This is the Judo blog of Lance Wicks. In this blog I cover mainly Judo and related topics. My Personal blog is over at where I cover more geeky topics. Please do leave comments on what you read or use the Contact Me form to send me an email with your thoughts and ideas.

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Player assessment and developing a coaching plan. 

Each week as a Judo coach you decide what to teach the students who attend your classes. But how do you decide what to teach/coach? In this post I'll look at this area and the issues relating to selecting what to teach.

There are two primary methods of deciding what to teach. The first is to pre-plan your classes as a programme, with little if any variation. Each session is part of the larger programme and as such there is no customisation of session content. This method is common on short-term courses and is used extensively in corporate training such as in my professional field of I.T. Each time a course is run, the content remains for all intensive purposes the same, no matter who the students are.

The second method is to tailor the lessons to the students. Your sessions deliver content that is matched closely to your students. This method provides your students with training that matches their needs most closely, maximising the learning opportunity for your students. However, the effort required is considerably larger than with the first method. The other issue is that you need to have a good methodology determine what your students need from you.

To decide what to teach; you need to know what your students need to learn.
A method of achieving this is to assess their abilities in the various areas of Judo skills. In Sport Skill Instruction for Coaches, Craig Wrisberg identifies 24 areas that skill demands that you can use as a guide to assess your students requirements. They are broken down into 3 commonly identified skill areas: Technical, Tactical and Mental skills.

Wrisberg suggests identifying for each area both the importance and the proficiency level of the athlete(s). Once you have identified the area that your players need to work upon, you can plan you classes accordingly.

In a Judo context you might expand this also to include Judo specific assessment, such as Kumi kata, Tachi Waza, Ne Waza, etc.

You might want to give each category a score out of 5 for the proficiency and importance. After you have made these assessment you will have a clear picture of the areas where your players should work.

You can apply the “work on weaknesses” approach, or the “build on your strengths” theories of training based on these assessments. Although it seems most appropriate for the first approach.

This level of assessment and session planning is probably most appropriate for those coaches working with players in competition, rather than those coaches teaching in schools or club contexts. In these situations a standard format syllabus might be the best plan.

If you have an up and coming player in the club/class you might consider this level of assessment to help the player identify their strengths and weaknesses. This may help empower the player to develop their own training programme or at least be more aware of themselves as athletes.

Knowledge is Power.


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Playing Smart.... 

Ura Nage
Tristan wrote a great post this weekend ( ... -stronger/ ) that I just had to comment on and extend on the part of it that grabbed my attention. In the post Tristan talks about teaching people good sutemi waza as opposed to just telling people not to do it.

Which is a great idea and I applaud the effort.

The problem is this, too often we see Judo players doing techniques that will end up getting them into trouble. Bad technique is one reason, and this is what Tris was addressing I think. However, the problem is bigger than that and an area I see that I do not see coaches doing is addressing the fact that some techniques no matter how well done are risky. Statistically they are a bad idea, and if you are coaching players to win matches you might need to consider just plain banning some techniques.

So here is the problem, some techniques are just risky to try in competition and the classic example of this is Ura Nage, or as most people do it the drag-back counter. If you get it or do it wrong, your back hits the floor and there is a damn good chance the referee is going to score against you.

The same is true of Tomoe Nage, and to be frank most sutemi waza. If your back his going on the floor then you run a risk of getting pinged for it. You need to be aware of this as a coach and if you are coaching Judo as a sport, you need to decide if you let your players do these sorts of techniques.

Whilst we are at it, you may want to take a good long look at O Soto Gari, it is quite risky. As are all foots executed on one foot. I am not saying that they are bad waza nor are they techniques that should be avoided. What I am suggesting is that as a coach (or player) you need to make a risk assessment.

You need to look at what you are teaching/coaching and consider if it is to risky for the player. Sutemi waza are pretty darn risky, you need to assess if the players probability of executing the technique successfully is higher than the probability that they do it wrong and they get penalised or scored against.

What are your players' safest throws? The ones that score regularly and do not put them at much risk? Is it perhaps a drop seoi? Ashi waza? It may not be a throw that results in a high score, perhaps it only gets kokas... sorry yuko now. But does it score regularly and safely?

Day 5 - Lay-up
In other sports they do this all the time, in Judo we do it poorly if at all. In basketball for example the “lay up” is considered a high percentage shot and favoured over the higher scoring 3-pointer. It is an easier shot, safer and it increases the chance of a defensive foul. The “lay up” keeps the scoreboard ticking over. What throws keep your players scoreboard ticking over?

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Another blog joins the PlanetJudo family! 

I am really pleased to say that another of my colleagues from University of Bath has joined the Judo blogging world. I have added the new blog to already.

The new blog is called "My Dojo" and is over at . The author (Marc) is presently on the FdSC Sports Performance degree course in Bath. He is a pretty outspoken guy and posts regularly on the BJA forum, so I expect some posts that cause a ruckus! :-)

The first few posts are online, he starts with a introduction (of course) then follows with a post about Mike Tomlin the youngest coach to win the SuperBowl. The newest post is about Drugs in sports and Michael Phelps, some possibly unpopular view I think, so go take a look.

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How bad are Judo NGBs at Child protection (or how Judo websites fail redux). 

Today, I decided to write a quick post of about child protection and I was stunned at how hard it is to find information on this topic on national governing bodies (NGBs) websites.

The Fail Boat
I looked at the British Judo Association, USJA and USJF sites and was unable to easily find good information on what they are NGBs or what the clubs were doing or were expected to do to protect children.

Given that the vast majority of the memberships of these organisations are children, I would expect that this information should have a much higher prominence on the websites.

I have posted before on how poor I think the BJA (my local NGB) website is. This experience has highlighted it for me. I suppose the BJA can be happy that their site faired better than the US based ones in this caase; although that may be becuase I know how to get past the BJAs rubbish design and navigation better.

I do think that organisations like the BJA seriously need to consider some simple points in relation to their websites... heck in relation to how they operate generally.

1. Who is the target audience?
Judo organizations need to ask themselves who it is they serve, who is the membership? Who is paying the bills?

My opinion is that the "customer" is parents of kids who are about to do, or do Judo. Something like 90% of membership is children, so I would think you target the kids or their parents. Parents is better as they are the decision makers at that age.

2. How does my site help these people?
Having worked out who your audience is take a good hard look at your organization and ask how you help these people.

Then look at your website and ask how your website helps these people.

3. Is it super simple to do whatever it is these people need to do?
If you decide for example that you are targeting parents who want their kids to start Judo (Q.1), and that they are looking for a local club to try (Q.2); then is this stupid simple to do on the website?

Google is the poster child for this. Their target audience is someone trying to find something on the web. Their website has a single box to fill in and a button marked search.
Super Simple!

Now go look at your NGBs website or even you club website and decide if it is even anywhere near as simple as Google to use.

Dear BJA, I know you are listening out there... I can hear you breathing.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let someone who knows what they are doing create a new website for you. I'll even help you find someone suitable! I volunteer (again) to do it, although there are plenty of people out there better qualified.

Lots of love.... Lance.

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Preparation training for Judo referees. 

Recently, I had a great Twitter based conversation with @mewcenary about how Judo referees are trained for what is a pretty rough gig. This got me thinking about refereeing generally and about how we might innovate in the area of refereeing in Judo.

XV Jogos Pan-AmericanosSo, the average Judoka does what two sessions a week, maybe an hour long? So 2 hours Judo a week? Elite players do much more. How many hours of Refereeing practise does the average referee do per week? Note, the question is how many hours of refereeing does a referee do per week. If an elite Judo athlete is training everyday, how much Judo refereeing is a elite level referee doing per week?

I do/did take the point that many (most?) referees are in Judo clubs every week.
But, is this relevant to the task of refereeing? A comment I have heard from a high level referee in the past is that elite level referees need to be involved in elite level athlete training. I wonder also how much actual practising of refereeing is taking place week on week?

So the thought is this; if even your average Judoka (kids etc.) is doing about 2 hours a week preparation for competing, should the referees not be doing the same?

If you read this blog regularly, then you'll know that periodisation is (basically) planning your training out in blocks, to build up to the goal. As a player, you'll be doing base training, then moving to harder training closer and closer to competitions.

As a referee could/should the same theory be applied?

Should our referees be planning out all their preparation over the long-term and working week on week towards goals? So perhaps like the Olympic Players, the Olympic Referees should be planning to a four year cycle?

Should referees be creating training cycles with specific refereeing goals? For example, cycle 1 focus on developing their knowledge of the new interpretations on kumi kata (gripping)? Perhaps this broken down into weekly training (micro-cycles) which might include watching video footage from world cup and observing how referees at that level refereed the grips. Week 2, head down to a club and observe the gripping in randori. Week three, referee randori sessions. Week 4, attend elite training, observe gripping. Week 5, referee randori at elite training. Week 6, referee at randori whilst observed by high level referee. Week 7 referee a big tournament. Week 8 chillout.

Perhaps this is a dumb idea, I don't know. Perhaps referees already do this sort of thing, again, I don't know. My concern and perhaps ignorant belief is that the main practise for refereeing is refereeing at competitions. So, what we end up with is players who are doing many hours of preparation per week having the outcome of their fights altered by referees who are doing no specific preparation for refereeing.

I don't think I am being overly harsh here. I am not “bad mouthing: referees, I have tried it myself and decided it's too hard for me. It's all high pressure (even at kids events) and it all happens too fast for my brain! But, on the other hand, I get annoyed watching Judo and seeing errors being made by referees.

I'd like to learn more about the formal preparation for referees, someone want to drop me an email and tell me about it?

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