Sunday, July 17, 2005

Disciplining athletes

The Joongang online had an article recently about problems with sports coaching in Korea. There is still a lot of 'old school' coaching in Korea where training resembles military bootcamp (and yes, I do mean Korean military). The article describes coaches using physical punishment on their athletes. I think this kind of punishment starts with extended periods of duckwalking (waddling around in a deep squat) and continues to coaches who "punched and kicked their athletes for no other reason than losing a match to others."

Before I get into my thoughts on sports training, I was amused/horrified by the report of the Korea Skating Union. Parents were upset that the coach hired used violence but also that he fabricated competition results. Violence could be a relative term but changing the results is fraud and only a country that recommends taxing bribes would allow such an appointment.

I wrote above that violence was relative. I want to be clear that I don't accept coaches punching or kicking their athletes but my taekwondo instructor used duckwalking as a training exercise (or so he said, maybe I was just gullible and he was having fun with the foreign class). Intense physical training feels a lot like punishment sometimes. I remember waking up in the middle of the night when I was a speed swimmer, afraid of the amount of butterfly I might have to do the next morning.

Of course, using swimming as a punishment for swimmers is counter-intuitive. Unruly swimmers were a challenge for me to deal with as a coach because I couldn't bring myself to think of giving them extra swimming as a kind of punishment. Making athletes do more exercise really doesn't seem to me to be that much of a punishment. I ended up kicking (no, not literally, this post is about my humane methods of coaching) them out of the practice. If they truly loved swimming, not being able to swim was the best response I could think of and if they didn't like swimming, then we were both happy they were gone.

What I really want to learn about Korean sports training is how their theory of stretching works. In Canada and, I think, the US, long (30 second) static (not bouncing) stretches are encouraged and short, bouncing stretching is considered a way to tear muscle. We are taught to stretch to the point of discomfort and hold that pose for half a minute. Koreans are taught to stretch to the point of extreme pain and to bounce their stretches (usually on the even numbers, counting "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,2,2,3,4,5,6,7,8"). Canadians are taught that feeling extreme pain means we are damaging the muscle and it will, in fact, shorten: exactly the opposite result of what we want.

Please, if you have comments of stretching or other aspects of Korean sports training, leave a comment.


Mike said...

Congratulations on the birth of your son! My baby girl is now 19 and my baby boy...all 6'1" & 250lbs of him, is now 16. I was fortunate enough to assist with both births. Having kids was undoubtedly the best experience I've ever had, in spite of the ups and downs. It really is all positive.

I haven't read the McGuffins book but it is now on my to buy list. Our local rag, the London Free Press, ran daily updates while they were on their journey.

I have read a couple of books by Thor Heyderahl about his Pacific raft trips. That was back in the 70's.

I haven't been in a canoe for a couple of years now and I will have to remedy that. The feeling of drifting through quiet nature in an isolated bit of water, feeds the soul incredibly.

You Have a great blog with interesting and diverse postings.

Once again all the best to you and yours!

kwandongbrian said...

Well thanks, Mike.

I had hoped to get into a canoe last December but the lake -Georgian Bay - froze too quickly and so did the smaller rivers; it was a cold Christmas.

Your blog is titled 'Korea bound'. Are you due to visit sometime soon?

Mike said...

Hi Brian... I hope to arrive in the first part of 2006. I plan on teaching English in one form or another.

Like many, I'm not a real teacher and because of that I've never taught. I've been working for the railway here in London for the last 15 years. Around the time I started making my Korea plans, about 18 months ago, I ended up having both my kids move in with me. My daughter will be nearly 21 when she moves out within about a year. My son will be 18 around then. I had another Korea talk with my son recently, and he claims he is not leaving London. He says that if I move to Korea he is getting a job and finding his own living arrangements. I really would like him to come to Korea, after I have been there for 2 or 3 months.

At this point, I'm not sure how it will all work out, but I am committed to Korea...the pros outweigh the cons on a number of fronts.

What do you think, do you have an opinion or any advice?

kwandongbrian said...

I just want any lurkers to know that I am not ignoring Mike's request. I have emailed him with some advice about moving to Korea to become an ESL teacher and a suggestion to continue the thread by email.

I think that I know a fair bit about ESL teaching in Korea - perhaps I don't know that much of value to others about ESL - but I do know a little about how teaching it works here. I may make a full post about it one day but it particularly doesn't fit in with the athletes post so I took it offline.