Wow, I received plenty of email yesterday. Thank you everyone for your thoughts. The good news, I think, is that we are at least temporarily back on track. Last night we met with Adrian and discussed our concerns about Graham and Sydney. The good news is that Adrian appears to be seeing the same issues that we are. It is good to know that we are not completely blinded by the unreality in which we live. Their sparring skills have definitely deteriorated over the last few months and, as Adrian has pointed out, it looks like it is due to a sheer lack of worthy competition - competition from those the see as equals. They spar all of the time but the problem is that they are spending none of it with worthy adversaries. Their is no competition at their level within the team and even the teams we practice with are pretty sparse.
This issue is complicated by the fact that those that are above them in expertise go extraordinarily easy on them. In the end, they don't get challenged. They never push the envelope on their skills. It just seems to go on automatic pilot - no intensity and no drive. This is exactly what has happened and this is exactly what we see in competition.
So, how do we fix it?
Well, we came up with several plans, some of which I mentioned yesterday. However, as is usually the case, once we got more brains around the subject we came up with some truly brilliant ideas. We came up with challenges and competitions between Graham and Sydney to help them get to the next level. First off, they now have a weekly competition amongst each other. Whoever works hardest and gives the best effort during sparring over the week will win an all expense paid date alone with either Mommy or Daddy. We will also be awarding effort for each practice with smaller things like picking out the dessert after dinner.
The second thing we did was that we met with the higher belts and asked them to bring up their level of play against Graham and Sydney. Essentially we asked them to fight as hard as they could against them. No, we did not ask them to kick as hard as they could or to make as many head shots as they possibly could but, we did ask that they bring full speed and intensity. It is ultimately this challenge that will make them better. They will fail - a lot. After all, they are fighting bigger kids with several more years of experience. However, if they learn to fight with that level of intensity, it will push them ahead more quickly.
The new rules began last night and I can tell you both kids fought better than I have seen in months - probably ever. I can also tell you that if they had fought with that level of intensity on Sunday they both would have won easily. Don't get me wrong, last night they both lost the matches with the more experienced fighters but they did score on them. Furthermore, as the bouts went on, they got better and better.
The change in intensity fueled Sydney but for Graham it was more difficult. He fought through a bunch of fear and tears. However, he did make it through and although their was significant whining he still ended up doing better than I remember. It is hard to make that sweet heart mad but that is exactly what he needs right now. He needs to get angry. He needs to want it. This is the key to flipping the switch in his sweet little brain.
In the end, it was a great success and I have never been prouder of our kiddos. Better yet, they both came home reinvigorated and excited about Tae Kwon Do. I saw the fire in their eyes for the first time in quite awhile. Both were ready for more.
We will still be giving them a break and cutting back on their practices over the next two weeks but it was so wonderful to see them beaming with excitement. Yes, it looks like things may be getting back on track.
Like purpose, it just takes a little direction and determination.