We’ve all dealt with “phantom injuries” from kids in our martial arts program that prevent them from sparring. You know, the ones with generic unprovable symptoms that tend to show up right when it is time to put on sparring gear are then miraculously healed when dodgeball comes around? Lets talk about what to actually do about that.
You have to approach it from this understanding: Sometimes, kids don’t want to tell you the real reason they are upset, scared or nervous. Left unchecked, this will transfer into adulthood. How many adults have you met that mask their problems with excuses? So with that in mind, you need to ask yourself: Why are they really scared?
Well the answer seems pretty obvious: Something is wrong! They either had an incident where they were hit too hard, they were overwhelmed mentally, or they don’t feel competent in their ability to spar and are anxious about it. This is their way of dealing with that feeling.
Solution: First speak to the child and see if you can get a real reason. Do this later when it isn’t fresh on their mind and in private.
Ex. “Hey Billy, I noticed you don’t seem to be enjoying sparring.” Let them speak. You may have to prod a bit more, “Is there anything in sparring you feel you aren’t good at, or that you don’t like?” They will spill the beans and hopefully give you what you need to go on.
Next, tell the parent what is going on, why you think it may be going on and that you are going to boost their confidence with a free private lesson. Put them one on one with you or another instructor and build their confidence with drills. After this initial problem is solved, you can address the “masking” issue. Explain to the child (and parent) that if he/she ever feels unsure about something, it is OK to talk to the instructor and let them know. 99% of the time the problem completely goes away.
If you are having this issue come up frequently, check your ratio of drills to freesparring. I like to do about 80/20 drills/freesparring with beginner/intermediates because we want them to feel confident in their ability to execute techniques, block, etc.. without getting hurt. Too much freesparring will not give a chance for those who are weak sparers to build confidence. Sparring should be something they look forward to, and too many novice instructors ruin the chance to build a true love for sparring by setting weak students up to fail.
If you are looking for sparring drills to boost their confidence you can check out our Facebook or endlessmartialartdrills.com youtube channel for free videos, or purchase one of our products from the worlds largest source of martial arts drills- www.endlessmartialartsdrills.com. I hope this helps you run a successful program at your school!