Why BJJ Is So Good If You Are A Parent
Lead, don't push.
I had a conversation the other day with a fellow parent who is also a high-level wrestler and BJJ player. His son won the state championship his senior year in high school and is now wrestling in college.
I was talking to him about my ten-year-old son who is in his first year of wrestling. I was feeling a little bad because I had not really shown him anything I know because I didn't want to ‘force it on him.' I've seen too many children with overbearing, but well-intentioned parents, push their kids to the limit and take all the fun out of training.
I didn't want to be that parent.
I was thinking maybe I'd gone a little too far in the other direction and perhaps been too ‘hands off' in the process.
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I live in what is known as a hotbed of the state for athletics. Essentially, if you haven't been in some type of club sport since you were 6 or 7, then you are behind developmentally. If you want to make the high school team in just about any sport, you must specialize and specialize early. This goes against the grain of what I believe sports are all about. However, I have to admit I feel the siren pull of developing my child into an athletic prodigy.
Am I cheating him of the opportunity to compete later because our family is not willing to sacrifice every weekend to be out of town involved in some type of athletic pursuit?
My friend had one question for me, ‘Is your son having fun?'
I told him he was. He said ‘Good. Keep it that way, and if later on, he decides he wants to pursue it more seriously he can look back on it and say he made the right decision.'
He also said the difference between other parents and us is that we are still on the mat on a regular basis. We understand how difficult it is and the mental toil we go through with training. It keeps things in perspective for us when our child is exhausted and pushing to improve.
What it creates is empathy. I'm not saying other parents don't have it because that isn't true. However, the difference between someone who used to train or never trained and someone who still trains regularly is profound regarding the level of understanding of what the young athlete is going through.
We aren't better than other parents by any means, it's just that our perspective is different. We understand the difficulties our children face.
Here's something else that happens when you train as an adult. Your child sees you training. They may not understand what you are doing, but they want to emulate it. They see you pushing yourself, so they begin to adopt the same work ethic for themselves. Just by your training on a regular basis, you are serving as a great example of the benefits of hard work. I remember having my children present for different promotions and the questions I would get from them. I could tell they were fascinated by the process. They saw the time and effort necessary to improve and be promoted and wanted it for themselves.
Kids love the belt system in BJJ because it is a tangible record symbolizing their hard work. By having a parent who also happens to train they understand that it isn't all about the belt though.
My advice is to keep it fun. Don't get caught up in the proverbial arms race others are involved in. I can't help but be a little suspicious of the motives behind trying to create a super athlete.
If your child is someone with potential, it is going to be noticed. If he isn't, that's OK too.
If your child is a grappler, have patience with the process. It takes time to get good at this art. Starting young is an advantage that a lot of us wish we had had. At the same time remember your child is in sports for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is to please you. The other reason is to have fun and be with their friends.
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It's not to become a world champion.
That will come later if they are so inclined and have the mental and physical fortitude necessary to pursue that dream.
Let's face it, very few are cut out for that life. There's nothing wrong with it either. In fact, I would be inclined to say it is healthier to have a balanced life where a young person uses sports to develop into a well-rounded, mature, productive adult who contributes to society at large.
We aren't all cut out to be elite athletes. If we were then the definition would have to shift even higher. There will always be individuals cut from a different cloth and are just different physically or mentally. Perhaps they pick it up faster or were in a different sport such as gymnastics where they've developed extreme body control and take to grappling like a fish to water.
How about instilling a love of grappling though? You don't need to be an athletic phenom to love grappling.
There is something primal about this sport that transcends across socio-economic barriers and creates lasting friendships in the most unlikely places. The cop who is friends with the parolee who is getting his life on track because of training. The executive who befriends the janitor because they started training at the same time and moved up the ranks together. The veteran with PTSD who finds the support, love, and acceptance he needs to get out of bed in the morning because he looks forward to being on the mat.
These are all things I've seen happen with my own eyes. My own group of friends is one of the most eclectic groups of individuals I've ever had the privilege of being a part of, and I owe it all to grappling.
This is the world I want my sons to see and experience. Being around quality people who care about your development.
Medals lose their luster eventually. Friendships only get better with time.
If they happen to become world champions because that's something they want to pursue, then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Lead, don't push.
For more from Mikey Musumeci, check out his first BJJ instructional Power Switch Guard Retention and Genius Back Takes! You can get it here today!