The Competition Karate Parent
28 Nov 2016
Thought I’d share this article. It is from a karate practitioner so some of the words are different from the words we use in Taekwondo, but I think you’ll get the picture. I deleted some things that didn’t pertain to what we do, but going into our next big tournament – I think it is a worthwhile read! Enjoy!
November 28, 2016
The Competition Karate Parent
Flashback eight years ago…my first experience with Competitive Martial Arts! My oldest daughter, Kayleigh, decided to compete the NKF Karate circuit and I wanted to support her by being the Best Karate Mom ever. What does a supportive parent to a seven-year-old do, to set them up for success? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what I did. Looking back through a different lens today; as a Coach, Referee, and new Competitive Martial Arts Center Co-Owner, I’m pretty sure I got it WRONG that first season! Learning curve shortcuts for new and veteran Competition Parents:
• Learn the rules. Understanding the rules can keep you from being THAT PARENT who is setting their child up for failure by assuring them they did everything right and were robbed of “the win.” Learning the rules can also help you be an off the mat asset to your young athlete son or daughter, when they are practicing at home. Ways to learn the rules can include:
o Encourage a mock match at your dojo, and allow parents to rotate the role of referee, learning hands on as they go.
o Review the rules.
• Realize that Referees are human. They cannot be everywhere and see everything. They can only do their best and call what is visible from their vantage point. If we think our kids are under pressure as the athlete, imagine the pressure our referees are under. They can’t win in anyone’s eyes, as there is always a child, and a child’s support system that thinks they got it wrong! Teach your children to thank the referees following their match. If we view every match on the mats as a learning ground for our athletes, they always leave with knowledge that will take them closer to a win the next tournament.
• Prepare prior to tournament arrival for your child’s needs. I’ll never forget having to give a child another child’s mouthpiece, seconds before disqualification as he couldn’t find his. Talk about shutting a kid down for his upcoming match, yikes!
o Check their bag; ensuring you have a sewing kit, back up mouth piece, belts in appropriate colors, gloves, shins, snacks and plenty of water for staging.
o Sew on patches ahead of time!
o Fuel your child with good balanced nutrition. Tournament days are long days. Kids at the top or bottom of a sugar spike are not set up for their best performance.
o Review regulations for weapon sizes and gi requirements. While local tournaments are often more lenient, Regional/State/National tournaments are held to a higher standard.
• Let your child’s coach BE THEIR COACH! We want to support our children. Sometimes the best way we can do that, is by staying quiet enough through their performance for them to actually be able to hear their coach! Few children can successfully be coached by their Sensei from inside the ring, AND their parent and support system from outside the mat. Talk about confusing!! Instead of being another voice during the match…cheer for them, hug them, find something specific to tell them you saw as an improvement over the last time they performed. Celebrate the wins of the moment. Sometimes the most needed growth is found in a tournament that didn’t include a medal. Love them, don’t coach them!!
• Support the needs of your child as a whole. While your Sensei has poured their heart and soul into training your child for this moment, there are challenges you may encounter that require understanding of what happens inside our bodies when we perform for others. My daughters each experience competition in a completely unique fashion from one another. One is born to compete. She feels no anxiety, she performs better on the competition floor than during practice, and she mentally moves right along despite win or lose. My other daughter is a gifted martial artist. She has a sensitive soul and a beautiful talent. But, she HATES the pressure of competition. Anxiety ridden, sick to her stomach, self-doubt all attack her when she enters a tournament. How do we set these kids up for success?
o Talk about the mental stresses and pressures associated with performance. Most of us have experienced “that moment” where we felt anxiety kick in when called to the front of the room. Talk through what works for you, as a means of relating to your child, and offer strategies that might help them in the ring.
o Explore short meditations and visualization with your child. Teaching them to self-regulate is an amazing gift. Help them mentally prepare by running their performance through their mind as much as they run it on the mats.
o How does your child self soothe? Whether through headphones and music, with a Rubik’s cube, or by running a familiar set of stretches before hitting the mat- help them develop a routine for success.
Karate is an amazing sport for the development of athleticism, character, structure, and discipline. Competitive Karate offers an amped up learning ground for testing those teachings by adding mental and physical stressors. Partner with your child, coach, and tournament referees for a great 2017 Competition Season!