Responsible coaching at kids BJJ comps

In 2018 there were a number of unsavory incidents that went down at BJJ comps. There was chair throwing , podium brawls, other unsavory incidents that shone a negative light on the marital art. These were just the incidents that were recorded and put on social media. As a community it is important that BJJ supporters call out bad behavior when it happens and ensure that there is rules and processes in place to stop it happening in the first place.

If you have ever attended a children’s BJJ comp you will know that they are generally run in good spirits. Many children will compete for the first time and get a chance to show off some of their skills and have a day out with their team mates, coaches, and family. The objective of the day should always be to have fun.

Bad behavior

However if you have attended enough of these comps you will know that this is not always the case. The most surprising thing is that the bad behavior usually comes from the adults as opposed to the kids. Screaming, arguing, and general negativity is not uncommon at kids BJJ competitions and it sets a really bad example to the next generation of grapplers.

Some parents and coaches have a tendency to become very vocal during matches. This often results in the other competitors supporters trying to shout louder. As the volume and intensity increases it is easy to become confused as to whether you are watching the Adult absolute division final in the World championships or a green belt Pee Wee match in a small regional competition.

The animosity that is evident during the match can often spill over into post match confrontations and complaining to referees and officials. The referees and officials are typically volunteers and genuine supporters of BJJ that are interested in seeing the sport grow.  Once the parents have left the venue the battle is often continued in the social media trenches ad nauseum.

Competitive and fun

As mentioned above the primary goal of any kids competition should be to have fun. The competition is a day out for the kids and they should be encouraged to enjoy the experience of competing.

By saying that the ultimate goal should be to have fun does not in some way mean that the kids should not be competitive and try to win. By all means they should  try and win their matches but as parents and coaches we need to recognize that winning does not really matter at this level. At this age we want to foster a desire to learn and develop as athletes and human beings. If a child wins, we praise them for the hard work they have put in, and if a child is beaten we still encourage them and explain that if they continue to practice hard that they may win the next time..

Rules and tips for kids BJJ comps

With all that said here is some tips and ideas that I think would improve the atmosphere at BJJ Kids comps.

  • Only the coach should be coaching (Parents often do not train and cannot provide much useful advice anyway)
  • Never approach or direct comments to the referee
  • Coaches to issue note to parents on expected conduct at tournaments
  • Absolutely no bad language
  • Clearly marked out match area that only coach, competitors, and officials may enter
  • Parents  and supporters must remain seated during a match