Is it possible to be a top level BJJ competitor and a coach?
Andre Galvao has not competed since the ADCC last year but his ATOS team have been on a tear. They won the team title at the 2017 Nogi worlds and 2018 Pans. His students have also closed out multiple divisions in from blue to black belt. Despite not competing this year, Galvao is still considered the best middle heavy weight in the world. However his increased focus on teaching and the success of his team raises the question about whether you can coach and be a regular top level competitor at the same time?
Marcelo Garcia announced his retirement at the tender age of 33 despite appearing to be still close to his prime. His retirement from active competiton came about as he no longer felt that he ould be the best coach possible while also trying to compete himself. Rafa Mendes announced his retirement last year at the age of 27 citing a desire to refocus his passion on other aspects of his life.
Gordon Ryan made comments last year about how he felt his team had an advantage over other teams who coaches were also competitors.
“First of all he doesn’t have a kid, a wife, a family, he doesn’t even compete so the only thing he has to focus on is his students vs other great coaches like Andre Galvao, Cyborg, Marcelo Garcia things like that – they’re all great coaches but they all also have competitive aspirations of their own. So competitors tend to be selfish people cause Andre Galvao wants to win black belt Worlds he also wants his students to win black belt worlds there’s a split between himself and his students whereas John doesn’t have that – everything he does is just for us.”
The energy required to teach is often underestimated by many commentators. In any given tournament, Galvao may be coaching more than 30 students over a weekend. Being completely engaged in this task is draining and is not something that anyone would consider as ideal preparation before stepping onto the mat yourself to face the top guys in the sport. Trying to ensure your students are as prepared as possible for a tournament, while also doing the same for yourself is not impossible but is surely very difficult to achieve.
When sparring with your students, are you focusing on improving yourself or them if you are both a competitor and coach? Even things like worrying about you diet and managing your rest days and recovery periods take focus and energy that could otherwise be directed towards your students preparation.
Planning for the future
There comes a time in every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors life when they must plan for the future. To my knowledge there is no Jiu-Jitsu competitors alive today that have earned sufficient prize money to sustain them for the rest of their lives once they retire. This means that many top level guys begin to think about how they will financially maintain themselves and their families post retirement despite still being relatively close to the peak of their physical abilities. Setting up your own school, seminars, online programmes, and identifying other revenue streams all require focus and energy that most other high level sports people do not have to think about. However Jiu-Jitsu players do not have this luxury and this is why we will continue to see many of the top stars in the sport move towards coaching despite their potential to continue competing successfully.