2014 National Championships, CEO Retrospective
By most accounts, the 2014 National Championships in San Jose, Calif., were a resounding success. Participation exceeded our estimations in the number of athletes, coaches and spectators. A hearty ‘Thank You’ to all who helped to make this event a success.
While the event was, in many ways, a great success, there are some areas in which we should all work to improve. I will share with you my thoughts regarding those areas:
It is very unfortunate that we had several confrontations between spectators while in the bleachers. Some of these were physical confrontations; others were verbal confrontations. There is no place in USA Taekwondo events—or in taekwondo in general—for actions such as these. Taekwondo preaches/teaches self-control. This is not just on the part of our athletes, but also for our parents, friends, and others as well. What message are we putting out to our young taekwondo athletes when parents/spectators engage in confrontations in the stands?
We also witnessed a spectator (parent of a young taekwondo athlete) who expressed displeasure of a match with a physical display of attacking the barricades. Again, there is no place in taekwondo for actions such as this. We teach our young athletes to accept defeat gracefully. Parents should learn to do the same. Every match will have a winner and a loser. Sometimes the outcome may seem unfair, mostly due to human error. We all must learn to accept even those decisions with aplomb and self-control.
The San Jose Convention Center offered non-legal access through doors that remained open when people would depart through them. Of course, it is human nature to take advantage of free entrances to a venue, and I understand that. From an organization perspective, it would be better if all entrances were made through the proper doors that allow for credentials checks, wrist bands, etc. I am sure that USA Taekwondo lost revenue from spectators who streamed in through doors that were left open. Though I do not expect human nature to change in this regard, I would simply remind us all of our tenets of taekwondo that include integrity.
It was brought to my attention by a couple of parents that, while sitting in the stands watching a match, they experienced a club (that shall remain nameless, though I know which school it was) that was very loud and using profane language while castigating an athlete who was competing against an athlete from their club. When asked by a parent to please refrain from using profanity, the club proceeded to curse at the parent that was sitting there with young children. Not only did they remain boisterous and use profanity, they also cheered when the opponent of their club’s athlete suffered an injury. This is probably the most terrible display of a lack of sportsmanship, lack of respect, and total lack of taekwondo attitude exhibited by this school and their instructor. There is no place in taekwondo for actions such as this. I was appalled to hear of something like this taking place at our National Championships. Hopefully this will never happen again. Needless to say, it is not okay to exhibit this kind of behavior for any reason. As human beings we are taught to respect others, especially women and children. Taekwondo should be teaching us to be even more respectful than ‘ordinary’ people who do not practice the sport. USA Taekwondo urges our taekwondo family to be better citizens and to exemplify the behaviors that display our understanding and adherence to the tenets of taekwondo.
There is a recurring matter of coaches who send their students into an elite competition like our National Championships with a different belt color than what is truly earned by the student. I have no problem with a coach who allows a student to move up in belt rank, due to a recent promotion after having qualified at state events. It is the opposite that causes concerns for us all, especially because of the safety concerns raised. It is not acceptable for coaches who have higher belt-ranked students competing at a lower belt level in order to increase the chance of winning a medal. Some coaches might argue that they do this because they feel that their student is not sufficiently qualified to compete at nationals at their high belt rank, so they allow them to compete at a lower belt level for the safety of their competitor. In most cases, however, it is a coach who allows, as an example, a red belt athlete to compete in the green belt division, or a black belt to compete as a blue belt. This is unethical and should stop. Again, what lesson are we teaching our athletes? That it is okay to be dishonest and to cheat in order to win a medal? Winning should be a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the athletes and the coaches, not some shortcut to the medal podium. Where is the honor in that?
Coaches must invest in learning the latest competition rules so that they can be better at the job of coaching their athletes. It is unfortunate that some coaches, after a loss by their athlete, complain about a loss when they are not aware of the current competition rules. Are there cases of inconsistent application of the rules from one referee to another? Certainly. USA Taekwondo is working to educate and train referees to be consistent so that this is less of an issue. In the meantime, coaches should also make the effort to learn the current competition rules. They change every year. I would argue that the level of consistency between referees is better now than it has been in previous years. Referees, like coaches and athletes, are human and will make mistakes. Coaches and athletes learn from mistakes made at a national event, and so do referees. The expectation from many coaches and spectators is that referees make no mistakes. Rarely do we hear a coach admit that a player may have lost a match due to the coach’s mistake. We are all human, and we are all working to improve the sport of taekwondo. Just something to consider…
I have noticed some coaches who berate their athlete in between rounds. I would suggest that we learn a more positive approach in addressing our athletes. There is a line between motivating an athlete and abusing an athlete, especially by physically abusing an athlete to make a point. Coaches play a very big part in helping to police and to clean up the sport of taekwondo. Our coaches are on the front line when it comes to teaching our athletes respect, courtesy, good sportsmanship and also how to accept wins and defeats gracefully. It is not acceptable to throw temper tantrums because your athlete loses a match. Temper tantrums are not acceptable from coaches or from athletes. Such displays show total disrespect of what taekwondo stands for and teaches: self-control, discipline, and good sportsmanship. USA Taekwondo expects better from our athletes and from our coaches.
There were many good things that happened at our 2014 National Championships. The overwhelming majority of our membership in attendance showed great comportment and acted like the taekwondo family that we are and that we aspire to be. For me, it was great to see our audience and our participants having an enjoyable experience. It is my hope that we build on the positive experiences that were had by most people in attendance so that future events will be even more enjoyable for all participants. While I view our 2014 National Championships to be a very successful event, I also temper that with the understanding that we still have many things to work at improving. Our USA Taekwondo staff is fully committed to improving the event experience for our membership and also our customer service to our membership.
Finally, I offer my sincere thanks to all of our participants this year at the 2014 USA Taekwondo National Championships. We look forward to seeing you next year in Austin, Texas!
Bruce C.K.W. Harris