Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Guide for Parents
The life of a kid’s coach is an interesting one. Sometimes it’s thankless but more often than not, it’s one filled with unexpected experiences. On the surface you’re a coach, someone who instructs his or her pupil on how to apply a technique effectively. In reality you’re a makeshift parent and mentor. You’re a psychologist, a motivator, a disciplinarian, a life coach, and more importantly a role model. For someone who takes this responsibility serious, I’m aware of what it means to you and more importantly to your children. So, I’m hoping that this guide will help parents who have questions about how or why certain things happen within the structure of a Jiu-Jitsu class and the gym itself.
Promotions are a tricky thing. I do not give promotions based strictly on just time. While I do keep that in mind, it’s more of a range finder for me. What I’m more concerned about is if they pay attention in class. Are they good training partners, do they come consistently to class, and are they understanding the material? Early on I might be a bit more liberal with stripes in order to get a kid motivated in what it feels like to progress.
Once a kid has reached a certain age or is approaching the next belt, I’m starting to look for specific traits that I want changed or improved on top of what I’ve listed. An example would be, how one of my students had an issue being happy for the progression of others. Every time her brother would earn a stripe, she would have a meltdown. In order to improve this, I started intentionally staggering their promotions and would remind her how important it was to be happy for others. How in turn they would then be happy for her own accomplishments. To my surprised, one day when I was promoting her brother, she had a wide smile and congratulated him with genuine praise. When I saw that, I knew she was going in the direction that I wanted her to.
It’s natural to feel to want to be involved. Most parent’s are going to want to help their child along the way but it’s best if you don’t. The forty-five minutes to an hour that we have with your kids is ours so enjoy it. Bring a book, have a chat with the other parents, or leave and come back if you’d like. There’s nothing wrong with taking that time for yourself. While I understand your impulse to help your child, sometimes they’re just going to fail and that’s a good thing. I want them to. I want them to understand the need to pay attention to technique and what it can mean for them when they roll at the end of class or at a competition. In addition, coaching from the bench is ultimately a distraction. Not to mention that often times, the advice that’s given is incorrect. There’s something very different about knowing the steps of a technique that you hear during a class versus actually applying the technique during live sparring.
So please, enjoy your time and let the instructors coach.
As much as I advocate for Jiu-Jitsu and what it can do, it’s not the end all be all. You’re not cheating on Jiu-Jitsu by allowing your kids to play other sports. It’s actually better for them. Put them into music, art, chess, baseball, wrestling, basketball, or anything else for that matter. Allow their interests to blossom and fuel their natural curiosity for the world by sampling as many different activities as possible. It’ll allow them to become well-rounded athletes and people. I genuinely don’t expect every kid to stick with Jiu-Jitsu the rest of their life, but if they can take a few facets of it along with them, I’m happy. At the end of the day this may not be their passion so allow them to find it while they still can.
One of my pet peeves as an instructor is dealing with sick kids. Having that cacophony of coughs filling a room makes me quite literally, gag. I’m not even exaggerating. I understand that I’m a bit of a germaphobe who actually wishes handshakes were outlawed, but there is nothing worse than having a sick kid in class. Once one comes in, you know that by the end of the week a good portion of them, including yourself, will end up sick and miserable. Please, just have your kid stay at home. As much as we love having your kids around, it’s actually better for everyone, including them, if they stay away until they feel better.
Promises and the Bigger Picture
The word “promises” is a weird thing. A good coach will never promise you achievements. For example, world titles and promotions. We will on the other hand promise to do the best that we can for your kids. We will do the utmost to create a safe environment for them. Keep in mind, with that being said, we will also promise you that training is going to be uncomfortable. We’re going to force them into being aware of their own shortcomings.
There will be at times when I’ll have a kid start from the bottom of mount or side control, intentionally forcing them to face a deficit in their game. Trust me, they never view it that way. They’ll wine and complain, “why does he get to start on top?!” Ultimately understanding the why never comes, even if I explain it to them so often times I don’t bother. They only see how it’s unfairness of it and not the bigger picture. We’re not trying to be unfair, we’re trying to create growth and sometimes that only comes from having to overcome personal deficits.
I once had a parent asked if I could have games that didn’t have a winner or loser. The reason he asked was because one of his kids were bland new. I remember him saying, “The reason I ask is because my kids aren’t used to losing.” This is part of the bigger picture that I referred to earlier. In the end I explained why both winning and losing is important eventually the kids just got better.
Ultimately the environment of each gym differs from one to another. Open communication between yourself and the instructor(s) is incredibly helpful and always welcome. So, whenever something feels a bit off or hazy for yourself or your child, pull the instructor to the side after class and respectfully ask. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, especially if they nurture a deeper growth between parent, student, and instructor.