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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 17 Jan 2007
Posts: 6209
Location: UK
Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2018 7:37 am    Post subject: Avoiding burnout in Youth students Reply with quote

I coach a TKD team where we are training kids from as young as 10 to compete on a high level in both sparring and forms. One of the things I've struggled with over the years, and no doubt many other teachers and coaches see the same thing, is working with pushy parents that think the way to make little Johnny a champion is to train them hard every day.

At first these kids do well and enjoy everything that comes with success, but over time their peers catch them up and eventually surpass them. 9 times out of 10 these kids peak too young and then quit cold turkey as they burn out.

This is a great article from the New York Times discussing burnout in youth sports and how to avoid it:

Early specialization in sport takes its physical toll and kids doing only one type of movement easily develop injuries and aren't given proper time to recover. Though the same can happen in adults, kids are still growing and developing so you have to give them opportunities to change it up and learn to move in different ways. Then of course is the mental burnout. Kids are more likely to stick at a sport if you aren't forcing them to go to practice everyday and turning it into a chore.

Alongside their TKD training I try to encourage students to take up several other sports at the very least on a recreational level. If they have one solo sport (could be TKD), one team sport, and one coordination sport (a racquet sport, or baseball, golf etc.) then you produce a really rounded athlete. Parents think that the only way to get good at martial arts is to practice martial arts but at a young age general motor skills are more important. Spatial awareness learnt in soccer or reaction time developed in tennis is all translatable over to martial arts. At a young age I don't mind if kids want to go off and play basketball in the summer or spend their winter snowboarding; at the end of the day these are the students who come back in their teens and go on to be really good martial artists.

Thoughts? How do you deal with pushy parents? How are you trying to get the best out of your youth martial artists?
"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14779
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2018 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great topic, Danielle!! Thank you for starting it!!

Great article across the board, as well!!

How are you trying to get the best out of your youth martial artists?

All students, and not just kids, have to be rationally challenged at all times. If students aren't challenged, then burn-outs around the corner. I do agree, that students need to engage in other activities outside of the MA school, the sooner the better. Too much of a good thing, or one thing, spoils the fun, as well as the learning.

The MA is a serious thing, and in that, it's also suppose to be fun. I play with the kids, literally, and the younger the kid, the more I play; I'm that child that they don't ever have to be intimidated with at all.

This topic is a serious topic, and I don't ever want to just brush over it; ignoring its importance whatsoever. Kids are the MA future; handle them with loving care!!

There are my immediate thoughts, for the moment.

How do you deal with pushy parents?

There should be a sign, at the entrance to my dojo, that reads..."Pushy Parents Be Warned!!"

I set the tone, and not the parent!! I teach the parent to know their role, and when it comes to my dojo, I run it completely without their help; their help isn't expected, nor is it ever appreciated.

The parent came to me, I didn't come to them. I set the rules, and I teach the parents to know that right out of the gate by telling them just that in our initial conversation. If the parent doesn't understand that, then the parents and the child can go somewhere else!! I've no ambiguity whatsoever on this.
I'm the CI, the kid is the student, and the parent BETTER JUST SIT DOWN AND SHUT-UP!! I welcome conversations with parents about anything EXCEPT anything that occur, or might occur, on the floor. When it comes to the floor, I'm God, as far as the parent is concerned.

I earned my abilities within the MA on my own, and not one parent can tell me one darn thing about the MA, especially when it comes to Shindokan. My rank, my title, my everything is why I'm the CI, and the sooner the parent accepts that reality, the faster we can teach their child...without any of their unsolicited advice!!

Other than that, I'm a sweet teddy bear, and a real nice guy...who has been teaching the MA for 47 years, almost 40 years on my own in my own dojo's.

**Proof is on the floor!!!
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Nidan Melbourne
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 2228
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently had to help plan for several of our athletes who compete at the State and National Level. And their ages being between 9 and 16.

Since some were new to those levels, I had to sit down with them to lay out what they should be doing to maximise results and to prevent burnout.

When I sit down with the student, I have the parent there too. And explain to the parent that by planning the levels that they training at and when it will allow for improvement and that we don't have to go crazy every single session.

And also I inform the parent, that if they push their child too hard that there may be an unforeseen (for them) consequence of being pushed hard.

If they try to argue with me about their childs progress, I will tell them that I am doing it in a way for progression without increasing the risk of injury, fatigue or them wanting to quit.
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 28059
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can come at this from both sides. I'm the parent of two boys that both play youth sports. My oldest is a three sport athlete right now: football, wrestling, and baseball, and they run in that order. My youngest does wrestling and baseball, but should get to start football this summer.

I tend to be a bit grindy as a parent, because I don't want my kids to slack off in practice or goof off. I want them to know the value of working hard to become the best they can be. I tell them often that if they want to pout around about a poor performance, then they can't spend all their free time playing video games and not working on getting better. Far and away I'd have to say that the wrestling season is the biggest grind on them. Its an intense sport, and made more so by the individualistic aspect of it. Of all the things that wrestling teaches them, the most important of them is accountability.

I think what helps the most to prevent burnout is the seasonal aspect of lots of sports, especially n the US. The problem with TKD is that it doesn't tend to be seasonal (although the competition season might be, I don't know for sure how it works on the national level). I think the best way to prevent burnout is to get two to three classes per week out of kids. Its enough to drive improvement, but also give them time to do other things besides TKD and homework. It also might be necessary to lay down some ground rules with parents in regards to training. Training a home is great, but probably not more that 20 minutes in an off day. Otherwise, they just as well be coming to class, which can lead to burnout. Keep track of the classes kids attend, and if you see someone there 6 times a week, them it might be a good idea to approach them about cutting back a few classes. This may sound contrary to what instructors actually want out of their students, but we want long-term students, not short-term students. When they get older, and want to focus more on their MA journey, then so be it. But as little tikes, its just not that necessary.
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Purple Belt
Purple Belt

Joined: 17 Feb 2018
Posts: 513

Styles: Tang soo do

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With reference to the parent that pushes too hard, for a good while I was (unintentionally) that parent. My son trains in the same class as me.

He started being lazy and unmotivated in class. This would wind me up and make me nag him more.

One day I realised I was pushing him too hard. I stopped pushing completely. I left it entirely up to him to decide how much to train or even at all (he always had the option to quit, but my attitude was if you go, you train, of you're not going to train effectively, you quit). The improvement was almost immediate. Sure he still has lazy days. But most times now he is focused and committed. All since I stopped nagging him.
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