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Coaches Corner: Why I Enjoy Teaching Kids Martial Arts

We all question things from time to time. We want to delve deeper to understand why we do the things that we do. This can pertain to our jobs, our relationships, activities that we enjoy, or simply wondering about the future. In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself pondering a lot of these subjects, and have come to some conclusions that have allowed me to better understand the dynamics of my life. Through all of that, the one thing I didn’t question was my passion for working with children, particularly in our Kids Martial Arts Classes, and Youth Wrestling Classes. Even if I woke up tomorrow on a different continent, I’d find a way to help children in the athletics that I’m passionate about.

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Myself (grey) and Coach Travis (Blue) speaking to the Kids during one of our “Life-Lesson” Talks

Right off the bat, the biggest conclusion that I can come to is that I had a strong mentor/coach when I was a child, and I want that for every kid. Yes, parents have a lot to do with the development of their children, raising them properly, etc. But, we all know that kids don’t always listen to their parents. Coaches play a significant role in impacting the lives of children, whether parents recognize it or not. My Youth Wrestling Coach taught me the value of hard work, respecting elders, discipline, goal-setting, perseverance, willpower, mental toughness, teamwork and so much more. All things my parents reinforced. And all lessons I diligently attempt to pass on to our Kids Martial Arts Students. When you think about it though, that’s generally all secondary when we think about Coaching. As a society, we view a Coach as someone who teaches our children to be good at Athletics. We tend to think more highly of the Coach who has the highest credentials in his or her given Sport. While there’s a bit of truth there, THAT is what we should be viewing as Secondary, especially with young athletes. In my opinion, the best thing I can do for a child at a developmental stage of his or her life is teach them life skills that will help them in the future; regardless if those skills have absolutely nothing to do with the sport or martial art that we’re studying. At Octane MMA, we talk about wanting to teach children to be more than athletes… we want to first teach them to be good people. It’s a philosophy that I wholeheartedly believe in, and practice on a daily basis at our gym. And, I have the freedom to do so, and the correct staff around me who share similar goals and ideals. It makes my job extremely fun and fulfilling.

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Me with Trinity, July 2016 Student of the Month, thanks in large part to her Community Service Efforts (she helped a struggling elderly woman pack groceries into her car, unprompted).

Aside from that, I enjoy working with Children because they’re so full of Energy, and make you feel like a kid again, even if for a few hours a week. Remember that television show “Kids Say The Darndest Things?” Welcome to my life as a Kids Martial Arts Instructor. I can’t count the amount of off-the-wall, “from left field” comments I’ve received from children that just make me stop for a second and smile. It makes me remember when I was a kid growing up with no responsibilities and a fresh, wide-eyed view of the world. Before bills and responsibilities caught hold of me. Back when everything I saw or did was absolutely remarkable and amazing, because I had never experienced it before. Working with children is fulfilling because you gain new perspectives on things, recount times when you were that age, and you can dive into their world of simplicity, even for a few moments. It’s a really rewarding experience.

And then, there’s the obvious “watching children progress athletically” angle to it all. It’s pretty fulfilling to start teaching an 8 year old in martial arts or wrestling, and see him learn and employ techniques and lessons that you taught him over the years. Then, you blink, and he’s a 14 year old post-pubescent young man who you’ve molded in a positive way. I can’t really describe that feeling in words. Perhaps my vocabulary isn’t advanced enough, or maybe that feeling is an anomaly.

But, I kind of view the athletic accomplishments as the least important aspect of it all. How many kids are going to grow up to be professional athletes? Less than 1% of the population. But how many kids are going to practice important life skills that they learned at a young age for the rest of their lives? Much higher than 1%. But, I digress. When I started coaching Youth Wrestlers 4 years ago, I had no idea what I was in for. They were needy, didn’t remember things very long, it was difficult to relate to them on an emotional level. And, worst of all, I treated them as if they had the same goals and mental awareness that I did when I was their age. I quickly learned every kid is different, and as a coach, you have a responsibility to identify personality traits in different student athletes, and tailor your coaching style to meet their needs. Since I came to that realization, things have been a lot better for everyone involved. And a heck of a lot more fun. I grew as a Coach as much as they grew as people. Everybody wins.

karate monongahela

Playing Dodgeball at the end of class. We always end with a game to keep things light, and make sure the children enjoy their training.

To sum it all up, I enjoy Coaching Children in Kids Martial Arts because they reinforce ideals that I know that are important and may have lost track of along the way. And it makes me smile. Kids can be very tough to work with sometimes. They can be moody, needy, unwilling to listen, and test how far they can push you. But there are also moments that they can be disciplined, respectful, funny, energetic, charismatic, helpful, friendly, and all around joyful. And it’s the little moments that make it all worth it. And there are plenty of those.

csztroinCoaches Corner: Why I Enjoy Teaching Kids Martial Arts