There was one minute left as I sat in bottom half guard during the Grappling Industries Tournament this past year. I was feeling both excited and utterly fearful because I was competing two weight classes up from my own, doing significantly well and I was on track to take first place against the eight other women in my bracket.

After almost two years of training, I finally had my head coach in my corner for the first time ever.

He was paying attention to no one else other than me and his main focus was to help me succeed. I wanted to impress him, surprise him and prove to him that I was not just another “okay” blue belt. I wanted to excel in all aspects of this match in order for him to choose to come back and watch me perform again. I had finally earned his eyes on just me and I was not going to ruin it.

I started setting up my favorite choke – the baseball bat from bottom half and I allowed my partner to pass. I quickly switched my hips and knew that the choke had sunk in deeper. I continued to look at the girl’s eyes and facial color that I was facing; confused how she had not tapped or become unconscious.  As I was getting ready to let go and accept that I had just let her pass, she would win the match and ultimately take first place, I heard my coach’s calming voice, “You can keep holding that. It’s tight.”  One second later, she tapped and coughed as she could hardly breathe.

Having my coach in my corner was the difference between me taking first place that day and me being able to say I submitted almost every single one of my opponents that were all 20 pounds heavier to get that number one spot.

After that experience, I really started contemplating the significant value a coach offers not only with class time but also during competition. Too many times, competitors do not have someone to help represent them as they step on the mats to compete as they feel vulnerable and sometimes end up freezing during the match. It is obviously understandable that our coaches and teammates cannot always make it to our tournaments but I do feel that it is becoming more important to realize that we need them there as much as they need us to be members at their academies.

An individual’s success is measured in numerous ways with winning and effective coaching to acquire those wins as one of the utmost of importance. Though a coach-athlete relationship is a two way street, it is the responsibility of the coach to pursue and continue an authentic relationship with each of their individual athletes. They are there to make you feel comfortable and uplift you through the difficult moments. Coaches are a vital part of the foundation for which the athlete can thrive. They are our approachable and respected role models on the mats and in every day life. They utilize and teach proper decision making skills and techniques and they are usually many steps ahead of us. Our coaches are crucial to the growth of us as athletes.

As I continue to attend tournaments, I find myself dwelling in the difference between athletes that have their coach in their corner during their match verse not. The players may be at the exact same skill level but when it all comes down to it, the athlete that has the coach seeing the match from another perspective seems to advance positions and finish submissions far faster.

Their coach is the outlet that keeps them calm during the match, provides them with excess options when they cannot remember or do not see a move from a certain position, shouts firm and definitive advice when needed, reminds them of the time and points that are accruing and finally, the coach is demonstrating that their individual athlete, whether a white belt or black, is important to their academy and they are happy to have them there. The athlete that is putting it all on the line is a representation of the motivation, willingness and advancements of the academy and they deserve to be recognized in both failure and success.

I will leave you with this: I have now had the privilege to learn from and train with some of the highest level Jiu Jitsu competitors in the United States and their advice has really resonated with me. A favorite black belt of mine that I just recently trained with said,

“When I am competing, I make sure I have a plan for each time I step on the mats. I make sure to secure all of my positions before moving forward to the next and attacking. After securing the position, I always look to my corner to see what advice they are giving me to do next. Sometimes, this is the difference between me winning and losing. Their outsider perspective can see things far better than me in the moment. It is part of their job to be there for me. I picked to train at their school and when you pick to come to a school that knows you have competition goals, they are basically saying that they will support you and be there for you. You should always have someone to coach in your corner.”

I want to hear from you as a competitor!

Do you have someone that comes and warms you up, watches you, cheers you on and provides advice for you throughout the match?

Do you feel like this makes a significant change if they are present vs not?

Leave a comment and let me know. 👇

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