Coach John Victor is a National handler of Nigeria Taekwondo Athletes who just returned from Morocco after he led Athletes to compete at African Taekwondo championship. An Officer with the Nigeria Civil Service Defense Corps, coach Victor is without doubt, currently the top performing Taekwondo Coach in Nigeria for the past five years. In this interview, the soft-spoken former National University champion talks candidly about his entire life which has revolved and still revolves around Taekwondo.
My coaching career and achievements
I started coaching in 2006 in Abuja. At the time, I was the most senior and had to be training all those under me. I also discovered that I had a lot to give them especially as I saw their potential and I could see myself taking them to the podium.
I was employed by the NSCDC in 2007. I started working because everybody needs a job and NSCDC gave me an opportunity to pursue a coaching career in Taekwondo, so I could do what I loved doing and still pay the bills.
As head coach of NSCDC, my team has been undefeated for the past six years. We have won all editions of the Korean Ambassador’s Cup since 2012, all editions of the CCSF International Taekwondo Open as well as the inaugural Nigeria Taekwondo Open Championships which held in 2017, and also came up tops at the National Trials Open Championships which was held in January 2018.
National Coach, we guided the National Team to 1 Gold, 4 Silvers and 2 Bronze at the 2015 All African Games; we also won one Silver at the 2017 Korea International Open and one gold at the 2017 Ghana International Open. Other International events that I have taken the National Team include the 2013 World Team Championships, 2016 Rio Olympics Qualifiers and 2017 World Championships.
make a lot of inquiries from coaches that have improved in some areas that I know I am interested in. I also do a lot of extensive online studying. I go for coaching courses that would improve me like the Olympic Solidarity Course, the WTF-KHU International Coaching course etcetera. I take every advantage of opportunity for coaching learning that is available. I give both my male and female athletes equal training and I push them very hard, and when a woman is pushed as hard as a man, she tends to do well in her weight category in taekwondo when she meets other females, especially in taekwondo where the male categories are much more competitive.
Achievements as an Athlete
As an Athlete, I competed for Ahmadu Bello University and won three NUGA medals – Gold at ABU 2001, Silver at UI 2002, and Bronze at Uniport 2004. I also won a Gold at the IBB National Tournament and participated in the Bauchi 2000 and Abuja 2004 National Sports Festivals. My advice to athletes is that they should see their hero, with whom you are in the same weight category, as your next opponent. Second, respect your coach, stay hungry and make your dreams bigger.
To explain the second point further, athletes should not ever get to a point where they feel they know it all. They should always that space in their mind that needs more information, knowledge and understanding so they will stay hungry. Everywhere they go to, there is information to be gleaned, no matter how small it is.
We are consistent in training, give respect to every individual in the team and constantly mentor our athletes. We do not wait for a tournament before we train. We train all year. Even while we are winning a tournament, we are already training for the next one and the next one and the one after that. There is scarcely any break. During training sessions, we do not just see the athletes as a bunch of people who do not have a mind of their own. We recognize them as individuals, try to respect and understand their individual mindsets and we train the athletes to improve on their weaknesses and strengths.
Challenging moment as a Coach
When you need to get your athletes to see beyond the obstacles that are currently around them and get them focused on becoming champions. The nature of our environment has created obstacles like financial duress, referee/official mistakes, injuries etcetera. It has become a norm. So what I have made my athletes realize is that we can improvise to reduce these pressures. For instance, where we cannot afford flight tickets to a competition, we can take night bus. Where we do not have kicking pad for training, we can use slippers as our target pads.
Where we do not have training cones, we can fill up empty bottles with sands. Improvising like this helps reduce costs. As another example, in cases where referees are not fair, I teach my athletes to use techniques that can make them win e.g. if the electronic scoring protector seems bad, then I can tell them to go for strong punches of head shots. Constantly having to improvise around these obstacles is what makes it very challenging for me as a coach.
Taekwondo at Commonwealth Games
Even though we are not in the general Commonwealth Games, Taekwondo has its own Commonwealth Taekwondo Championships. I know that the Commonwealth Taekwondo Union in partnership with World Taekwondo is making major moves to ensure that Taekwondo is included at the Commonwealth Games proper. Hopefully, by the next Commonwealth, this would be achieved.
My African games and Olympic experience
The pressure was very high because the bulk of our athletes were new athletes who had never had an All African Games experience. As we converted only one of these finalists to be a Gold medal winner, the team as not happy because our aim was to convert a lot more. But then, we knew it was our first time and we had gained experience. We felt very bad at the result, but it didn’t break our spirit. It has made us even more determined to do better at the next Games.
For Nigerian Taekwondo athletes to qualify for future Olympic Games, we need to make sure all distractions are properly taken away. Second, I would treat our international events like I do with our national and local events. We will train hard, not just to win the opponents, but to win the politics. Last time, three of our athletes lost to Egypt, which is not just one of the strongest taekwondo countries, but politically strong. I felt that we lost some of our matches because of this. When we are competing against a country like this, it means that we need to step up our game both on the curt and politically.
Finally, our board members with strong international connections should step us to ensure we get all the support we need, both technically and politically. Now that our athletes are ranked and known, our opponents will be more ready for them. No longer do people think that there is no replacement for Chukwumerije. Our opposition now know that there are good replacements and each of these replacements is a good medal prospect.