Thursday, July 12, 2012

Notes on the President's Cup/The Ills of American Judo

Found this over at

"June 11, 2012

President’s Cup Notes

It has been many a year since I have been around “the judo scene” in the USA. Since retiring from competition in 2004 I have gone to watch the 2008 Olympic Trials in Las Vegas and the Golden State Championships once. Yes, like anybody else who still “knows a few people” I have heard the positives and negatives about USA Judo and I have never been a cheering section fan of the USJA or USJF per se either. What I am is a Judo guy, a family man. If I show up to a local judo club I feel like it is my duty to give back to people, help people figure things out; “coach a kid up,” help teenagers find their way to college via Judo like I did, talk to parents, watch what is going on and see if there is something my particular set of skills might help with. I am somebody with a real life limited financial budget and no desire to spend time away from my wife and kids if the experience is going to be mediocre.
This past weekend I was able to watch quite a few decent matches at the President’s cup. I saw an interesting 60kg division work itself out, two decent 66kg players who are familiar with one another have a solid match and then a highlight reel walk-through the rest of the round robin, a 90kg final that was a US Nationals repeat and worth the price of admission, a near stunner at -100kg as a local kid (who in all honesty needs to train much harder) nearly defeated the tried and tested Japanese giant, and an 81kg division that had some legitimate talent on display across the board.
In other words, while the divisions were embarrassingly small there was some real quality to be found and some excitement. So, now we get to the real heart of the matter. The problem and the solutions.
Problem. This was the fourth straight month with a major USA Judo event. March was host to the National Collegiate Judo Association Championships and the USA Judo Scholastic Championships. April featured the USA Judo Senior, Masters and Kata National Championships. The US Open and Miami World Cup were held in May. And, now in April we had the President’s Cup. In July there will be the Junior Olympics as well. Not to mention, there were multiple E-level events such as the Pedro, Morris, Liberty Bell and Midwest championships.
In other words, nobody with an actual job and the need to put food on the table or a roof over their heads could have possibly attended all of these events. No matter the reasons, this is just simply horrific planning and something that should be seen as completely unacceptable within the US Judo world. To think that the collective event planning minds within USA Judo saw this schedule and actually believed that this stood a chance to work is utterly shocking. And that is without consideration of the current economy.
So, what is coming up in September? October? November? December? January? February? That is right, there pretty much cannot be anything. USA Judo will vanish for the next six months and then come back around to possibly irritate people all over again if this is not solved. So, I guess I need to provide a solution.
1. Fire the people who thought this was a good idea in the first place. If somebody in the private sector arranged major events in a manner like this, events that needed a national audience of moderate income families to attend and finance, then they would be out on their rear and so too should the brainpans who suggested this for USA Judo. Any business needs to be in touch with their consumers and this type of event planning shows that that is clearly not the case.

2. Space the events out. There are four major events and twelve months in a calendar. I think this is pretty doable math. Let us begin with April, since everybody within the US Judo community knows that April equals the nationals. May, June, July should host the next event. August, September, October can be host to the next event. November, December, January can host the final event of the cycle. Imagine if everybody, in every club across the USA could know when these events were coming, look forward to them, save money to attend them and actually go! AMAZING!

3. Combine the junior and senior events at least twice a year. Yes, there are events the parents want to have all to themselves to see their “judo buddies of old” and there are events that should be all about kids too. One senior only event, one junior only event and then two combined events would allow the spacing of events to work and it would allow families to afford the sport of Judo once again. The US Nationals remains for seniors only. The Junior Olympics remains for kids only. That leaves the international events, scholastic event and the President’s Cup to be combined. But, to be honest, we can do away with something and figure this all out. Combining the US Open, Miami World Cup and Jr. International is common sense. Have a weekend where kids and families can come to watch the best in the world and where we can showcase what our kids can do. This leaves the President’s Cup and scholastics. Which, honestly, are perfect to combine. So what if the same people may compete in against each other twice in a weekend. Let the college and HS kids fight it out and then let them all fight it out against any grown adults who want a chance at the young whipper-snappers. Oh, and, the scholastics should always be held on the campus of an NCJA campus whenever possible. If you are out to grow Judo, then host the events in a place that will make the High School kids actually want to do Judo when they are 19, 20, 21 plus years old… Show them that places like Texas A&M, Tennessee, West Point, SJSU, etc. all have Judo teams for them to consider.

4. Go back to the old way of running tournaments. The real issue of why attendance numbers have gone so far down at USA Judo events, and why USA Judo is raising entry fees and why they are trying to have so many events is because nobody is going to them. But, why is nobody going? Why did a C-rated USA Judo event in the Southern California area have less attendance than a local Judo tournament held last weekend? Less than half of what the CA state championships had in Fresno a few weeks ago? Oh, that’s simple, in the eyes of people outside of Colorado and Miami, USA Judo has become a society of snobbish prudes. They have become the awful “Big Government” that nobody wants to be around or deal with or help. There are several reasons for this, so I will explain just a few here.
A) They did away with the reciprocal memberships. When people could join the USJA or USJF and then only need to spend a few dollars more to join USA Judo people were happy to join. Now they have to pay $50 bucks or a family membership just to go to a few events once in awhile? Why bother?
B) They did away with local control. Somehow, somewhere along the line USA Judo decided they “knew best” in Colorado Springs and Miami. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I never went to Colorado Springs for anything other than the US Open or a training camp back in the days. I don’t know anybody there who knows how to organize a national tournament better than the local communities who get together all of the time to help one another out. I don’t know anybody at the OTC or national office who can put on a better event than the San Jose Buddhist Memorial or Midwest Championships or Liberty Bell. So, why is it that USA Judo over the past few years has decided to destroy something that was never broken in the first place? Was it to create jobs for people in Colorado? Was it to supposedly have some control? Over what? And, whatever the reasons are, it has absolutely failed over the last eight years so it is time to scrap the system and go back to the days of having state organizations bid for the events and then split the profits with USA Judo. At least then the local communities would actually want to show up and support the tournaments—at the very least. And, hotel discounts might actually be discounts, not higher rates paid to hotel chains so that officials from USA Judo can get their suites for free.
C) Get rid of the USA Judo Tournament Organizing Committee. Do you really think having somebody sent by USA Judo to collect $12 at the door was a good idea? Do you really think that the way events are being run now is better than what they were before? I’ve been attending these events since I was ten years old. And, from what I’ve seen, the old “Ladder Tournament” which was run by a local judo organization on behalf of USA Judo would have put this “President’s Cup” to shame. It is gross and disgusting and should not be tolerated.

5. Make the USA Senior National Championships a Domestic A-level event. Make it the most important event, period. So incredibly important that anybody, no matter who it is or what international medal they have won, who does not attend and make it to the podium is not allowed to represent the USA at A-level events internationally for the entire year. If you want to have an injury clause for it, then you say the player who misses the podium at the Nationals cannot compete internationally until s/he makes the podium at one of the other events such as the President’s Cup or US Open. In other words, the person cannot compete at the Miami World Cup, or any other Olympic qualifying event, if they do not make the podium at the US Nationals. It is completely unfair to the event organizers and to USA Judo to have their very best players just decide to skip out and say “the rest of you are not good enough for me to be on the tatami with.” The winner of the Nationals gets first bid on A-events and full funding to Paris, Germany, Moscow, or Kano—whichever event is selected for the entire USA National Team to attend.

So, there you have it. My take on the President’s Cup… An event that could have been so wonderful, should have been awesome, had all the potential to be a truly great thing… and, USA Judo screwed it up, again, and instead lost thousands of dollars to host a major national event that was smaller than a local NANKA tournament."

No comments:

Post a Comment