An Open Letter From U.S. Open Chief Referee Kei Narimatsu

Oct. 05, 2009, 6:17 p.m. (ET)

An Open Letter From U.S. Open Chief Referee Kei Narimatsu: 
2009 Senior US Open Judo Championships
2009 Masters US Open Judo Championships
2009 Visually-Impaired US Open Judo Championships

The 2009 US Open Judo Championships in San Jose was one of the best run and best organized events I have ever been privileged to have participated in.  As Chief Referee, I saw first hand how things melded together into one cohesive and well-tuned operating system.  The professionalism of Mike Swain and Dan Shigematsu as tournament directors was evident in every aspect of this event.   They were flexible where they needed to be and stood fast when they had to be.  Their team is to be congratulated for a job well done and should serve as a model for all future events to live up to.  USA Judo should also be commended for the role they played in making this a successful tournament.  Without teamwork between the National and the LOC (local organizing committee), huge cracks in the system would have been apparent.  There were none or at least none noticeable. 

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge some of the areas that were exceptionally well run. 

The hotel was not only convenient, it was comfortable and reasonably priced.  The staff was competent and even got my complicated reservations 100% correct. I did have some help from USA Judo in this regard, but it was the front desk too that understood sports teams and how we sometimes have special needs.  Equally impressive were the accommodations for the visually impaired athletes and their seeing-eye companions.  It was apparent that everyone was comfortable and well cared for.  

Without the help of the San Jose Sports Authority, this event could not have happened.  They are to be commended for their participation and active involvement to bring quality sporting events like this to the South Bay area.   I know that San Jose is a mecca for these types of events and they are superb in their efforts.    

The venue and set up were about as perfect as one could have asked.  Adequate room, plenty of chairs and tables and while coaches and players, staff and referees were all huddled in the midst of the friendly confines of the mat edge, no one seem to get in each other's way.

Hospitality was exceptional.  A continental breakfast and lunch were provided by a group of very happy hostesses and hosts.  They were gracious and friendly and most importantly, they really made you feel like you were in their home.

The weigh-in team for both the men and women did not have to be trained.  They knew the protocol and they were professional.  This made it very easy to get through the process and get the athletes out of there so they could gain back the 5 kilos they lost to make weight. 

The timers and scorers, the pooling team, the medical team, the announcers, and security all did their job without incident.  They were knowledgeable in Judo, which goes a long way in keeping things running smoothly. The event started on time in the morning and for the opening ceremonies in the evening and ended at a reasonable hour so that we could all enjoy some after hours camaraderie. 

The athletes were ladies and gentlemen through out the entire competition.  They were focused and fought hard with passion and commitment. The same can be said for the Visually Impaired athletes.  For some of the referees, it was the first time to really participate in a VI competition.  It was humbling to know that our physical gifts come in many forms.  Being blind for these athletes is not so much of a handicap as it is an inconvenience, and maybe not even that.  These young men and women both sighted and impaired are our future and I believe we have a lot to look forward from them.  What an honor to be around them.  

Lastly and most importantly, I would like to acknowledge the professionalism the coaches and referees had amongst and between themselves.  There were no major incidences and even though one coach got a bit out of control, security dealt with him swiftly.   I believe that this is the first time, in a long time, the interactions between the two groups have been so cordial.  The coaches were exemplary in their behavior and I wanted to personally thank them for this courtesy.  From a referee's point of view, I believe they were more relaxed and therefore did a better job, not having to worry about a coach constantly second-guessing their every call.    Ironically, I spoke with a referee who sort of missed the coaches getting excited about their player and the competition.  In retrospect, I too missed this excitement.  Things were reserved and everyone was on their best behavior  - perhaps too good.  What I believe to be the essence of the issue is the professional attitude that everyone kept foremost in their mind.  It is OK to get excited about the competition and your players. As I mentioned in the coaches meeting, coaches coach from their hearts.  This is where the passion should come from.  Likewise, referees referee with neutrality and impartiality.  The bottom line that we all want is that the right player wins. That is what sport is all about and I believe we achieved this for this Championship.   I believe we did exhibit one of the pure tenets of Judo, that of "Mutual Welfare and Benefit for All."

So congratulations to all, players, coaches, referees, and staff.  You all deserve a pat on the back.  Let us continue this attitude for the future so that WE can make Judo stronger for Judo in the United States.  Thank you. 

Yours in Service to Judo,
Kei Narimatsu
Chief Referee, 2009 USA Judo Open Championships