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Community helps build strong, confident, happy kids

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As so often we turn to this space to complain, I’d like to take a moment to instead share a happy experience that I think illustrates many of the positive qualities of our community. On March 22, I took my daughters to their first taekwondo tournament, which happened to go quite well; my girls were nervous but up to the challenge, and they left with a sense of satisfaction and excitement. Perhaps more important, though, was what I witnessed on the sidelines and in the background of the main event – which was the extraordinary support, concern, and passion of my daughters’ Morris Karate instructors.  As a mother watching her girls spar in a competitive setting for the first time, you can imagine how much it meant to me to witness the following scenes: head instructor Matt Steen and assistant instructor T.J. Voges running around the busy venue to make sure that at least one of them was present at every event in which one of their students competed, Mr. Voges kneeling beside my 8-year-old as she sat nervously before her first event and having a lengthy heart-to-heart with her that (based on the changes in her expression) was clearly reassuring, Mr. Steen shouting advice and encouragement from the sidelines during the girls’ sparring matches, both instructors’ expressions registering their delight watching their students register success for the first time, and the team spirit exhibited by everyone throughout the day and the post-event dinner. Mr. Steen even called on the way home, just checking to make sure that all of his students got back to Morris safely.

I have to admit that the martial arts had never been on my radar and that—as a result—it wasn’t an activity that I anticipated my daughters participating in, but in the few short years since they first enrolled at Morris Karate, I have witnessed their growing confidence, focus, and awareness of what, exactly, they are capable of. To know that my daughters can find that kind of strength within themselves is, to me, priceless. So it seems an unlooked-for bonus that, in addition to these life skills, they have found a community that is simultaneously nurturing and challenging; instructors who have that rare ability to teach to each student’s talents and personality, and a general studio attitude that encourages individual growth over medals or trophies.

The competition was fun, and we’re already looking forward to the next one. But, for this mom, it wasn’t the actual competition that mattered; it was coming to truly understand how fortunate we are to have individuals in our community (and I know that there are so, so many across all kinds of sports and activities in town) who are willing to help us raise our children to be strong, and confident, and happy individuals.

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