One thing which compounds the madness which is my October is the fact that my volunteer coaching gig starts on the first Saturday of the month, roughly coinciding with the start of the incredibly busy season on the job. Today, after getting three hours of sleep, I took the subway down to Manhattan to get to the dojo. The kids and parents had an orientation session to begin the season, a session which I could skip, being an old hand at this sort of thing. According to the schedule e-mailed to me by the athletic coordinator, we were supposed to have one judo class, a group of six, seven, and eight year old girls. I arrived about a half-hour before class was to begin, so I could see all of the other coaches and catch up on the local scuttlebutt.
I was surprised to see that the dojo was full of young girls, a smattering of parents, and my friend Suzy, who had been promoted from soccer coach to athletic director. This was an unexpected change, but I managed to line the girls up, distributed gis to them, and give them a very basic overview of the sport. Luckily, a good number of the older girls had been with us last year. A few minutes into my spiel, the other coaches started filtering in... Frenchy, Kickass Sue, Big Al, and the Moroccan George Clooney. Gentle Jimmy G. arrived at the end of the class- he comes after work mainly to beat us up, more than to teach the kids. We spent the rest of the class teaching the girls zenpo kaiten ukemi by having them roll over those big inflatable exercise balls. The balls force the kids to maintain a proper form, and remove some of the intimidation factor of the rolls:
The next period, we had a group of eight year-old boys. I instantly took a liking to two new kids who just had a great attitude and worked well together on their introduction to the sport. We went over falling techniques then taught them basic kuzushi, the proper grips to use while fighting and the means by which they can unbalance an opponent. They were a really great group.
Today, the program's start was a bit hectic, and much of the confusion was due to the older counselors being absent while taking the SAT, the three hour 'permanent record' examination which plays a large part in determining which colleges or universities will accept the testee (snicker). Most of the counselors present today were newly minted- kids who had gone through the program as students and had been hired to chaperone the students from activity to activity. I made sure to take them aside and tell them the big secret which nobody ever told them as students... the counselors, even though they are teenagers, outrank the adult coaches. The counselors make the program run smoothly, and if they need to pull rank if a coach is going overtime, they shouldn't even hesitate. That's a pretty big trip for a sixteen year old- yeah, you outrank the men and women who are old enough to be your parents.
After the program, I got a ride back to the Bronx from Gentle Jimmy G. and drove home from the subway station. I had enough time to take an hour-long nap and wolf down a quick lunch before heading off to work. I'm pretty beat now, as I will be for the rest of the month, but I wouldn't change things. Why do I do it? Why do I juggle volunteering and work on Saturdays? I'm going to riff off a line from Hillary Clinton... looking around at a bunch of small children in neat white uniforms rolling over large inflatable balls this morning, I told myself, "I've got a basket, a basket of adorables."