USA Judo News Judo Families: The S...

Judo Families: The Stouts

June 04, 2018, 12:14 p.m. (ET)

Judo in the Family: The Stouts

More than just an individual sport, judo is a way of life for this family

For the Stout family of Orlando, the sport of judo has been a life changer.

A decade ago, when the Stouts moved from Florida, where young Jeffrey and Nicole participated in gymnastics, to Oklahoma, their father, Jeff, wanted them to investigate other sports, especially for his son, who he described as aggressive. Wrestling was considered, but a visit to Pat Burris’ USA Stars Dojo proved to be the right place at the right time.

Burris, a star athlete in judo and wrestling during high school and college, competed in judo for Team USA at both the 1972 Olympic Games and the 1976 Olympic Games. In addition to earning a bronze medal at the 1975 Pan American Games, Burris won numerous national championship titles before beginning his coaching career.

Describing the effect of judo on Jeffrey, his father recalled, “He was like a fish put in water. He thrived.”

The transition from rhythmic gymnastics to judo was not as easy for Nicole. She didn’t like being thrown and sessions at the dojo often ended in tears; but she refused to quit. Even when, after only three weeks of training, the first opponent she faced was ranked third in the nation. Burris, however, recognized Nicole’s talent – she almost defeated the more experienced athlete. Today, Nicole is a multiple national champion who competes for the USA internationally.

Stout is quick to praise Burris for teaching his son discipline and respect, and for helping his daughter build so much confidence.

“They were very fortunate to have an amazing coach,” he admitted. “They’ve learned a lot and this sport has allowed me to spend so much time with them. It truly is a family affair. It’s been everything to us. If I didn’t think it was good for my kids, I wouldn’t do it.”

The Stouts returned to Florida several years ago, settling in Orlando where Jeff is Chair of Educational and Human Sciences at the University of Central Florida and a professor of sport and exercise science in the UCF College of Education and Human Performance. Although he no longer competes in judo, he continues to help coach and warm up his kids and remains involved in the sport, providing support to a special needs judo program in the Orlando area for children with autism.

Now 18, Jeffrey received the 2018 Athlete of the Year Award for martial arts from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The honor recognized his three 2017 gold-medal performances at the 2017 Junior Olympic National Championships’ International Division in Spokane, Wash., the USJA/USJF Summer Nationals in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the U.S. Open in Fort Lauderdale. The award certificate states: “At 200lbs Jeff’s 1RM PR for Clean (300lbs), Squat (370lbs), Deadlift (435lbs) and Bench Press (315lbs) make him one of the strongest Judo athletes in the USA for his age and weight division.”

In 2017, Nicole, 21, earned a bronze medal at the Pan American Open in Lima, and silver medals at the Santiago del Chile Pan American Open and the Buenos Aires Pan American Open. The Harvard University student also represented the United States at the 2017 Senior World Championships in Budapest and just recently represented Team USA at the 2018 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica.

At the recent Senior National Championships in Round Rock, Texas, both Nicole and Jeffrey medaled; Nicole took home a silver medal in the -78kg division and Jeffrey took home a bronze medal in the -90kg division.

Stout admits he always encourages people to find a good dojo and try judo. And, he likes to point out that judo is the second most popular participation sport in the world (soccer is first).

“It’s not just kids who are joining, but families,” he said. “It’s really big in Europe and Asia. You can always find a dojo.”

Another benefit of judo, according to Stout, is that all parts of the community come together.

“This is a sport that brings a lot of people together, it’s very diverse,” he stated. Describing the athletes as unique but equal, he added, “On the mat, you have to respect each other.”