Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Parenting Month 89: competition in youth

These past two month was dominated by competitions.  T went to a regional Taekwondo tournament, participated in a piano competition, and earned his black belt in Taekwondo. Along the way, we saw a lot of the culture around kids competitions.

Regional ATA TKD Tournament
Receiving instructions prior to sparring.

T went to a regional tournament last month. This was his second competitive tournament (meaning they award places) and much larger and more prestigious than the other one we went to in fall. But we are not competitive, so we signed up for the novice division. (as opposed to competitive). He did well, we were not expecting everything when we realized that most of the boys in his ring were in the ATA leadership program, but he got a 3rd place medal in sparring (which goes along with this 1st place medals in forms and weapons from his last tournament.)  He especially liked the fact that he met the American Taekwondo Association  Grand Master (only one of them!) and got his medals and belt signed.

Regional ATA TKD Tournament
Medals signed by Grand Master In Ho Lee
One of the things we noticed was that even though this was the novice division (as opposed to competitive, where points count over the year), most of the boys clearly had tournament experience.  The parents were very sophisticated, with several of them keeping track of judges points.  The boys were also reasonably sophisticated with outcomes. The boys were all aware that a "Spirit" award implied that they did not get any of the place awards in any category. Some of the boys were not interested at all in collecting their Spirit medals.

We also noticed that many of the "novice" boys were clearly serious about competing.  We saw a former state champion (meaning they had the most tournament points when competing in the "competitive" category in tournaments last year).  Several of the boys clearly had trained above their belt level (this was a red belt ring, and above belt level means they used moves and forms that were part of the black belt curriculum.  And our thought is why would they sign up for a novice division when they clearly usually were competitive. And if it was they were worried about being in a high prestige tournament so going novice would make the competition easier, the fact that so many others did the same thing made that fail.

Piano competitionthey
Piano Competition hosted by Chatham College

The reason we have T (and someday A) enter competitions is not because he will win. But we want him to get a sense of how good people other than the ones they saw every day could be. And that means that we do this so he can connect with the best people in real life.  And if he is going to compete with any seriousness, that means we would enter the competitive rings. He may not win, but at this point we are pretty sure that he will win his share of things as he grows up. But he will be tested in the best way possible, where he can see and be in contact with others and get an idea of how much work it takes to be very good at something. And hopefully realize that being very good at something is both possible and enjoyable.  Whether or not medals and prizes are involved.

Regional ATA TKD Tournament
Medals and belt signed by the ATA Grandmaster In Ho Lee
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