The Informed Coach




Chapter: Communicating With Your Competitor

Communicating With Your Competitor


One day a Zen monk is by the side of a pond looking down at the fish flitting back and forth. He smiles, looks up at a companion monk, and exclaims, “Look at those happy fish swimming back and forth”. The companion monk peers into the water then at the Zen monk and asks, “How do you know that they are happy?” To which the Zen monk replies, “How do you know what I know about fish?”

In taking the side of the Zen monk we can see that there is a gap in communication in that the companion monk hasn’t reached the stage of the Zen monk nor can he empathize for lack of a reference point in experience. Gaps in communication can occur in many forms. One of the worst forms is where there is no common experience, which this story reflects. The idea in coaching is to develop a common experience or at least to venture in that direction.


A double high five. Great job!



How should we communicate to our student/competitor?

When should we communicate a problem situation?

What about mat-side at tournaments?

Communication can take various forms. There doesn’t seem to be one set method that will work for everyone. The following are merely suggestions to guide those who are starting out as coaches. The three settings for communicating with your competitor are formal, as in a lecture or chalk talk session, private, as in a one on one setting, and informal, where it is a casual setting, perhaps after practice or at a party.

Lecture and Chalk-Talk Sessions in judo usually occur only when one gathers around to learn a new technique. For any real progress to occur the coach should have regular sessions in which he covers his program exchanges ideas with his athletes on how to get to the next level. This sets into the mind of the competitor the steps he must take to get to the next goal. Depending on the familiarity of the coach with his players he may go into issues that need to be addressed, calling out the individual’s names however, issues in front of a small group are less threatening if made into a general statement, “Okay--ladies in yesterday’s tournament-- I saw several of our players with their backs to the line. What did we say was the better option?” Confronting issues also helps those in the group who may not have encountered them but are likely to, unless cautioned beforehand.

The Two to One Method: For your athlete who is defensive or who has a difficult time with criticism try this method. Begin your critique on a positive note. Every match has some bright spot in it. One may lose the match, yet there is always something that the individual has done right somewhere in the match. Pick this bright spot out and start with that, and for every one thing you find positive you can follow up with two negatives. It is usually best to limit the critiques to two corrections. Going to three or four items of correction and you lose your punch. Select at most the two important items. “I really liked the way you were able to control his gripping, but remember what we drilled last week. You have to attack once you’ve gotten your grip.”

United States Judo Federation

National Teachers Institute

Mitchell Palacio, Chairperson

United States Judo Federation

P.O. Box 338

Ontario, OR 97914-0338


Phone: 1-541-889-8753

Fax: 1-541-889-5836