Being a Dad and Coach

     On May 7, 2016, my daughter Caity returned to Taekwondo competition for the first time in eight years.  As her dad but also her coach, I tried to dissuade her from sparring until we had a few more months but she was adamant about sparring at the tournament.  Caity likes forms but she always preferred sparring.

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Caity’s Medals from the AAU Ozark National Qualifier Tournament on May 7, 2016

     Reluctantly, I agreed.  I didn’t feel training for six weeks was enough time to knock the rust off even though she started training at six years old.  Caity trained for years off and on in the martial arts.  Caity even trained Judo with us as a teenager although she always preferred Taekwondo.

     I convinced her to compete in point sparring, which is supposed to be controlled, light contact.  Unfortunately, the match she participated in was anything but light, controlled contact.

     Caity was matched up against an Olympic sparring competitor.  Olympic sparring is full contact sparring with knockouts allowed.  Caity’s opponent was trying point sparring for the first time and had a hard time exercising control.  Midway through the first round, she punched Caity in the face and injured Caity’s jaw.

     Caity’s response was to hammer fist her opponent to the top of the head, which is illegal but was fortunately not called, and then delivered her own solid punch to the head-gear for another point.  The match was 9 to 2 in Caitlin’s favor at the end of the first round.

     When Caity sat down for the 30 second break between rounds, I could tell she was shaken up.  As the coach, I had to determine if the injury was too bad for her to continue.

     I have known parents, who coached their kids in Taekwondo competition and will never allow a match to be stopped.  These coaches are idiots and should not be coaching their kids.   If you are willing to let your athlete be seriously injured over a local tournament, you are a failure as both a parent and coach.

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Caity in her TKD uniform in 2000

     In her last tournament, when she was 14, she hurt her knee midway through the match.  I stopped the contest, which made her really mad.  I told her, “We can come back and win this local tournament next year.  I care about you too much to let you seriously injure that knee.”  It didn’t make her any less mad but she knew she needed another coach, if she wanted to fight under any circumstances.

     Caity’s jaw wasn’t swollen at the time and I believed it was a soft tissue injury, so I let her continue.  It was a tough decision because as her dad even though she is 22 now, she will always be the little girl in the dobok.  As her coach, I had to let her continue the match.  The injury bothered her a bit but she still won the match 12-10.

     After the match, I realized guiding your adult children is a lot like being a Taekwondo coach.  If they are heading for a serious injury, you try to steer them away from the decision.  Unfortunately, I can’t forfeit them out of a mess like I can as their coach in a match.  If it’s not going to result in serious injury, you need to let them do it and learn from the experience.

     As for Caity, she took First Place in Point Sparring and Second Place in Forms, a great showing for her first tournament in 8 years.  I was a proud papa.

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