Sideline Coaches and BJJ

Updated: Sep 2, 2018

Sideline coaches come in a lot of different forms, but I’m only going to address two types for now. This post may be a hard read for some parents, and delightful for others. No, I’m not trying to point fingers or call anyone out; I think everyone knows I’m pretty direct. if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed with a particular person, I’m going to talk to you about it, privately. And thankfully, I don’t see either one of these types much at Valhalla since it’s not the typical team sport, but if you’ve had a kid in any sport you’ve seen them, and like me (yup, even me!) you’ve been a sideline coach more than once. It’s part of the nature of being a parent. But, I’d like to share my take on them and my thoughts on why we need to work together in the proper way to support our kids.

First off, the Glory Days Dad (GD2 for short). Just like it sounds, this guy is stuck in the past and wants to relive his good times through his kids. It happens in many sports and I understand it. As a father of two, I want the best for them,and that includes the good times and positive experiences they can playing football, basketball, baseball or what have you. And this dad doesn’t want his kid to make the same rookie mistakes he did- especially when the kid’s got such an awesome dad there for extra coaching and advice! Here’s the rub though,GD2’s skill set doesn’t usually translate very well onto the BJJ mat.

A personal example- my oldest is studying the Japanese language and culture and wants to be a translator. Well, when they were in elementary school, I tried to learn to speak Japanese from a CD set and I still know a few words! The one I know best is ‘sake’. And I can say it pretty well. And it’s my job as a good parent to give my kids the support and tools they need to succeed. But should I go to my kid’s speech class or lecture competition and from the back of the class yell out “Sake! Sake!”? Of course not! I would look a fool and my kid would drop their head in shame! So to save me, and my kid, the embarrassment, I let the teacher teach, and I try to support my kid in a way that compliments their instruction. Most of the time, that’s offering a “good job!” or ‘way to go!”. Encourage your kid, don’t confuse them.

“Wait a minute! I wrestled in high school!” says GD2 “It’s a lot of the same thing!” Well, you’re partly correct, but mostly wrong. When my son was wrestling, the one thing I yelled the most, and probably the #1 sideline coach instruction was “Get off your back!’ Learning how to get off of your back and escape a pin is one of the most important skills for beginning wrestlers to master. However being on your back, or having your opponent in your “guard” and mastering the closed guard is essential for any Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student. You have to learn your sweeps, defenses, and submissions from this guard, and when all else fails, you have to be able to escape to a safer position.Getting off your back is not vital to defending yourself in BJJ. I need to teach them what to when they can’t get off their back. You can see how it can be confusing, right? So if GD2 needs to coach from the sidelines, “listen to coach!” is the absolute best direction you can give.

Second, there’s the Helicopter Mom. This one almost doesn’t need explanation;

Heli-Mom wants to save her precious baby from every discomfort and disappointment. For me, she’s also a really hard person to confront, because she’s only trying to protect her child- and I know from personal experience not to mess with mama bears. I get it, I don’t like seeing my kid in pain or sad. No one does. But kids can’t be raised in a little bubble and them magically turn into well rounded, capable adults when mom and dad can’t cushion them from life anymore. Hurt, whether physical or emotional, is going to happen.

My boy puts in a lot of time on his guitar, and he’s getting pretty good at it. But how good would he be if I replaced his broken strings for him? Put band-aids on his fingers or told him he didn’t have to practice because it hurt his hands? Should I tell him all the time that he’s the best guitar player since Jimi Hendrix or that he will get a band gig/record deal/recognition just because he can try to play? How good would he be if I played the guitar for him?

It’s hard to watch your kid struggle. My son used to get arm barred or choked all of the time when he first started BJJ. Thing is, it was temporary pain- for both of us. Now as his coach, if a kid in class gets my boy in a choke, I smile. Then I start cheering on the other kid and give them direction. Why would I do that? Not because I want to see my kid hurt, but because I want to see my kid GROW. I’m teaching one child that they can defend against and defeat an opponent and I’m teaching my kid to be tougher and to realize that things won’t always go his way. I’m not going to be there to guide him all of the time, so I need him, and my students to learn how to handle difficult things like hurt, pain and frustration for themselves on the mat so that they can be prepared to handle the big things that life will hand them later. It’s not all about BJJ.

In short, my job is to teach and coach the kids in my class in BJJ. But jiu-jitsu, and what I am trying to teach them is so much more. I want to be-and want jiu-jitsu to be- a tool in your tool box to raise an independent, self reliant, confident kid with a strong character. That’s my job. You have a job, or jobs when it comes to your kid’s training time on the mats at Valhalla Academy Kids. You are your kid’s personal paparazzi, chauffeurs, moral support and cheering section. So relax, and let me do what I love to do!

Coach Tabscott


PS: If you are a parent who has trained in old-school jiu-jitsu for an extended period of time, I would welcome your help coaching. Put on your gi and warm up with the class~ and yes, you have to play the Ralph Game, too!