Edition No. 24. Autumn, 2000. Today is
As Seen in Texas
George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, Texas, April 28-29, 2000

By: Simon Hicks
"Ideas as simple and cheap as this can greatly improve the look and efficiency of a competition."

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to be present at the USA National Championships in Houston, Texas. GEEMAT had supplied six new competition areas and we were there to support our American agent. Judo in the USA has many of the same problems that we have here in Britain: despite the fact that both the USA and Great Britain have current men's World Champions there is very little interest from the general public, hardly any national television coverage, no sponsors and very little money injected into the sport. So it was very heartening to find an organising committee determined to improve the look of their competitions, and increase the amount of media coverage despite the lack of funding.

The first and major step had been taken months ago. All entrants had been told that this would be a blue and white gi competition, and instantly a professional look had been established. Scoreboards were converted to blue and white. Tape on the mats was blue and white. This instantly looked like a top line tournament. But there were other simple little improvements in use that could easily be put into use around the world. There were the judges chairs. For years I have seen judges chairs stood on small tatty squares of carpet or seen the mat underneath them turned upside down so the vinyl surface of the mat would not be damaged.

But here the ingenious use of new tennis balls on the legs of the chairs provided both protection to the mat and a visually pleasing solution to this age old problem. The Texas match schedule system is a beautiful simple way of overcoming the age old problem of "Which mat am I on? When am I on next?" On reporting to the tables at the beginning of the day every competitor is given a card which tells them what mat they are on and which number fight they are on. The first fight of the day on each mat is 1, right the way through to the last fight, which could be 50 or 60. Competition controllers know in advance the order in which the fights will be fought, as they are numbered on the pool or knock out sheets.

The cards are updated as the day goes on, and serve as a great record of the day for the fighters to take away with them. By the side of each mat is a match number display system, which is changed every fight, and gives the number of the current contest on that mat. Fighters have to report to the mat 3 contests before they fight. So if your next fight is 48 and the display shows 37 you know you've got plenty of time to go to the toilet! In addition if the audience have copies of the knock out sheets they can instantly see what stage in the competition has been reached. The Texas match schedule system has been adopted across the USA and should be used in Judo events across the World. Ideas as cheap and simple as this can greatly improve the look and efficiency of a competition.

Finals were scheduled for a particular pre-advertised slot, leaving plenty of time as a break for spectators to visit trade stands and get refreshments. This also ensured that all TV and press knew what time to turn up at for the major matches. In the break the stadium was re-arranged so that all the audience were moved into the stands facing the allocated TV and media area, creating a crowded and exciting atmosphere. With the added use of music, a dynamic demonstration from World Champion Jimmy Pedro, and the excellent voice of Gail Stolzenburg, the competition controller, announcing the matches a truly professional show was created. Gail was also the announcer at the Atlanta Olympics, and after the tournament I complimented him on his 'Texan gravel voice'. "Simon," he said, "it's not gravel voice - it's the golden voice of judo!"

As a post script it should be noted that this Championships achieved more TV, press and media coverage than any previous USA Nationals, even without most of their major stars fighting. And the moral is, give the media a good show, and they'll give you good publicity.


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USA National
Championships 2000



Mickey Matsumoto, Torrance, California, Gardena

Dynell Pinder, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Alex Ottiano, Oneco, New York, NYAC

Orlando Fuentes, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Rick Hawn, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Mark Fletcher, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Cohen

Rhadi Ferguson, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Martin Boonzaayer, Palatine, Illinois, Cohen

Anthony Turner, Miami, Florida, Budokan



Stephanie Hata, El Cerrito, California, East Bay

Sayaka Matsumoto, Richmond, California, East Bay

Charlee Minkin, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Davina Minkin, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Celita Schutz, Hillsdale, New Jersey,

Sandra Bacher, San Jose, California, San Jose

Amy Tong, San Jose, California, San Jose

Nanoushka St-Pre, Colo Spgs, Colorado, OTC

Kelesi Felt, Pocatello, Idaho, Idaho St

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