Friday, 26 December 2014

It's been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it ;)

In the past several weeks Facebook has been encouraging members to reflect upon their year based on the pictures and status updates.  I think Zackerburg did not do a decent job of showing all that happened, so I have decided to do one on my own… in my blog.

The general consensus among my athletes, parents and colleagues is that 2014 went by too fast.  While I try to understand the concept of time in all its mysteries, we can agree that each of us is allotted 24 hours and that time moves the same for everyone.  However, what is important is what we do with the time available to us.

The year started with Canada Open in Montreal where some of the top athletes from North America, South America and even as far as Taiwan and Australia were in attendance.  Our athletes fought against some of the top Athletes winning Gold in the Cadet division and many other matches while gaining valuable experience.

Josh Cleghorn, 2014 Canada Open Cadet Champion

The most valuable lesson we took away from Canada Open was that if you are going to drop significant weight prior to the tournament it is important to give yourself ample time then replenish with proper nutrients.  Sounds like a rudimentary lesson but an important one nonetheless.  

We took the lessons from Canada Open and applied them to US Open the following week.  US Open is one of the most prestigious Taekwondo events in the world, where more than 70 countries and 2000 athletes compete in a 4 day event.  We had 4 athletes attending this event and we walked away with one gold in the Junior division and 1 Silver in the Cadet division.

Dylan Nadler, 2014 US Open Junior Champion

March was an exciting month as we had prepared for the Youth Olympic Game (YOG) Qualifications for more than a year in advance.  All the preparation to qualify our athletes division by gaining points internationally, competing nationally then representing Canada and securing a spot in Taiwan.  The lessons from this trip is not only in competition but Geography, culture and teamwork.

Taipei city is beautiful

Taiwan was a beautiful country with great food and friendly people.  People spoke English well and kept their streets, stores and neighborhoods clean..  The food was exceptional as we treated ourselves to healthy yet delicious food on a regular basis.  We enjoyed hotpot almost daily as we prepared for competition.  Dylan's first match was against Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Dylan fought well, took the lead in the first round, gave up some points in the second round and tried to catch up in the third but not enough to prove our win.  

April we attended some local games where refereeing continues to be a problem but with the help of experienced Ontario ref’s we will slowly rid the problem.  Though, the association needs to play a greater role in creating an environment for all participants to thrive which includes the athletes, coaches and referees.  

The Canadian National championships were held in Toronto in the beautiful Westin Harbour Castle hotel.  This was an important game for Cadets as it would ultimately decide who would end up representing Canada at the first world Cadet championships held in Baku, Azerbaijan.  While all our Cadets fought with intensity, Josh Cleghorn cruised through his division, representing Canada and also becoming team captain.  Congrats in following in the footsteps of your teachers, champions and leaders.

Team meeting at Nationals

July was an exciting month as most of our athletes were training in Korea for several weeks and ended the trip with competing at the Korea Open.  One of our athletes, Josh Cleghorn, was preparing for World Cadet championships.  While the world championships were being held in Azerbaijan, Master Ali Ghafour was getting ready to marry his long time girlfriend.  July was a month of celebrations, training and learning.

Josh and Dylan trade jerseys with Ausie athletes
Sean training in Korea
Gianluca and Dylan before the next practice

Friends who push each other in training and competition

September and October brought the beginning of another academic year and a new era of fighting for most of our juniors who were preparing to fight seniors.  It’s a big step forward but our athletes were ready for this challenge as they faced their rivals.  One by one, they proved their ability to sustain grueling exchanges and end up on top.  A new beginning in a new class but our juniors demonstrate veteran skills by taking Gold in several divisions.   While our athletes proved their athletic abilities, they were also put up to new challenges coaching and mentoring the next generation of competitors.

Team meating after the Junior and Senior provincials

October was also a tragic month as I lost my father who was suffering from Dementia and Alzeheimers.  Watching my father’s casket being lowered into the grave was probably one of the most difficult moments of my life.  Though, I am happy to say that my father lived a fulfilling life who sacrificed everything to escape the war in Afghanistan and allow his children to live a better life and better opportunities.  I think my father would have been proud during his funeral ceremony as we transcended cultural, religious and even gender boundaries.

My father and I waiting for our flight to Toronto (1989)

As most of my athletes, parents and colleagues showed up at the mosque and  despite our religious difference, their presence gave me great emotional support. I thank them for it as it allowed me to give greater support to my family in our time of need.  I realized my family is much bigger and these individuals are an important part of mine and each other’s life.  These athletes will steer each other to success through perseverance and a unshakeable belief in themselves and each other.  The good times are easy, it's the tough times that count.  That is when the quality of an individual is tested... through hard times.

My Taekwondo Family

The way we behave today will be the traditions of tomorrow

As the lessons continue to pile up, the best lesson was saved for last.  As one Cadet athlete summed it up with a little quote “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, some people just hate peaches”.  As Dylan and I went to Pan Am Open Taekwondo championships in Portland, Ore. where he beat current US National champion.   As he was fighting the second National team member, the ref decided to blatantly rip us off because he felt threatened that someone else was telling him how to do his job.  It was unfortunate state of affair to see a referee who takes an oath of doing the right thing end up going against it, but unfairness is something we have to get use to as well.

Understanding your athletes is as crucial as their technique

The year ended with our Black Belt test and Winter Training camp but the lessons and our development continues.  I have learned another valuable lesson in my journey to personal development after I completed the 5 km waterfront marathon.  I realize there are those who will race alongside you, compete against you and there will also be those who will stand on the sidelines and cheer you on but each and everyone one of them will make you better.  Be appreciative of those around you and enjoy every minute they share because none of us know how much longer anything will last.

Here is to 2015 and beyond.  Cheers!!