Piloted in 2017 thanks to a donation of 12 tatami and 400 judogis from the International Judo Federation, USA Judo partnered with Somerset Academy and the Academica Charter School System to launch an afterschool program in 11 schools located in Central and South Florida.
The objective of the program is to grow judo participation in the United States by introducing the culture and sport of judo to youth in a holistic way to develop students and reduce trending concerns among youth including physical fitness, overall health, bullying, respect for self and others, peer engagement, excelling in studies and more.
The majority of the programs are based in charter (private) schools as after school programs. The ages for these program range from 8 to 15 years. One school does offer competitive instructive and students attend shiai competitions across the United States.
There are two public school programs ranging from 7 to 19 years of age that offer classes as part of the their curriculum for school credit. Both schools offer competitive judo and also travel to shiai competitions.
The public high school program has its own dedicated class room called the “Dojo”. Here permanent mats (tatami’s) are down as well as posters and study guides for judo codes and techniques. There are currently 500+ student athletes on the mat participating in this program in 15 schools in Florida, Kentucky, Utah and California. New programs in Arizona, Colorado and Texas are expected to launch in the next few months.
For those student athletes who continue to progress in their school judo program and would like to pursue a more competitive path, USA Judo assists in locating a private judo dojo in their area for this purpose.
In addition to teaching the moral code and values of judo, students are encouraged to demonstrate these values by their actions and demeanor toward other students, whether they are in the judo program or not.
At the high school, students are encouraged to participate in structured demonstrations at other schools in their area to promote judo.
It is very difficult to place a program in schools in the United States without the support of the administrator of the school. We must educate the administrators on what judo is, the safety of judo for children as well as the benefits of judo on and off the mat.
Funding also continues to be a challenge. Without financial assistance, schools are faced with how to compensate teachers/coaches, purchase mats and provide gis to students in those schools where the students are unable to pay fees for the judo program.
In addition to continuing to place judo in both private, charter and public schools across the United States, we are working to create collaborative and competitive school leagues which would include camps, clinics and competitions at the local, regional and national levels