By Andrew Moshanov
It is hardly an overstatement to say that youth is the future. Most combat sports and martial arts clubs are trying to offer classes for young children. It is common to see advertisements such as welcoming kids of all ages.
This is more than a global trend, it is a reflection of the severe competition between the sports for membership. It is a matter of their sustainability and for many clubs, it is a matter of survival.
As for coaches, many are driven by the dream of finding the raw diamond that they can shape so for it to shine like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. However, what comes with recruiting little kids and toddlers into the sports clubs – is a great deal of responsibility. Not to mention that the shaping of a future star like Ronda Rousey in the aspect of coaching is similar to the shaping of a diamond. It is extremely difficult and requires specialized knowledge and technique.
While many coaches are genuinely trying to do their best while running the youth classes, we cannot ignore the fact that many of them must be doing something fundamentally wrong at some stage, given the fact that 80% of the kids drop off the sports around age of 12.
Perhaps, the principle that questions need to be answered are – what to teach and how to teach, and no less important question is – when to teach. At IMMAF, The Youth Development concept is based on understanding a few general global trends and is tailored around the realities of today.
The main point for this is that the level of the general health of the young generation is seeing a decline due to the challenges of the modern era of high tech. Therefore, kids are less active and are consequently less developed. Nowadays what is seen as exceptional talent would have been the norm 50 years ago. But the truth is that everyone is a talent – it just needs to be nurtured and shaped.
Coaches working with the younger generation have a huge challenge on their plate – before they can even think of teaching the sport, they need to address the gaps in the kids’ general development. Therefore, coaches need to be fully equipped with the methodology of identification of these health gaps, trained to be able to design the programs to include the sets of beneficial and appropriate exercises and of course, be the top experts in their field of mixed martial arts.
There is nothing wrong with adverts such as “Kids ages 4-9 are welcome”. It is great, as long as there is a responsible, knowledgeable and properly trained coach, who will not rush them into early competition chasing the bag of medals. A coach who will take really good care of the development of the young children.
IMMAF will be rolling out a big program of youth development from 2022.
We are confident that we can lead the way for many combat sports as we are always prepared to collaborate. Firstly, we will continue to assist national federations to build a task force capable of doing the job.
Another level of IMMAF coaching competency has been formulated and taken shape as Youth IMMAF Coach. A few pilots took place in Russia earlier this year (20th-22nd of October) and in Romania (21st -22nd of November), with the final one in Greece on December 10th-12th. Now we are ready to offer national federations the next level of coach education and certification program.
Secondly, IMMAF is ready to share with all national federations the best practices and other projects, run by the renown experts in youth development, such as Danny Corr of Northern Ireland and his extraordinary program “Fight-to-Unite”, which helps youngsters involved with crime start in MMA to mitigate violence in the younger generations
Also, Richie Cranny of Australia will be piloting a national youth development project, which can gain momentum and expand on the wave of excitement with the new opportunity of Olympics 2032 coming to Brisbane.
So in short – the future is bright.