"..If class times are too long the student will learn less. Short class times with few tasks to learn and plenty of sparring retain students longer!"
I have spent a number of years building a youth Jiu-Jitsu program in my adopted hometown of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I began the program because I wanted my son to share my passion for Jiu-Jitsu. And since there were no other programs for youngsters in our area, it was an easy decision to start one. Here are four tips if you are thinking about starting a youth program of your own.
Bring in slightly older kids who have experience with Jiu-Jitsu. If this isn’t possible, find a couple of older kids and give them a few lessons first. Explain to them the class structure. Tell them how and where you want them to sit as you demonstrate the technique. Explain about drilling versus sparring and be clear about what tapping means. If you are coaching students who don’t speak English, find out how to say “tap” and “stop” in their language. Give them plenty of practice and keep the class format the same for each of these few classes. When you bring in the younger kids they can follow the older kids’ example as much as they follow your instruction. This becomes easier as the class evolves because some students will act as natural examples for newer students to emulate. Also, it will be easier to judge the older, more experienced students and to level them up accordingly.
Limit distractions. Chatting parents, cell phones, the jigsaw line of the mats, other kids, and everything else in the universe except the coach are distractions to a kid in Jiu-Jitsu class. Have a separate area for the parents to watch class away from where you are coaching. Also, discourage sidelining parents when the students are drilling or sparring. Not every kid brings their parents to class, and what may be an encouraging parent to one kid may be a discouraging stranger to another. Set up designated break times for water. Encourage the students to use the bathroom before class. Remember, any distraction is an interruption in your mission to give Jiu-Jitsu to the student.
Time is the ultimate enemy. If class times are too long the student will learn less. Short class times with few tasks to learn and plenty of sparring retain students longer!
A cohesive curriculum goes hand in hand with appropriate class times. Take the time to write down a progress arc to follow as you coach. Know what you taught last class and know what you want to teach the next class. Make sure there is overlap and review. Give the student goals and aim the student at them! Periodically revise your curriculum as you get better at coaching. One arc might look like this; ukemi, takedowns, open-guard passing, pinning from position, submission, escaping dominant position, sweeping from guard, ukemi….
Creating a class dynamic that is fun and in which kids learn Jiu-Jitsu is not always easy. I decided early on that I wanted to teach a Jiu-Jitsu class for kids, not a kids’ Jiu-Jitsu class. In my mind, the former focuses on installing Jiu-Jitsu in the mind and body of the student. The latter disguises it as a fun “body movement” class wherein perhaps students jump through hula-hoops and walk on balance beams. I truly believe that the movements which make up Jiu-Jitsu techniques are inherently fun. More importantly, learning Jiu-Jitsu improves the ability to learn Jiu-Jitsu. Endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance, strength, and the ability to defend oneself are also learned.