ATA Tournaments – Should I/my child compete?

ata-tournament-pictureNot every student likes to compete, and that’s okay. However, there are some incredible mental benefits to competition, and there’s no better place to learn that than ATA tournaments!

One of the best explanations I’ve seen is on ATA’s website (http://www.ataonline.com/tournaments). However, let me take a shot at explaining why…
1. ATA tournaments successfully reward BOTH participation and competitive excellence!
2. Competition, at some point of life, is inevitable. How do we prepare for it?
3. Make friends, from other schools, other states, or other countries!
4. The “tournament bug” that motivates everyone to work harder.

1. ATA tournaments successfully reward BOTH participation and competitive excellence!
You’ve seen it on someone’s Facebook post: “I don’t want to grow up in a world where every kid got a trophy for just participating, or just showing up.”
Yet, if you’re the parent of an uncoordinated kid, you know difficult it is for a kid’s self-esteem when they’re always picked last for sports.
How do we teach kids to strive for excellence, without damaging the kids who aren’t there yet? We reward BOTH participation, and excellence, separately! At ATA tournaments, every child gets a reward just for participating, but there are still awards for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in any event!
Students are also placed with their own age/belt rank/gender divisions, so it’s not like an 8 year old yellow belt will be competing with a 12 year old black belt. There are also 4 different events for Black Belt Trainers to compete in, and 8 for Leadership! So there are many different events where a student might excel, but no matter what, they will be rewarded just for participation, if not for placing!
The average ring at a regional tournament is between 5 and 10 competitors. Some will be smaller, some will be bigger. Friends will be made 🙂
2. Competition, at some point of life, is inevitable. How do we prepare for it?
At some point, our kids will apply for a job, a job that other people want. They will have to compete for it, and they will have to a) learn to strive for excellence in order to get it, and b) Learn not to be discouraged or how to handle discouragement if they don’t get it.
At some point, our kids might ask someone out, or express romantic interest in someone. They’ll have to place themselves out there, and be able to show why they would be an excellent companion, moreso than the next guy/girl. (For the record, we are not qualified to teach those skills to your child. Maybe we’ll get someone to teach a seminar. No, I’m just kidding, I promise.)
At some point, they will strive for SOMETHING in life that someone else wants. So if they have to learn this skill, ATA competition is a GREAT place to start.
3. Make friends, from other schools, other states, or other countries!
One of my favorite aspects of ATA tournaments is when students and families get to see that ATA is bigger than just their school. I’ve gotten to watch many of our students make friends that they look forward to seeing next tournament! (For some reason, I befriended a lot of Canadians in my younger tournament years. Those friendships continue today!)
One of my favorite aspects was the after-tournament Red Robin run we would always make. But that was our thing. Perhaps your family will make friends, and eventually have your own after-tournamant tradition?
4. The “tournament bug” that motivates everyone to work harder.
No matter how motivated someone is in their training, there is something magical about the “tournament bug”.
I can’t explain it. From the “slacker” to the “A-game” student, everyone starts training a LOT harder after a tournament.
It’s usually because, whether they got last or first, they can’t wait for the next one.

So finally, in short: Tournaments are not mandatory. The martial arts journey, pursuing excellence, personal development, going through the belt ranks, these are about “you vs. you”. You don’t have to beat all of the green belts in battle to get your purple belt, and getting your purple belt doesn’t actually mean that you’re more skilled than a green belt (it means you’re more knowledgable, perhaps).
But tournament is where it is now you vs. him/her. It’s you vs. a competitor. And while this is optional, there are still incredible benefits to it, and it will take your martial arts experience to a whole new level.
I hope to see you guys all at Chief Master Cho’s tournament in Edmonds, WA on February 25th, and Master Duer/Mrs. Pleu’s tournament with Special Guest 9th DEGREE BLACK BELT GRAND MASTER IN HO LEE on March 10th and 11th!

See you there!
-Carson Clews

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