“The Coach is More Than a Mechanical Magician!”
Prof. H. G. Robby Robinson
An awesome undertaking is when a coach takes on the responsibility of becoming part of a student’s life, and more than likely, that student will take away from a coach’s teaching a piece of the rock, part of his or her solid foundation and building material towards growing and maturing and eventually taking their place in society. That is a fact of life. Learning is forever and begins at birth when the unique innateness of a new born takes over and we slowly witness the development of what is called individual personality.
In a world where posturing occurs at all levels of society, most often a person asks, “What’s in it for me!” There are as many answers as there are people. Is that phrase, “What’s in it for me” negative or is there something than can be derived out of those words that translate into a positive meaning?
For a moment, let us return back to individual personalities. One of the most satisfying rewards any coach, especially in the case of martial arts coaches, volunteering his or her talents, is an insight on each and every student, their differences and similarities. It is an amazing revelation.
What is even more amazing is when an effective program is able to mold children, who are like sponges and watch them absorb, through practice, all the principles of good conduct, courage and many other virtues we expect in adults.
What is in it for the coach may be difficult to grasp from a tangible standpoint. However, I am going to tell a story and let you, the reader, decide what a student and a coach derive from each other.
In 1985, I departed Hawaii after serving with the United States Navy at Barbers Point as the Director, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DMWR) (1) and arrived in Pensacola, Florida.
Because the drinking age on NAS was going to be changed from age 18 to 21 (2), I decided it would be an opportune time to begin another Judo program … this time at Corry Station. After speaking to the Command Master Chief, the Judo program began and in less than one year, the NAS’s “Warriors” Judo Program was the second largest club in Florida and the largest military club in the nation!
We had a great time! The Navy MWR provided and hosted frequent tournaments and clinics, resulting in our students winning title after title in Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast, while our club’s membership kept growing.
In August 1989, I received word that the Department of the Army was interested in hiring me for an MWR position in the Republic of Korea (ROK). It was initially a 1 year tour. Little did I realize then that it would be almost 17 years before I returned home to Pensacola.
I experienced many highlights during those 17 years, to include my marriage to Renee and the birth of my daughter Jasmine in 2003. I wanted to watch and assist with Jasmine’s early years, so I decided to temporarily retire from civil services as a GS-13 and resume my career again in 3–5 years.
During the years after leaving Pensacola, I frequently came across a small bundle of holiday wrapping paper. It was decorated with red, yellow and orange hearts. Each time I saw this little package I thought back to the day it was given to me, an occasion that I will never forget. Only my wife Renee knows this story and I believe she fully understands the importance how much being a coach means, especially to me. Now I share it with all of you.
In this little bundle, no large than 2 ˝ inches wide and close to 7 inches long, rests a little boy’s going away present to his coach. The Judo class understood that I was leaving to provide support for the military troops assigned to defend the ROK. We had the party on the Judo mat in the Wetzel gymnasium on Corry station.
I remember that day clearly. There was practically no room to stand with all the parents there and command staff. When all the cards were read and nice words said, with the kids boasting what a great club the “Corry King Cobras” were, one of the youngest students came up and tugged at my sleeve. His name, if I recall correctly, was Ronald. We called him Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was at least 6 or 7 years old and not very tall, but he was a tiger on the mat. His mother was a janitor and didn’t make much income. I never turned anyone away and took little Ronaldo on, paid for his annual USJA membership, purchased his Judo Gi at JR’s and paid his monthly fees.
As I sit here trying to recall these past events, it is difficult because of the hundreds of children that have gone by as I transitioned from one place to another. Usually a coach will remember the student who was the fiercest, boldest, champion medal winner, but Ronaldo, I will remember for an even more important reason!
Tugging at my sleeve, I looked down and there he was, all smiles, as if he had a secret he was about to tell me. You know what I mean, those of you with children his age.
Ronaldo reached inside his shirt and took out this little package I described earlier and handed it to me. I asked him, jokingly, if it was going to bite me! He smiled and scoffed, “No”! I then looked around for his mother and saw her and she just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know what he is up to”. I took the little bundle from his tiny hands and noticed how he addressed it.
Ronaldo had taken a piece of used decorated wrapping paper and turned it around to the blank side and as carefully as a 6 -7 year old is able to accomplish, he cut out a piece with scissors and glued it to the top of his present he just handed to me.
He had hand written, apparently with no outside help, “To Siensy” (I took that to mean Sensei) and below that he printed, with difficulty – “from Ronaldo”! I said thank you again and he stood there waiting for me to open this little flat package. Actually, I pulled out another flat wrapped package that was inside the outer cover.
As I write this now, I am looking down at the contents that have remained with me these many years covering thousands and thousands of miles. Inside was a little boy’s blue neck tie! I heard his mother make some noise and when I looked towards her she had her hand across her mouth and she was crying!
Well, I went over to her and asked what was wrong? She said, “Nothing was wrong. Ronaldo gave you his only tie. The one he wears to church every Sunday!” You could have heard a pin drop. In that room, at that instant, Ronaldo’s mom was not the only person with tears in their eyes!
I remember walking slowly back to the center of the mat trying to think of the right thing to say. Instead I just picked Ronaldo up and gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek. I said, “Thank you Rolando, I will keep this with me forever and that way I’ll always have you with me, and when you go to church on Sunday and someone asks you where your tie is, you tell them it went to Korea with your coach to keep him safe!”
So, what are the benefits of coaching? For some it is monetary and for others, it’s the right thing to do. No further explanations required.
(1)At that time the position was called Military Services Officer or MSO. Then to the Recreational Services Officer and finally to its present title DMWR. Although titles change in time, Quality of Life programming and challenges do not. With longer deployments, increased numbers of single parents and geographical bachelors, the challenges for a commanding officer are even more demanding than ever.
(2) Historically, when the drinking age has been raised on installations from 18 to 21, it has resulted in a significant drop in revenue income to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) nonappropriated fund. As a former DMWR it was easy to forecast imminent financial disaster.