When I started my career as a judo coach, I was a great polisher. This is not at all abnormal for a world class athlete with good communication skills and the desire to coach. It’s usual for them to be thrown into the top end of the developmental cycle to coach and not into the grassroots coaching realm. I was no different. I could take somebody who already had the raw materials in place, who already had some sort of development, and shine them up and polish them; help them become a champion, help them become an Olympian, help them win worlds, help them win national championships, and I was able to do this because I was a great polisher. But, when I became a grassroots level coach and started coaching with the Bahamas Judo Federation in 2009, coaching inside schools, putting together school programs, putting together dojo programs around the country, and doing the same thing for myself in Tampa, I had to learn how to become a manufacturer – and more so when I had my son and my daughter. I had to learn about total athletic development with respect to human development and early childhood education. I had to learn how to develop someone from the initial stages of nothingness and help them become something. Now, granted, these are all things I knew… in theory. Back then, I could explain exactly how to do it, and when I accepted the Head Coaching position for the Bahamas Judo Federation, the President of the Federation, Mr. D’Arcy Rahming basically said, “Well, then do it!”
It’s a tough job. The hard part about the grassroots coaching process is that while we are so focused on the students we still need someone to focus on us, and that’s my reason for producing this book. I know that as you continue to pour out into your students every day, you still need someone to pour into you, someone to encourage you, someone to help you grow, and someone to push you forward to higher levels of excellence. This is because your pursuits are no longer about how many kids win medals at nationals, or how many medals you can win, your pursuit is about developing quality individuals who grow up to be good citizens, who move their way through the stages of the belt developmental system; from white belt to yellow belt to orange belt to green belt to blue belt to purple belt to brown belt to black belt to the point where they become an expert, an exemplar in judo, so that they can teach someone else – and do what you’re doing.
Your goal is to develop good people and to be an example for that development and, believe it or not, it’s a tough job. It’s a lot tougher than sitting in the chair at the World Championships coaching somebody through the rounds of a tournament. That is also a tough job, but not as tough as sitting in that dojo day after day and week after week adding to and creating the population which your country will access in order to choose their representatives on the world stages. The things I’m about to tell you in the pages of this book are the things I tell people often… in fact, all the time. Many of us are competitors for a short period of time, but the truth is, most of us will coach much longer than we will compete. I would like to say thank you for picking up this book. I’d like to say thank you for listening. I’d like to say thank you for giving Dr. Ferguson a try, and I would also like to say thank you so much for doing what you do day in and day out, teaching the young people, young adults and adults inside of your dojo. You decided to take a leadership position, not only by running a business or running a program or developing a curriculum, but also by putting the responsibility of creating more practitioners in our beloved sport of judo on your back. I say thank you. I appreciate you, and let’s move on and learn with each other in the spirit of mutual welfare and mutual benefit as I go over the grassroots coaches’ 10 commandments for coaching success.