Hey karate parents!
Here is a quick guide for you to follow to help prepare you for your child's first tournament. These tips have come from my own experience as a competitor and as a mom/karate coach, as well as adult competitors that I have connected with for this article. I want to encourage you to enjoy this season of your parenting, be glad that your child wants to compete and be as prepared as you can!
Months out-Practice, Practice, Practice
Hopefully your child’s coach has given you plenty of advance notice of the event and has mentally prepared the kids. Mock competitions, or extra practices are essential so they know what to expect. Competitors that I have asked have also suggested training ahead of time on a different floor. In other words if your home dojo has mats and the tournament will be on hardwood- practice several times at the rec center or at a school gym. You want to minimize as many surprises as possible.
1 month out-Make lodging and travel reservations.
If the competition is in a different city, make reservations now. Many times the host of the tournament will have worked out deals with area hotels and universities for lodging. Check their website first before making reservations. Think also about staying with a friend, family member or Airbnb to save money. We attend AAU tournaments not only because they are organized and professional but they are within a several hour drive from our school.
“Read the rule book. A tedious but necessary chore.”
Read the rule book.
You can find the competition rule book on the host dojo website. Read through it , a tedious but necessary chore. You want to make sure your child has the correct equipment to minimize any last minute confusion. Your Sensei should have an updated version of the rulebook as well but it is best to be a well-informed parent. It is also nice to know how points are awarded in kumite matches. Be leary of organizing bodies that do not make a rule book available on their website.
Buy or borrow any equipment you need.
Since you have read the rule book, you already know what equipment you need. This can be anything from a mouth-guard to a helmet. Take a look at the state of your child’s gi, is it yellowing and frayed? Do the pants need to be hemmed? Plan ahead and order a new one if need be. You want your child to look and feel great!
Take advantage of any early bird registration deadlines ahead of time. At this point your Karate coach should have talked to you about what level and age and years experience to register your child as. Double check with your child and coach about which events they will be competing in. You will need to know all of these things when you register. Some tournaments have you pay for each event. You may also need to pay membership to the organizing body.
5 days until T-time-
Buy snacks and food for the trip.
Make plans for pets.
Charge camera batteries, clear your phone of pictures.
Layout equipment to make sure you have everything-helmets, cups, mouthguards, chest protectors, gi, backup gi, belt, flip flops, and shin guards.
Pay attention to the equipment- remold mouthguard or clean helmet.
Day of- Encourage and affirm your children!
Make sure to tell your child how proud you are of them before, during and after the tournament. Tell them how it is a privilege to be their parent and you are so glad that they can have this experience. Don't overdo it though- too much chatter can make them nervous.
Competitions are a wonderful chance for your child to improve their skills and gain experience. However no tournament is run absolutely perfectly so be prepared for things to go wrong such as, your kid forgot their belt, or maybe their division was too small so your daughter had to move up a level. Judging is not always perfect either, don't get upset if the judges miss a call on your child. Technique is fast and they are human after all. There is a protocol for protesting- it is all in the rule book. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something. The host karate school wants all competitors to have a positive learning experience and will do what they can to make sure the event goes smoothly.
If you and your child are craving more competition experience, the tournament you are attending is the perfect time to pick the brain of the host of the tournament and other coaches as far as what standing the kids need to be in to attend Regionals, Nationals, Jr. Olympics, etc. They may need to have participated in certain tournaments before they can move on. It is a good idea to talk to the judges (who are all helpers and teachers by nature) to see what qualifications your child may need.
I would love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts and tips for tournaments. If you have found value in this article, please share on facebook, twitter and instagram.