The USA Today headline screamed, “Was your child’s coach banned for sexual misconduct? Better Check.” The article went on to explain the serious and all too common problem of people with a past that includes violent crimes against children remaining in coaching positions. The article highlighted the case of a USA Taekwondo association member and practicing coach and dojo owner who was convicted of a lewd and lascivious assault on a child years earlier. The state of Florida suspended the coach’s license, but the coach still worked with children- for years. Yes, you read that right. A convicted child abuser currently owns, operates, and teaches children at his martial arts school.

We’re sure you’ll find that as disturbing as we do, and that’s it’s important that you know how to choose the right martial arts school for your child. We’ve owned and operated our martial arts school in Columbus for over 30 years, and in that time, we’ve seen great martial arts programs, and we’ve seen programs that are quite frankly scary. To help you weed through the options, we’ve pulled together a list of things you should look for when choosing a program. And here’s a hint: it’s not the cheapest school.

  1. Are the instructors all credentialed?

Anyone working with children should have the right credentials to do so. Whether it’s in a childcare provider role or a sports coaching role, anyone working with children should be credentialed and have undergone a state-run background check. Be sure to ask about both when you’re looking for a martial arts program.

  1. How long have the instructors been teaching?

Experience impacts outcomes. New programs with very young, inexperienced instructors usually provide inferior results. After all, programs with inexperienced instructors are just one step up from an organized play activity in a daycare or after school setting- no real value is being delivered. We often see this happening in the less expensive, student-mill type programs. (where your child is just a monthly tuition to the owners)

  1. Can you find any word of mouth references for the school?

A positive recommendation or endorsement is the best compliment any business can have. Recommendations and endorsement are also unbiased and extremely trustworthy. When you’re looking for a martial arts program, ask around to see if you have family members or friends who can recommend one. Or, if you visit the programs you’re considering, talk to parents as they’re dropping off and picking their children up. Ask them how long they’ve been with that particular school and if they’d recommend it. Once they say they would or wouldn’t, dig deeper and ask why.

  1. When you talk to the school’s staff, what is their attitude like?

The attitude of the staff at a martial arts school can tell you so much. If a staff member is short with you when you ask questions, you can bet they will be short with your child when you’re not around. Likewise, a checked out or disinterested attitude can signal that the owner is not invested in their businesses, staff, or students. (Remember how we mentioned student-mills?) Therefore, we always recommend parents talk to the coaching staff before enrolling their child in a program, and attitude is one thing you must pay attention to.

  1. How do the instructors interact with the children?

Once you’ve enrolled your child in a martial arts program, hang out and watch a class or two. Notice how your child is treated. Keep in mind that respect and routine are at the heart of any martial arts program, so instructors will ask a great deal of your child. But the good ones will do so with love, kindness, and encouragement, which in turn helps your child grow. Good instructors will NOT be harsh with your child, nor will they be informal or too casual.

  1. If you decided to enroll your child in a martial arts program, are you seeing results?

Once your child is in a program, be on the lookout for positive results. With time, you should be able to see that regular attendance is helping your child burn off excess energy, maintain focus on school work, and build confidence.

  1. Does your child look forward to going to class?

Sure, everybody has off days. But overall, does your child look forward to going to class? Are they happy when they leave class? Can you see that they are making friends and feeling comfortable in class? Or, does your child continually make excuses to get out of going each week? If find yourself saying yes to the latter, it’s probably time to consider a different martial arts school or program.

As the USA Today headline says, you need to make sure your child is in the right martial arts program. A good program will often be a little more expensive but worth it. Besides being a safe program, a good program will have experienced and credentialed instructors who genuinely care about your child, and it will show in the way your child thrives.

 If you would like to talk to me about our program or you have questions about finding a good program, please let me know.

Until next time,

Shihan Rodger Pyle