This article was inspired by a post my wife made on Facebook over the weekend and one of the comments she got on her post. Before I get into the article I want to start by saying I am not writing this to attack anyone on their views on this subject. I recognize that my opinion is not the only one on this subject. I’m not even saying I’m right. This is just my opinion!
Ok, now that I have that disclaimer out of the way I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. My wife was watching the World Cadet Championships over the weekend and saw a few kids get caught in pins and one tapped out and a few others just laid there and didn’t fight to get out. So Heidi posted on Facebook, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I don’t get not fighting when you are pinned or tapping out of a pin.Ã¢â‚¬Â Now, of course we were not there and it is possible, although unlikely, that 3 or 4 kids in a row who got pinned were injured so they tapped out or just lay there until the 20 seconds ran out. Like I said, we weren’t there so I’m not going to talk about these kids specifically, this is just what started the conversation on Facebook and was the catalyst for this article.
Most people agreed that you should never give up then someone said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“You know if you have a chance or not of escaping. No sense in making everyone watch you flop like a fish for 20 seconds if your opponent has a good one sunk in.Ã¢â‚¬Â When Heidi came back and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“at the World Championships?Ã¢â‚¬Â he did come back and agree that kids should fight but for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“old fartsÃ¢â‚¬Â you have to conserve your energy. He then talked about using losing as a teaching tool to come back better next time and that experiences will tell you when you have been bested and conceding gracefully is honorable. He went on to say he has seen many early taps in masters divisions. I’ll give you the masters divisions if we are talking about the much older divisions, but in general, especially in elite level competition, shouldn’t we be teaching our kids to never give up? After all, 20 seconds may seem like an eternity when you are the one being pinned, but it is not all that long to try to escape from a pin. When I was competing, I loved nothing more than holding a grown man down against his will for 30 seconds. I always thought anyone can get caught with a good throw or even a good choke or arm bar, they happen so fast, but a pin lasted for 30 seconds when I started and 25 by the time I retired, so wining by a pin in judo, while not as flashy as a big ippon throw, is a much better show of control. Conversely, there was nothing I hated more than being pinned, so I always fought tooth and nail to get out of every pin. Even today in practice, I do occasionally get caught in a pin, but I rarely stay in one because I fight so hard to get out. Don’t get me wrong, I do love getting a nice big throw for ippon, and I eventually transitioned into more of a standing player as I developed, but I came from wrestling so when grappling, I am much more likely to win by a pin than a choke or arm bar.
My first comment on the post was in response to his comment about using losing as a teaching tool. I said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Learning from a loss is important but what does giving up or quitting teach? I talk to my students about learning from a loss but I also teach to never give up!Ã¢â‚¬Â His comment to that was, Ã¢â‚¬Å“If someone has a choke applied, do you tap or nap? If the outcome is inevitable, why delayÃ¢â‚¬Â to which I commented, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A choke is a little different than a pin. You have 20 seconds to get out so why not at least try? I would rather try and fail than just lay there.Ã¢â‚¬Â There is nothing dishonorable about conceding victory when your choice is to tap or take a nap. If those are your choices, you have lost. The reason a pin in judo lasts 20 seconds is so you can have 20 seconds to try to get out of the pin, so why not use them? One of our athletes was pinned at nationals and got out with one second remaining and got up and threw the girl for ippon.
If you try, you might lose, but if you do not try you are guaranteed to lose. My Facebook friend and I each posted one more time but they were longer so I won’t post them here but the last comment on the post, so far, was from a friend and former Paralympic teammate of mine, Scott Jones, who said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sports, i.e. judo, are a reflection of life. It’s struggles, the successes, the failures, the need for tenacity, the opportunity to overcome. It can build great tools to handle the realities of the world. And one reality is if you practice giving up you will give up both on the mat and in life. And that’s why you teach your kids to never give up. Not for the medal but for the life’s lessons.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I had not gone into the discussion thinking about anything more then competition but I could not agree more with Scott’s thought on this subject. Many people may not think lessons learned in sports apply to every day lives but those people are wrong! If we teach kids that giving up when it gets hard in judo (or anything), do you not think they will carry those lessons to other areas of their lives? Of course they will. That’s not to say that if a kid gives up on a pin he or she will necessarily be a failure in life, or in judo for that matter. I am saying that if a kid gives up every time they get pinned and it is not addressed then the lesson being learned is that when things get tough, I can just give up – and that is not a lesson we want our kids learning in any area in their lives. On the flip side, they should also know that if they get pinned and try really hard they may not get out, and while that may suck, it is the effort that is important. This is when learning from a loss comes in, when the athlete tries and fails you address ways to improve and practice, but if the kids doesn’t even try to get out, then the lesson they need to learn is to try.
One of the things we tell our kids is that the chances of winning are much greater if you try! We even have a poster from the Paralympics on the wall that says Ã¢â‚¬Å“You can’t win if you don’t try. What’s your excuse?Ã¢â‚¬Â Of course no one wins all the time, and we can learn from losing, but I feel it is very important that kids learn that if you try, you may fail, but if you do not try failure is guaranteed. I lost many matches throughout my athletic career, but I never lost because I did not try. I hated losing, but as much as I might be disappointed in a loss, if I knew I gave it my all, I could at least hold my head up knowing I did my best. If I did my best and lost that is when I went back to my coach and talked about what I should have done differently. If I did not try, then what I should have done differently is I should have tried!
Don’t get me wrong, if a young kid does out on the mat and gets pinned and just lays there I’m not going to pull the off the mat and yell at them about not giving up, but I am going to explain to them how important it is that they try to get out of the pin. I am going to talk to them about giving their best effort and if they lose to be proud that they were brave enough to go out there and try. I always tell my kids that if they do their best I will be proud of them no matter who wins the match.
One of the things I hate about our society today is the idea that everyone is a winner all the time and people don’t learn to lose. When my son played basketball and soccer they didn’t keep score. The officials didn’t keep score but there was not a kid on that field that didn’t know the score. This topic is a whole other blog, but that is one of the things I like about judo, there is always a winner and a loser. I believe that learning to lose and to deal with the loss is a very important lesson for kids to learn. I think it is also important for them to learn that it is ok to lose as long as they did their very best. If they did their very best and lost they should be proud. I do not believe they learn anything good from losing if they do not try.
Again, this is my opinion and I in no way intend this to be an attack on the person that I discussed this with on Facebook. He is certainly entitled to his opinion and I can see his point to some extent. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please feel free to leave a comment below but remember to keep it civil whether agreeing or disagreeing with me or anyone else commenting.
As always, thanks for reading.
I’ll 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+