How Bad Do You Want It?

We’ve all heard, at least those of us involved with sport, “do you want this?” or “how bad do you want this?”  I use to think questions like those shouted at athletes on the mat or the field of play were silly.  Of course they want it, and they all want it equally as bad as the other guy right?  Well after years as an athlete and a coach I have come to realize that is not necessarily the case.

Let me start by saying that losing a match or game does not mean you did not want it as much or more than your opponent.  I can say this because no one on the planet has ever wanted it any more than I did and I certainly did not win every match.  I lost plenty of matches in my day but it was never from a serious lack of effort and desire to win.

How Badly you want something dictates how hard you'll work at it

Source: https://endlessfitquest.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/how-bad-do-you-want-it.png

I have to add that I started this article a few days ago and just wrote the first 2 paragraphs and then waited a few days before coming back to writing.  Yesterday was Father’s Day and I saw a Happy Father’s Day post from my former Paralympic coach’s wife to him so I went to his Facebook page and wrote “Happy Father’s Day to the best and craziest coach I ever had!”  I thought that his response was prefect given the topic of this article.  Larry responded, “Thanks Scott and happy Father’s Day to you as well!!  Nobody ever wanted it more than you did!

When I talk about “wanting it” I don’t just mean really really wanting to win during the match or game.   I think everyone steps on the mat or onto the field of play hoping to win.  Just hoping or wanting to win isn’t always enough.  What are you willing to do (within the rules) to win?  How hard are you willing to push yourself.  How much are you willing to hurt to win?  I always say I never lost a match because I was out of shape, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some knock down drag out matches where I felt like I was dead when it was over.  Being in shape meant I was able to get through those match and no matter how tough the match was, I was able to recover and be ready to do it again in the next match.  I always refer to the ability to hurt and push beyond what you thought possible as having heart or mental toughness!

How do you get yourself to the point where you can feel like you cannot possibly go any more or dig any deeper, but you do it anyway?  Training!  I don’t believe it’s possible to push through pain, exhaustion, and even fear in a match unless you have done it over and over in practice or training.  If you never push yourself to the breaking point and beyond it your training, how can you expect to do so in a match? When I first started going to Paralympic team camps I thought I knew what hard work was but I quickly found out I had no idea.  When you are doing drills and then sparring and you know you could not possibly do another round, but you get up and another round, and another one, and you are hurting but you keep pushing, then you finish with a drill that you would never believe you would be able to finish but you finish strong, that is how you find out what you are capable of and how hard you can push.

I use to leave practice feeling like I was going to faint, but always glad I made it through and survived the practice.  I remember in 1996 before my first Paralympic Games in Atlanta, I went to the Olympic Training Center for 4 weeks then we had a week camp before going to the Games.  Right before the camp I went home to Baton Rouge for a few days for my brother’s wedding and when I got back it was the second day of camp I we worked so hard it took me 15 minutes to go up 2 flights of stairs from the dojo to the locker room.  I got to the steps and felt like I could not go on.  I put my face on the rail because it felt so cool and walked up the stairs one step at a time.  When I got to the locker room to check my weight, everyone else had weighted in, showered and dressed.   They all though I had just left in my gi without changing.

My point is that I was dead after practice because I had been off for a few days and we pushed really hard, but I didn’t miss one round or drill.  I was hurting, probably as much as I have ever hurt but I pushed through it because I wanted to win!  While I do think some people are more mentally tough or have more heart than others, just like technique or fighting skill, mental toughness or the ability to push through pain is an ability you have to develop, just like anything else.  I’ve always been scrappy and liked working out hard, but what I was able to push though when I started was not even close to how far I was able to push myself by the time I won the World Championships or the Paralympic Games.  You first have find out what you breaking point is, then you have to build up to pushing past that point, then push past your new breaking point.

If you are not willing to work hard to realize your dreams, why bother dreaming - Scott MooreMy point is you cannot wait until the big game or tournament to find out how far you can go.  If you have never pushed yourself in practice you will not be able to push nearly as hard when you need it in a match or game.

Mental toughness is a huge part of winning, but another factor to really “wanting it” is sacrifice.  How important it is to you?  To me, winning the World Championships and Paralympic Games was everything.  It was all I thought about at that time.  That doesn’t mean I always won, I medaled in all three Games and three of the six Worlds I fought in, but that does not mean I wanted it any less or sacrificed any less when I didn’t win.

Judo is hard!  This is one of the areas I have always struggled with, not just with the athletes I have coached but in general.  I always lived by the idea that if it is not helping, then why do it?  Now that does not mean that I never went to movies or to dinner with my friends, or even out to a bar with friends.  I believe relaxing and getting away from all the training is also very important.  But, when I went out to dinner, I still watched what I ate because I had to monitor my weight.  If I went to a bar, I either drank water or diet coke.  Most bars would give me free diet soda because they thought I was the designated driver.  If you don’t know me, I’m legally blind and cannot legally drive a car and we usually walked to the bars from campus when I was in college.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I never drank or ate bad food, but I would not do either when I got close to a tournament, six months out for the big ones.  My though was if I give everything I have and fall short, at least I will be able to hold my head high knowing I did everything I could to win.  I never wanted to live with the regret that I could have done or given more or pushed harder or sacrificed more.  Bars are not going anywhere.  With the exception of a brief period of time in the 1920’s (in the US) have pretty much always been around and always will be around.  What’s a few months to sacrifice beer or buffalo wings, or cheeseburgers if winning is really important to you?  I’m not even saying you should not ever have a single drink or wing or whatever for as long as I did.  That was just what I felt I needed to do to be successful and to me it was totally worth it and it paid off in the end.  I have no regrets, at least not as far as my competitive career are concerned.  I did not reach every goal I set for myself but I can hold my head high because I know I did everything I possibly could have done.

I remember when I was in college and training for my first World Championships in 1995, the girl I was dating at the time asked if I wanted to go to a movie with two of our friends, one of which was in my judo club and the guy who got me into judo.  I said I would love to (I love movies) and that practice ended at 5 so I would come straight home and we could go.  She said that they were going to an earlier movie and that my friend was skipping practice and I could miss one practice.  I told her don’t skip practice.  It caused a fight and I don’t remember if we ended up going to a later move or if she went without me.  Granted missing one practice would not have killed me and I am in no way trying to say anything negative about my ex-girlfriend but she didn’t understand why I wasn’t willing to miss one practice to see a movie.  My thought was that I didn’t want to make missing practice a habit. I was committed to do everything I could to be successful, and that meant not missing training.  My friends knew that they were important to me, but they knew that I had a goal and that my training came before hanging out or going to a movie or dinner or whatever.

I actually had a reputation for never missing practice, whether injured or sick.  Once, when I didn’t show up for practice, my roommate who was in judo too told my teammates, “He must have been hit by a car, that dude never misses practice!”  He wasn’t all that surprised when I called him from the payphone at the emergency room where I went after I was hit by a car on my way to practice.  I did not make it to that practice but I was there, sling and all, the next day.

2016 US Paralympian - Ben Goodrich

2016 US Paralympian – Ben Goodrich

My point here is that if you really, truly, with all your heart want something, isn’t it worth going without something you can have or do for the rest of your life, for a few weeks, or months?  If your goal is to be a state, national, World, or Paralympic/Olympic champion, only you can decide how important something is to you and how hard you are willing to work and how much you are willing to sacrifice to get it.  If it’s not worth all that to you, that’s ok, but I hear coaches, team mates, and spectators yell, “how bad do you want this” during judo matches, I even say it now. My wife even grabbed one of our Paralympic hopefuls by the lapels and shouted “do you want this?” at him when he lost a match at the Paralympic trials.  He got fired up and won the next two matches and a place on the 2016 Paralympic team.  He had it inside himself to come back and pull it out, but you can’t pull that from nowhere.  You have to have worked hard and sacrificed so that you have a reserve to pull from. If you haven’t wanted it enough leading to that point, it may not be possible for you to want it enough to pull it out when it counts.

No matter the level of the competition or whatever it is you are going after, you have to decide how important it is to you and how hard you are willing to work to get it.  It doesn’t matter if it is a local tournament, the World Championships, or getting an A in a class, you have to do the work necessary to achieve your goals, and if you give it your all and fall short, you can hold you head up and know you did everything you could have done. You can also reevaluate your preparation to see if there is any way you can give more or push harder for the next one!

As always, thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon!

New and Improving

I want start by saying that I have never been more impressed or excited about a new group of athletes in all my years with Paralympic Judo. We have found some really good athletes but have never had so much potential from one introductory training camp!

We hosted an introductory training camp in October of 2014 with the intention of finding potential future Paralympians. Some of the participants had some judo but most had little to no judo experience. Several did have wrestling and/or BJJ experience. Over the years, we have done many intro camps/clinics for the USABA, USA Judo, and other organizations, and have found some good athletes, but near the end of the first practice when we had the group do some ne waza (grappling sparring) Heidi and I watched the first few rounds and we looked at each other with looks of shock and excitement and said WOW! We were truly blown away by this group of athletes!

VI_Intro_Camp_Jan_2015I’m not cool enough to be a “give a shout out” kind of guy but before I go any further I want to give a HUGE shout out to my wife, Heidi Moore who is the assistant coach of the Paralympic program. Heidi, a self-proclaimed Facebook stalker of blind athletes found most of the attendees for this camp. A few were referred by their coaches and one who was a collegiate wrestler found us and contacted USA Judo, but Heidi found most of them through articles about blind wrestlers or BJJ athletes and then found them on Facebook and invited them to camp, and she worked with USA Judo to put the camp together!

What was so great about this group was not just their athletic ability, though that was pretty impressive too. They were all excited about learning judo, and were ready to train hard and start competing right away. Don’t get me wrong, I think judo is great for everyone whether they want to compete or not, but our primary focus in the Paralympic program is to find and develop athletes for Paralympic competition, so it can be hard to find people who are athletic and also interested in learning judo from within the blind and visually impaired community.

The first camp was in October and consisted of a workout on Friday evening, then 2 on Saturday with an optional BJJ workout that most attended between the two judo workouts. Then a workout on Sunday morning for those with flights late enough to attend. We spent a lot of the time practicing techniques but we wanted to give them a taste of what a normal judo camp was like so we did some drills and randori during each session and they were tired but everyone worked hard and they all loved it. I actually told them that I was beside myself with excitement by the end of the weekend. Oh and on top of being a talented, hard-working group of athletes, they were all really cool and fun to work with. No one had an ego, and everyone was open to learning and trying new things.

Robbie Alcorn with 2 Gold and a Silver from Dallas 2014

Robbie Alcorn with 2 Gold and a Silver from Dallas 2014

We talked to those who are not already in a local club about finding a club and starting to train and compete. We talked to them about attending as many tournaments as possible including the national tournaments that have VI divisions, so 4 of them went to Dallas in November and fought in the Dallas Invitational and the President’s Cup the next day. They fought in the novice divisions in both tournaments and the VI division of the President’s Cup. They all did very well in their respective novice divisions and the only one that did not win the VI division took second to one of the other new guys. It was great, they were there to fight and all got several matches. As a matter of fact, 18-year old Robbie Alcorn went something like 10-2 for the weekend, taking 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal.

Like I said before, they were a great group, and I thought it was really cool when Heidi told me that they told her it was cool to be there with their teammates. They went to one introductory camp together and were in Dallas already thinking of each other as teammates. That made me very proud and renewed my excitement for working with them. It certainly didn’t hurt that they kicked butt too, but more than just athletic ability, they have great attitudes.

So after the tournament, we scheduled another camp that was held this past weekend from January 16-18, 2015. We had all but one of the guys who went to Dallas and a few new people along with some that have been in the program for a little while but are still fairly new. We held this on at my club in Denver again. I was also happy to have 3 people from Denver Judo back on the mat after some time away from judo and will hopefully be seeing a lot more of them in practice and future camps and tournaments. This camp, just like the first one was a huge success, so now we are talking about bringing several of these guys to our next elite training camp. We are also talking about taking them to some of the international VI tournaments and training camps in Brazil and Germany to get them some international experience. The tournaments will be good for them but at this point, the training camps will be even more important.

I would normally never recommend a group of new guys who have only been to 2 introductory camps and training for less than a year spend the money to travel overseas for tournaments but I truly believe some of these guys can not only handle it but will do very well, and even if they don’t medal or even win any matches, they can get some good experience and will do very well at the training camps. One thing that really frustrates me is that so many people seem to think that Paralympic judo is easy or not like “real” judo or something like that. If it were not competitive I would not be so passionate about it. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Paralympic judo is very strong. We may not have the depth that Olympic judo has but our top guys train hard and take it just as seriously as the Olympians do. I know I did.

I also appreciate that some of the guys, though now qualified to attend the world cup tournament in Hungary next month, which is a qualifying event for Rio 2016, recognize they are not quite ready for a tournament of that caliber but have elected to go to Brazil and/or Germany where the competition is strong but will not draw as many of the top contenders from around the world as the qualifying event will. Two of the guys did decide to go and I was a little concerned but after watching them at camp this past weekend I realized they will be fine. One of them was a collegiate wrestler and is a wrestling coach so he is tough as hell and can grind with anyone, and the other is a purple belt in BJJ and was a boxer before losing his sight so he is tough as hell too. I have no doubt that once the younger guys gain a little more experience they will be attending higher caliber events and will be strong contenders in no time at all.

2015 VI camp - Warming Up - Denver Judo

2015 VI camp – Warming Up – Denver Judo

It’s really exciting to have such an enthusiastic group of athletes to work with. Several of the guys have talked about coming out to stay with Heidi and me during breaks from school to train with us. I wrote an article a while back called I can’t do the work for you, and with these guys I do not have to because they are excited about learning judo and serious about training and competing.

Before I end, I have to give an honorable mention to Justin who is a 15-year old judoka from Canada who came to camp. His coach saw something about the camp on Facebook and contacted Heidi to ask if he could attend. He has been doing judo for 5 years and has met some of the Canadian team online but has never met another visually impaired judo player, so of course we said he could come to camp so he and his mother jumped on a plane and came to Denver to train with us. Justin was a great kid and fit in really well with everyone and has already talked about coming to stay with us during his break to train. It was great to have Justin and his mom at Denver Judo and I look forward to seeing them again either in Denver or at one of the other events around the world.

I know this article is a little shorter than previous articles, but I am sure you will be reading more about this group in the future!

As always thanks for reading.

I’ll talk to you soon…

Scott