The Moose Jaw Koseikan dojo is often overflowing with young athletes learning the sport of judo.
Because of those numbers it was no surprise that the Koseikan's annual Beginners Tournament was dominated by the home club.
The local club won 12 of the 13 pools in the event that drew 50 beginning judoka to the Moose Jaw dojo Saturday. The tournament drew competitors from Vibank, Pense and the Regina YMCA club, but the majority of the field was from Moose Jaw.
"Our club has gotten so big that we pretty much dominated the whole tournament," said Koseikan coach Jim Wiens.
"Some of the other clubs have a lot fewer kids in these age groups."
While the strong results from the tournament are a positive, having such a large number of young athletes is the real coup.
"It's not necessarily unprecedented for the beginning of the year," said Wiens of their large group of beginners. "What's surprising - or the impressive part of it - is that so many of them this year have stuck around. Judo is kind of a fringe sport to a lot of people here in Canada. A lot of them don't know what to expect and usually with new people we have a fairly high turnover - it's not what they expected or it's not the thing they were actually looking for.
"This year that totally reversed itself and we actually had more kids stay than leave."
Wiens says the credit for the high retention rate rests with veteran instructor Cliff Wiens who is back working with their youngest athletes.
"Part of it is that Cliff is working with these kids. He's so fun and energetic and dynamic with these kids that they are just naturally drawn to him and just have so much fun," said Wiens.
The Koseikan club has been hosting a Beginners meet since 1999.
"The whole point of it is to give the kids who have never seen a judo tournament before . . . the chance to do it in a much softer environment so they don't have the pressure that they would see at say a provincial or national tournament," said Wiens. "They can have their first experience be a lot more laid back."
"The familiarity of everything makes it so much easier for the kids," said Wiens.
While some categories featured nothing but local competitors, some of them were unfamiliar to each other. The club's youth ranks are so large that they offer different training nights for the same age groups.
"We have some newer kids who are on different nights," said Wiens. "So some of them that were clubmates, may not have known that they were clubmates."
Having so many local competitors competing in the small space of the dojo created a great atmosphere for the competitors' first tournament.
"You get two clubmates out there competing against each other and . . . it's such a small environment with so many parents and spectators that it gets so loud in there. You can see the smile, the glow on their faces knowing that all of that cheering is for both athletes on the mats," said Wiens.
The club will send a more experienced team to a tournament in two weeks in Melfort.
Appeared in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald Nov 20, 2008