Pedro selected to coach World Team
Kayla Harrison moved from Middletown, Ohio, to Wakefield, Mass. to further her judo career two years ago for one specific reason: to train with Jimmy Pedro.
"I think I have a way better chance of medaling at the world championships because of Jimmy," Harrison said. "I know if two years ago I didn't move here, I wouldn't be in the position I am right now.
"In my opinion, Jimmy is the best coach in the United States."
Harrison isn't alone with that opinion. Pedro recently was selected to coach the U.S. World Team during the World Championships, from Aug. 26 to Aug. 30 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
As a coach at his club, the USA Judo National Team FORCE, Pedro has already had success. Four of his athletes qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and one of them, Ronda Rousey, won a bronze medal. Harrison, the 2008 Junior World Champion, actually won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials but couldn't be in Beijing because the United States had not qualified a spot at her division, at 78 kg.
Pedro is no stranger to being the best. Ten years ago, he became just the second American athlete to win a world judo championship, and he later won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
"On the coaching side of things, the pinnacle of the sport is to coach at the highest level," Pedro said. "Being named a world championship coach is just that and hopefully this is a precursor to becoming the 2012 Olympic coach.
"I'm extremely happy about the opportunity."
Familiarity with world team this year shouldn't be a problem for Pedro. Five members of the world team-Aaron Kunihiro, Travis Stevens, Daniel McCormick, Janine Nakao and Harrison-train at Pedro's school, located in the Boston area in Wakefield, Mass.
Pedro has met most of the other teammates through his role as co-director for the U-23 elite judo team.
"I know probably 90 percent of this world team very well and have worked with them in the past," Pedro said. "I feel I'm best suited for it because I know the players better than anybody else in the country right now."
Coaching judo since his retirement as an athlete was an easy decision, Pedro said.
"It's what I do, it's who I am, and it's what I know," Pedro said. "It would be a shame for somebody like myself who has spent my entire life gaining all of this knowledge and experience to just walk away from it and not give back to help America have a overall stronger team."
When asked about his coaching philosophy, Pedro said: "You can achieve anything; it just involves a heck of a lot of hard work and being willing to go where no one else will and do the things no one else will do.''
What is done away from the mat can make the difference between winning and losing, he added.
"There are certain aspects of the game that every judo athlete should be equipped with-conditioning is of vital importance if you want to win," he said.
On the mat, Pedro has specific areas where he wants his athletes to focus.
"Regardless of how talented they are on their feet, they need to put the training on the ground," Pedro said. "That's an area where I feel the rest of the world is weak, and if you're going to gain a competitive advantage over these countries, that is where we can do it."
Harrison said Pedro's teaching doesn't stop with the physical training.
"Jimmy really has us focus on self respect, confidence and our civic duties," Harrison said. "We teach classes for elementary-aged students and donate our time for that."
Putting significance on events off the mat reflects how Pedro gets satisfaction from coaching.
"A good day for me isn't really about the athlete winning the title or the match, but it's about going out there and performing to the best of their ability and doing everything right," he said. "If you do that, then eventually the wins will come. It's really gratifying to see your athletes achieve their dreams and achieve their goals and knowing how much of a struggle and battle it was to get there."
USA Judo is setting itself up for a successful run over the next few years, Pedro said. At the 2008 Olympics, Rousey was the only American to medal in the sport.
"We have a lot of young men and women in their early 20s who are very hungry and training professionally," he said. "I would say we're primed to have one of the best Olympic teams we've had in a long time come 2012.
"We should have in 2012 four legitimate shots at a medal, where in years past we had one, maybe two."
And who better to coach them than an Olympic medalist?
"It's a big boost to my confidence he's our coach," Harrison said. "He's not only been the best in the U.S., but in the world."
Pedro hopes instilling one simple motto will let the current generation of athletes soon follow in his footsteps.
"If you want to win,'' Pedro said, "outwork the rest.''
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Brian Peloza is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.