I need to be more of an autocratic style coach. Do I need more bluster and more fire. More "be there!" and less "will you be there?".

Maybe, there is something to be said for the "nice guys come last" quote?

I know outside of coaching that my tendency to try and work with people can be detrimental. Too few people in the Judo community seem to want to actually get on with doing and seem to prefer to form committees and sub-committees and "teams" as opposed to getting the job done. This is true beyond Judo circles.

In my history I have bent over backwards to try and find a path where the other people are happy. On occasion it has worked, but more often recently I have taken the hard-nosed approach and success has come from that. It makes me wonder if more of that is required.

I am not a naturally confrontational person, I don't enjoy the arguments that others seem to enjoy. I prefer to talk about something, define the problem, define some solutions, choose one, and get to work.

But back to my coaching style...

I teach in a university and I am currently wondering if in the new semester a harder more demanding approach might work?

We have a sports club mentality and a strong sport culture in the University. I wonder if taking it the next step and being more focussed on the team and performance is the right direction. Playing the game is what matters versus coming to the club.

I'm considering leaping in with both feet and forming a uni team and a city team. The CIty team I have this idea to "buy" some players (mainly from Camberley) to compete in a selection of events that will raise the team profile.

It will cost money obviously and it will require me approaching the whole process differently. I see the "City" team leading the student team and leading a culture of athletics rather than a culture of a martial arts society.

To do it, my persona and style will need to change. I'll need to be more whistle blowing baseball cap wearing coach and less instructor in judogi. Ideally I can get some coaches in to work on the mat so I can focus on the team elements.

I'll need to be pushier and more demanding. I'll need to set some rules and be ready to enforce them. It's not something that will come naturally, but perhaps it is good to force some change?

Whilst on the "Matside Coaching" course, I had plenty of food for thought. The instructor showed photos of leading coaches matside and having had a opportunity to watch these coaches in person I felt at times the images were in conflict with the message.

The message was clear, this is a BJA course telling you to shutup and behave matside. Be a good little coach and don't argue with the referees etc. Which is a good message and one I agree with... in part.

But when I watch the matside coaches of the world perform, they scream and shout. They are not impassive and quietly watching a well prepared athlete perform.

They are part of the players game, the top coaches are driving the players on. Influencing the outcome; changing the flow of a match.

So for me the message was mixed. And it needs to be I think as at the level of the coaches present mainly, the answer is shutup and behave.

I don't feel that any coach as a kids event (u18) in the UK should be shouting and screaming matside. The "supercoach" performances I see make me sick to the stomach sometimes.

We have such a weak competition structure here in the UK that every event is a little one. So treat them as such coaches. You have nothing riding on it, so chill and enjoy the day.

When we have something worth fighting for, then get excited, get animated. But there is so little at stake at even most national level events you just look silly. Take the suit off unless you are at an EJU/IJF event.
Lose the TeamGB tracksuit, this ain't the Olympics.

All that said, we should have events that matter to people in this country. And we should have events where it's appropriate that coaches wear suits and take it serious and engage fully in the players performance. For me it's tragic that we don't have this level of domestic competition in place.

Which brings me back to my coaching style, having said I want to be more autocratic. It will be hard as we have no events of value to take seriously. I created the Hampshire Team Championships to create a local competition that was enjoyable and tangible for my novice players to compete in.

At those events, I'm lucky to talk to my players let alone "supercoach" mode them. I'm normally running the computer and the event on the whole.

But this is good, at that level it's appropriate to keep the level of input low and to teach the players that they should relax by me being relaxed.

And that leads me back to the matside coaching course. I left worrying that the level 1 coaches got the wrong message.

There was a little worrying current of "we have to be professional". Which I felt was being interpreted as take it serious. Where as for the coaches in the room they need to be relaxing and letting the kids they coach enjoy playing the sport.

Which... will be another post in itself.
My thoughts on the lack of participation in competition in British Judo are becoming more and more fixed. In short, people seem to take the percentage figures of people that do Judo to people that do Judo and don't compete and interpret it wrong.

I.e. the number thrown around was 3% of people doing Judo and 97% not competing (yes I chose to express it that way intentionally).
Yet virtually every coach in that room had competed, especially the older, higher level ones. For me there is a direct link; I meet so few people involved in Judo that were not competing at some stage.

I find it so worrying that people hear the 3% figure and see that as a good reason to to make up terms like "competitive" and "recreational" players. I see people catering and encouraging doing Judo without competing at all.

For me the 3% figure is a blight and should be the otherway around. a small minority of people should not do Judo and just attend a club.

You don't join a golf club and not play golf. You don't join a gym and not workout. You don't join a cricket club and not play.

At this point people are normally turning red and going "but... but... but..."

And yes I know what you are going to say "some people don't want to compete". And right now a majority of people are in that category. And this is a despicable situation which makes me almost ashamed to be part of Judo.

The way I see this is that we have made Judo competitions so undesirable that a vast majority of people don't want to compete.

We desperately need to address this situation and change it. We need to get rid of the all day competitions where it's knockout, miles away and scary.

We need home court advantage, we need round-robin and team events. We need one of matches between people held in the club. We need more and different and we need things we have yet to discover.

We need to lose the coaches that think it is okay to have a majority of your club not playing Judo and just handing over mat fees.

We need to get into this for playing and improving those who come into Judo. We need to remember where we came from and what sport is all about at the core and how Judo was born into the period of history where the Olympic Games were born and athleticism as a social good was ingrained into Judo and the world.

Sorry... rambling.

So in summary, I think I will be a harder nosed coach this semester pushing players to be athletes more.

I shall let you know how it goes.


David Finch 

Excellent article, Lance.


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