I will start off by saying I consider myself very lucky to have such a great group of students and parents at our BJJ competitions. As our kids program continues to expand it is important to educate new parents on how to become great parents when they take their kids to jiu-jitsu competition.
First off if you are a parent that has enrolled your kid in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you are probably a way above average parent that cares enough not only to put your kid into martial arts, but did the research to figure out which martial art is right for them. Then if they are set to compete you have made sure that they are regularly showing up to practice and probably talked to the coach to make sure that they are ready for the stress of competition. Finally you are willing to spend hours of your Saturday showing up early and watching them compete. Already you have my respect and you are putting yourself in a very small percentage of parents. Now you are taking your time to read a blog about how to even do that correctly, give yourself a pat on the back!
Anyway on to the good stuff.
I think the main things to do is show up early. If your division is supposed to be start at 9:00 AM, then I would get there 45 minutes to an hour early. This will give yourself time to get them into their uniform, orientate yourself with the mat locations & bathrooms, find students and coaches and allow your child time to warm up. There are usually a lot of nerves at competition, so warming up is vital.
As they get closer to match time I think it is best to not have them watch a lot of matches at increase their nervousness, but instead play simple games with their friends to keep their mind clear. We use a simple hand slap game that I saw Rickson Gracie use with his son Kron Gracie.
During the match unless you are a blue belt or higher we expect the parents to be encouraging and cheering, but not giving technical or strategic advice. We have competed and coached so many matches and there are reasons that we are telling your child the advice we give them. Please trust us that we are doing everything possible to give your child the best chance of winning and staying safe.
After the match we expect your child to shake their opponent’s hand and their opposing coach’s hand and then to shake our hand last. If they won, they are probably very happy and will welcome your encouraging words. If they lost then it gets a little bit more tricky. Younger children seem to like a bit more encouragement and a couple hugs while older kids usually need a minute to cool down and time to process. I expect our students to show amazing sportsmanship, but if our kids need some alone time to themselves to work through some emotions, to be angry or sad that is perfectly acceptable and should be a private matter. Then if I think they will improve from technical advice or changes of strategy I will give it, but many times trying to change too much the day of is asking too much. Usually advice between matches will just be a thought or two.
It is not uncommon for our students to do better after a loss happens in their next match because the pressure is off, the worst thing that could have happened, did and then they can move on to the next match with less pressure. So I encourage a lot of our kids to do both no-gi and gi matches to break the tension a bit even if they are unfamiliar with no-gi.
As a final note, I would bring food such as sandwiches, fruit, water, Gatorade. A little secret is I like to bring fruity snacks such as skittles or fruit rollup type snacks. Cliff kids makes some tasty ones that I stock up on before my matches. This little bit of candy and sugar made me happy and less nervous.
Competing well is a skill in and of itself. How to prepare mentally and physically. How to deal with pre match jitters and nerves. As an individual sport you will see your kids go through incredible highs and lows that just can’t be found in team sports. You will see your kid grow up before your eyes as they deal with adversity and find new strength throughout the day.