(From left) Jackson Minnick from Highlands

(From left) Jackson Minnick from Highlands

BC WINTER GAMES: Games a stepping stone for judokas

Individual sport relies on coaches and teammates for support

For Jackson Minnick, judo is about improving yourself.

“I like how it’s an individual sport; you can control the outcome entirely,” he said.

Next week in Penticton, Minnick, 15, will compete for a second time in the B.C. Winter Games, a scenario he said puts him at a slight advantage since he’ll know what to expect.

“I’m really competitive and I like to win all the time,” he said, noting that he isn’t taking the competition lightly.

The Highlands resident hits the mat four or five days a week with weight training three times a week and usually competes once or twice a month.

“It’s a physical sport. It’s fun for me. It’s hard on your body … There’s a lot of stuff to learn on how to improve.”

Equally important to the physical training is the mental aspect of the sport, Minnick said, adding that he is preparing by using visualization exercises.

While judo is an individual sport, the support of others –especially coaches – is crucial, he said. “You rely on your teammates in the club to improve. I wouldn’t go anywhere if I didn’t have the people to teach me.”

The Grade 10 Belmont student is one of 18 judoka competing for the Vancouver Island-Coastal zone at the Winter Games,  six of whom are from Greater Victoria.

Colwood resident Jake Grant, 14, is a first-time Games competitor. He is “looking forward to the trip to Penticton and seeing a lot of people from B.C.” Half the fun of competing, he said, is catching up with peers from different areas. While making new friends adds to the experience, it’s also about seeing different competitors grapple and learning new styles of fighting.

“I don’t really care about winning or losing. I’m just really excited to go against a lot of people from across B.C. and have a lot of fun,” he said.

Grant trains two to three times a week and takes part in additional training clinics whenever possible. He called qualifying for the Games an “empowering” experience and agreed about the importance of being supported while on the mat.

Saanich’s Jeremy Grant, Jake’s older brother and the father of team member Max Grant, joins the group as an assistant coach for the Island team.

“Often in judo we have a very diverse age group,” he said. This competition gives the athletes a chance to train and compete against peers in their age groups, which can sometimes be a challenge, he added.

A former Island team head coach at the Winter Games, Jeremy is gearing up for the competition by watching videos and working with athletes on their strategies and training plans.

But those plans don’t end after the Games. “The Winter Games actually sits within a larger competition series leading to the national championships.”

The Games might be the experience needed to push some of those athletes towards “competing at that higher level,” he said. “I’m interested to see if the light bulb goes on for some of the younger athletes.”

katie@goldstreamgazette.com