A few months ago, I did a series of article about some of the characteristics I felt are very important in my success as an athlete. It was a 3-part series called What Makes a Champion. I apologize if some of this is a repeat of what was in those articles but this is a topic that is very important to me. I have seen so many people come and go in judo, which I get; it’s not for everyone. What I don’t get is the ones that come in and really get into it and come to practice all the time and show an aptitude for the sport and even talk about wanting to get serious about training and going to nationals/world championships/Olympics/Paralympics, and then you never see them again. I understand that judo is hard and when beginners come in they may think it looks easy and are shocked at how physical judo really is. I’m talking more about the people who have been in judo, at least for a little while and talk about wanting to be a national or international champion but then when it comes time to make sacrifices or it starts getting hard, they quit.
One of the things I struggle with most as a coach is that I sometimes feel like I want it more for some of the athletes than they want it for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I coach at a local club with everything from beginner/recreational players to national and international competitors. If someone is only interested in competing locally I still coach them to win and our advanced practices are geared for competition and we all work really hard. What I struggle with is the athletes who talk about wanting to be national champions but are not willing to put in the time and effort and make the sacrifices to make that possible. Or even worse, when I talk to them about what it will take to be successful and they are all gung ho and are doing well then you hear the screeching from them hitting the brakes and you never see them again.
If you don’t want to be a national champion or have no desire to go to the Paralympics, that’s ok, but it is so frustrating to have an athlete who says they want to be national or Paralympic champion and I work to get them opportunities to help them and they turn them down. I am always amazed when I talk to an athlete and offer then an opportunity of a lifetime and they say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“let me think about itÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“no thanks.Ã¢â‚¬Â This is along the same lines as the parents who say Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why isn’t my kid doing better in competition?Ã¢â‚¬Â but only bring them to practice once in a while, and the folks who say Ã¢â‚¬Å“what do I need to do to win?Ã¢â‚¬Â when they only come to practice once a week. I’m sure they can hear crickets when they say something like that to me.
Another one that gets me is, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I don’t have the money.Ã¢â‚¬Â Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that traveling around the country and the world is expensive, but when I was the athlete and the Paralympic coach called me and offered me a great opportunity, I would say YES, absolutely, I want to go, and when they told me how much it was going to cost me, I would say, ok, when do you need the money. Then I would get off the phone and start trying to figure out how I was going to get the money, but I always got it. I am not wealthy, not do I come from a wealthy family. To me, it’s all part of having the desire to win, you cannot win if you do not go.
In 2005 my wife won nationals, which forced a fight off for the 2005 World team. She was injured in the fight off, so she was the alternate. The other girl, after a week or so, declined her spot because she could not afford the trip to Egypt. When the team leader called and asked Heidi if she wanted to go she said, YES. Then she called me and asked how we would ever be able to afford it. I told her we will work it out, but you are going to Worlds. We did some fundraising and made a little from that but not nearly enough. In the end, we took out a home equity line of credit so she could go. There was no way I was going to allow her to miss such a great opportunity. Not only did she go, but I went to watch her fight. I realized not everyone has the ability to do what we did and maybe that was not the best thing for us financially, but again, you cannot pass up on an opportunity like that. We did struggle after that trip, but it was totally worth it, and I would do it again. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a lot of funding available in the US for up-and-coming judoka, but it is what it is and you have to make due.
My point is this, if it is important enough you will find a way. If it’s not, that’s ok but tell me that up front. I get that it’s not for everyone, and I get that judo is hard. Mastering any sport is difficult, after 25 years I’m not even close to mastering judo. I also get that along with being difficult to master, judo is very physically demanding – in other words it hurts. It takes a special person to get thrown down to the floor and get up and do it again. I get all of that, but when my junior students complain that something is hard, I always say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“if it were easy everybody would do it, that’s what makes you special.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It’s hard and it is not for everyone, I get it, it’s just so frustrating when you see someone with a lot of talent who works really hard and is so excited about judo one day then not so much the next day. I always love it when people tell me how much they love judo and how important a part of their lives it is or how important it is to their family. Then a month later you realize you haven’t seen them in three weeks, which can be a real disappointment. If something is so important to you, I don’t know, maybe you should do it. Just a thought. Maybe they are just saying that to suck up to me because they think that is what I want to hear. I would just as soon hear the truth. I know judo is awesome and the coolest thing they have ever done or will ever do, I know all that. I think I said something like this in a previous article but it bears repeating. I am not impressed by words, or at least not any more. I am impressed by actions.
In part 2 of my series, what makes a champion, I talk about desire. If you truly have desire, you will do the work and you will find a way to get to practice, the gym and to tournaments. Understand, there is a difference between the desire that drives a champion to win and just wanting not to lose, even if you really want to not lose really badly. Desire will drive you to do what you need to be successful, wanting to not lose will drive you until it hurts or is inconvenient or expensive.
Finding one athlete who really gets it and who has the desire to succeed, if not necessarily all the talent, can make all those who do not, worth it. I was that athlete. I wasn’t the most skilled judo player, but I had the desire and was willing to do whatever I was physically able to do and then some to succeed.
I use to laugh when I was competing and I would hear coaches yelling at their players who were visibly tired something like, Ã¢â‚¬Å“do you want this more than himÃ¢â‚¬Â, or Ã¢â‚¬Å“who wants this more,Ã¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“how bad do you want this,Ã¢â‚¬Â or something along those lines. I would always think that was a dumb thing to say because my thinking was, of course they want it badly and they want to win. My mistake was that I thought everyone had the same drive to win that I did. I did not always win, of course, but I did not lose from a lack of effort or desire to win, sometimes I just got out played. And that is the mistake I often make as a coach, I assume that every athlete that goes to a tournament or to a training camp must want to win just as badly as I did, and that is not always the case.
I love judo, and I love teaching it at my club, and I love coaching it. I am so proud to be able to give back to a sport that has given me so much and as the Paralympic coach, I am so proud to be able to help visually impaired athletes realized their dreams and hopefully to help them go far beyond what I did, but if they want to be successful, they have to want it for themselves at least as much as I want it for them. I will give everything I have to help them realize their dreams, but I cannot do the work for them!
If you have read any of my posts or if you get to the bottom of this one you will a quote I use a lot. I use to always have to give a favorite quote for my athlete bio when I was competing so I would always try to come up with something from someone else, but one time I couldn’t think of anything so I came up with this one and have continued to use it ever since. I have it as my signature for all my articles on this blog but I thought it would be appropriate here.
As always, thanks for reading.
Talk to you soonÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
- Scott Moore is a 5th degree black belt in judo and he head instructor of Denver Judo. He is also a 3-time Paralympic Judo medalist winning bronzed in Atlanta, 1996, Gold in Sydney, 2000, and bronze in Athens, 2004. Scott was the assistant coach for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Judo team and the head coach of the London 2012 team.
Find Scott on Google+