And there go the girls… That tends to be the way it happens, in my club at least. When a group of girls are training together they tend to be consistent, dedicated, reliably there for one another. The mutual support and enthusiasm to see each other is infectious and really binds the group together through thick and thin. That is, until it doesn’t. The very qualities that unify and strengthen the group are exactly what cause the girls to go en masse when the group fractures. Over the years I’ve seen the slightest chink in the armour break a group apart. A failed grading, an injury, moving school, or a key member of the group just deciding Taekwon-Do isn’t for them any more. What begins as an unfortunate but isolated event spirals out to effect every member of the gang. Training isn’t the same, training partners have to change, lifts to training or competitions aren’t the same and the question is on everyone’s lips… ‘what do we do without XXXX’.
I’ve even seen it with summer holidays, which is why I cancel the majority of my classes in July and August, except for team training. Someone is on holidays for 2-3 weeks. Their friends see what training is like without them and they don’t like it. When the first arrives home, inevitably someone else is missing, maybe more. The dynamic isn’t the same and training is just not as much fun. The logic of; it’s just for the holidays and everything will be back to normal after summer’ just doesn’t sink in. Before you know it two or three of the gang are gone and not coming back. The group is de-stabilised and on its way to dissolution.
It’s come up again for me this last 2 weeks. We had a wonderful, talented group of girls training with us last year in our Yellow/Green belt class. Unfortunately 2 of the girls chose to invest their time in other activities and didn’t return in September. The remaining girls bound themselves tighter together, even to the exclusion of the other girls from the class. The season went on and then unfortunately one of our girls picked up an injury playing another sport. The recovery wasn’t going well and she needed to take some time to let the injury fully heal and then the bad news. Her BFF decided, without warning that she didn’t want to train any more. And so the pattern repeats itself.
Interestingly this doesn’t develop until 9/10 years of age and older and seems to be a far less significant motivator in the late teens and into adulthood. Our younger girls socialise with the boys and girls in the classes and don’t mind an individual being absent as there’s always more fun people to train with. The group identity seems to come in a little later and gets stronger into the early teens. I’ve had my best successes in retaining girls where a significant group size reaches secondary school age still training together. The validation and support needed is still there and even if there are some individuals within the group who go another direction at this stage the resilience of the group is stronger. Every senior female in the club has a group of former companions whose support they’ve evolved to do without, by integrating with a new group or becoming independently strong and self motivated along the way.
So this week I am saddened by the loss of some great girls who will not be continuing their journey in Taekwon-Do but I am equally bolstered in my pride for the ladies who’ve stayed the course and continue to inspire me in my coaching. It can be a struggle to continue to do what you love when the people you love to share that with choose another path. If you’ve chosen to keep training and pushing forward then respect! Keep inspiring and keep doing what you love.