I usually don’t watch any reality show, but I make exception for The Ultimate Fighter series, where contestants compete for the UFC contract. I just had a chance to watch an episode, which featured Andy Wong vs. Brandon Melendez.
One of things they highlighted on the episode was Coach BJ Penn’s reaction as he watched Andy refused to use his grappling skills that he is known for. I could hear Penn screaming to “Take him down” repeatedly. Despite that, he stubbornly stayed on feet and traded fists against Brandon who is clearly a superior striker, only to find himself losing at the end of the match.
I can kind of relate to Andy’s stubbornness. His reasoning for taking this action was that because he got knocked down by a hard punch in the beginning of the match, he wanted to get back on his opponent by knocking him down, too. Logic aside, I can kind of understand why he felt that way, being pretty stubborn myself.
But more than that, I could really relate to Coach Penn’s frustration, being a coach myself. I have coached Lehigh University Taekwondo Team for past several years.
A coach’s job is to teach and train students and trainees to the best of his ability and prepare them for the showdown. During the process, a coach usually gets to know the strength and the weakness and try to train in a way to best utilize the strength while covering the weakness. The basic role of a coach is the same, whether the stage happens to be a octagon ring or a Taekwondo tournament.
Unfortunately once a competitor steps into a ring, there is very little that a coach can do. Sure, I can scream my lungs out in hoping to encourage him to push a little harder or remind him of tactics as Coach Penn did (which I do). And I have a short time between rounds to quickly give him some advices and encouragements. But that’s about it. Caches are powerless otherwise.
In my case, I don’t find a competitor not doing something out of stubbornness like Coach Penn did (I don’t think). Instead, I see many that are unable to do things in a ring that I know they are capable of. Often I know that he can move faster and kick harder than what I see during a match. It is especially frustrating when he loses by a small margin, knowing that he could’ve easily come out on top, if he fought to his potential.
Regardless of my frustration, the truth is that being in a ring isn’t exactly same as being at the training floor, no matter how much I try to simulate it for them. Unfamiliar opponents, time limits, mental pressure to win, fatigue from long wait for our turn, etc…any of these can affect the performance. And it’s not unusual for a student to be thinking that he’s moving as fast as he can and hitting as hard as he can, only to agree with me later when watching his match on video that he could’ve done better.
Sadly, I can’t effectively train my students to prepare for these things. They need to figure these things out through their own experiences by competing in as many tournaments as possible, and those who are successful at it have better chance of winning.
Meanwhile, all I can do is to train them to the best of my ability and hope that they mature quickly. Unfortunately, “hoping” can get pretty darn frustrating sometimes.