How To Be Your Own Coach

In any sport having a phenomenal instructors and coaches can make all the difference. An athlete with just raw talent can only get so far without guidance. Having someone that believes in you can shape the course of your entire life.  A strong support system builds confidence and will create a foundation for great success. There is nothing like getting feedback, praise and having someone believe in us that helps us grow. We tend to worry less when we know someone always has our back and is looking out for our best interest. Without that support you might feel like a fish out of water, alone or lost. If you are like me and have more often been the latter here are some tricks I have learned along the way in how to be your own coach.

Never settle for anything other than your best: No two Jiu Jitsu players are alike, and no two Jiu Jitsu journeys follow the same path. We are all good at some things and need to improve at others. No one is perfect. Even the best of the best. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and will only discourage you. Instead focus on being the best possible you.

Push yourself: Push yourself and learn your limits. Don’t make excuses. Don’t lie to yourself. You are stronger than you think. But listen to your body. It will tell you when it is too much.

Drill, Drill, Drill: If you have an open mat at your academy take advantage and get some teammate together and drill. Go to friend’s academies and drill with them. Take advantage of every opportunity. Do solo drills. Here are some great ones from Jason Scully.

Ask questions: If you are stuck in any area (i.e. a position or a set up) ask your instructor or coaches after class to help you. If your academy does Q&A don’t be shy and speak up. You will never get answers if you don’t ask.

Be selfish: Be assertive in your needs and don’t be afraid to express them. Being a competitor, you must be incredibly selfish. You are no longer training to help your teammates, you are preparing for battle. No one knows what you need more than you. Do what you must do to get yourself ready. Most people will understand and if they don’t than they will get over it.

Be picky picking your partners: Work with those that you know will help you improve. There is a time and place to roll with everyone. Big or small, higher belt and lower belt they are all valuable training partners. Sometimes you need to be destroyed. It may be hard on the ego, but having your game picked a part and destroyed is a necessary part of getting batter. This will help show you your weaknesses and areas you need to improve. On the flip side it is important to roll with those you that challenge you but that you can beat. This helps build your confidence. Believing you are a champion is a huge part of becoming one. Roll with those that know how to flow with you and let you play your game without muscling you. Avoid partners that are spazzy and dangerous. Last thing you want to do is get hurt especially leading up to a tournament.

Don’t take the easy way out:  If you know you are getting stuck in a position don’t just work the areas that you excel in. Working on your flaws are just as important as working on what you are good at. If you know you need to work on escaping side control than start there during positional rolling. Review your rounds in class or at previous tournaments and look for areas you excel and areas you need to improve. Once again ask for assistance from your instructor, coaches or more experienced teammates.

Supplement your training: Cross training in wrestling or Judo isn’t a bad idea. Having a full arsenal of weapons can only help you come battle time. Running, swimming and cycling are also great ways to increase your cardio for stamina. Yoga and Pilates are equally beneficial for flexibility and mobility.

Rest & Recover: Rest is just as important to training. Make sure to have rest days and take extra ones when you need to. Get massages, take Epsom salt baths, cryotherapy, etc. Do what you need to relax and recover on these days, so you can come back stronger your next training session.

You are what you eat: Your performance is largely based on the food you eat. Food is fuel. Ideally work with at dietitian or read up and find the best diet for you. Most importantly drink lots of water.

Mental training: Your mental state plays a huge part in the outcome of your matches. Take care of your mental health just as you do your physical health. And just like your physical health you must exercise it. Use visualization. Visualize your matches and how you will win them. Practice centering yourself. Practice breathing exercises. There are several awesome books that can benefit athletes. 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk is one of my personal favorites.

Believe in yourself: If you don’t believe in yourself no one will. You are not crazy if you talk to yourself in the mirror. Use positive self-talk. Devise a manta like “I am powerful, capable and can do anything I put my mind to” or something like that. Leave notes around your house with your mantras and uplifting messages for yourself. Do whatever it takes to believe you can accomplish your goal and you will. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Seeking out the approval of others won’t get you there. Believe in yourself and you will succeed.

Be your own cheerleader.: The most important love in life is self-love. Regardless of if you do or don’t have a coach or teammates that give you positive reinforcement you need find love and approval in yourself. You need to remember to self-love especially in those low moments. Don’t let the doubt demons win. Be patient with yourself. Recognize your accomplishments big and small. Each baby step got you here and will continue to get you further along. Give yourself praise. Anytime you start to have thoughts of doubt or self-pity turn your negative thoughts to thoughts of how awesome you are.

It’s go time: When competition day comes, and you don’t have a coach get your friends or teammates to rally around you and support you. Even if they may not know how to coach you having that support will help you. If you are all alone. You should be proud of yourself for being so brave. Going out there and competing is a huge accomplishment and being by yourself is a huge step in self-reliance. Make sure you have everything you need (i.e. water, music, head phones, etc.). Stay alert and get in the zone. Jiu Jitsu isn’t a team sport. With a great coach or not when you are out there it all falls on you.

Don’t be hard on yourself: Win or lose, this doesn’t change who your are our determine your value. Your value isn’t determined by medals, belts or what others think of you. Never forget to love yourself and praise yourself. This is not an easy journey and you are never alone no matter how much it can sometimes feel like it. Tomorrow is another day to try at it again. And if you need it, once again take a day off and relax. There is no point in pushing forward if you are not mentally in the right place. Take a day clear your thoughts, meditate and then get back to it.

Invest in yourself: Ultimately this is your journey. You can make it into anything you want it to be. Invest in your journey and do what you need to do to make it what you want it to be.



 Shama Ko

Girls in Gis staff writer

Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX.  She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003.  She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.

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