Coaching Judoka is a series of blogs written by Camberley Judo Coach, Vince Skillcorn 3rd Dan.
Committed to coaching judo to juniors, Vince is currently studying a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Performance Coaching. Find out more: www.fightingfitnessuk.co.uk
Coaching Judoka aged 9 – 12 years old
Coaching judoka from ages 9 – 12 years old moves us on from our previous post of Teaching Judoka from 5 – 8 year old.
Although I (Vince Skillcorn) 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.
It is important to look at ways to make judo lessons appropriate to each age group.
Coaching Judoka to 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’.
For more ideas for kids of this age group see the Kids Judo Online Dojo.
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.
Coaching Judoka to Focus on the task in hand
By the age of 12 some children will naturally 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 in to the future and thinking about winning the next competition!
Set process goals for them (rather than outcome goals) in training and competition, measuring success not by medals but by effort to achieve the set goals.
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’.
Coaching Judoka to Be Creative
Allow time for creative, playful learning by setting open tasks. Often we give specific instructions, «do it exactly like this». By creating opportunities for the judoka to think for their selves, they will be forced to explore solutions for the task they are presented with.
For example, selecting a movement direction and asking the judoka to pick a suitable judo technique to use, or selecting the technique and asking the judoka to choose a suitable movement direction to set it up.
There will always be many options allowing for individuality and experimentation. It is especially important with older Judoka, in this age group, that they understand and are capable of justifying their choices.
Ask them to reflect on what they feel? Did it ‘feel’ right? Playing Judo in this way will help the young Judoka develop their ‘feeling’ for Judo and discover their own personal Judo flair!