Coach Vanessa McCarron’s Inspiring Judo Journey in Nova Scotia

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“I believe judo is a journey that can fill a lifetime.” Vanessa McCarron truly embodies her own quote: actively involved in various Nova Scotia judo activities, enthusiastically continuing her coaching journey, raising five kids, and being self-employed.

Originally a judoka, she started the sport at eight years old and progressed from selection for Team Nova Scotia to multiple competitions at the national level. Her love of judo naturally led her to taking on the role of coach. In her early days, she was a member of New Glasgow’s Kanokai club, where she met her mentor, former provincial coach Cindy Fraser.

“When I started university, she was a huge inspiration for me to become a coach. I taught judo classes in Halifax and eventually focused on coaching from 2003 onwards. I took a lot of courses in order to specialize, and I’m now a Certified Assistant Instructor and Dojo Instructor. I’m also in the process of becoming Level 3 Certified for Competition Development.

Vanessa McCarron

One of few women in Nova Scotia to have earned these National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) credentials, McCarron is a great example of development in the eyes of Andrzej Sadej, Judo Canada’s Director of Coach Education. “Vanessa is a trailblazer for female judo coaches in Nova Scoatia. I hope that her example will inspire the next generation of female athletes to take on the challenges of coaching. Canadian female athletes belong to the best in the world and so should Canadian female coaches.”

A mentor and coach in numerous programs and activities since the early 2000s, McCarron is now tackling a new challenge: head coach for Team Nova Scotia’s women judokas at the 2023 Canada Winter Games.

“Right now, I’m taking a look at the best athletes who are eligible to compete in the province, so my work has actually already begun. The first training sessions took place the weekend of September 11 and 12. I’m so happy to have this opportunity,” says McCarron, who was also female mentor coach at the 2015 Canada Games.

In winter 2023, McCarron’s athletic journey will come full circle in Prince Edward Island. “At the 1999 Canada Games, I earned a bronze medal, and at that point, I already knew I wanted to return to the Games to represent my province, but as a coach. When I got the call that I had the coaching job, I was overjoyed – I still get goosebumps thinking about it. It’s a goal I set for myself a long time ago and I’m proud to finally say I’ve achieved it.”

As coach, she plans on adapting to the various goals of the athletes under her direction. “Nova Scotia is a small province and doesn’t have a lot of athletes. I want them to come back home after the Games with a sense of accomplishment. I intend to work with each athlete individually and set reasonable goals with them, based on their own expectations: some will want a medal, and others will just want experience.”

Mom of four “Lil’ Ninjas” (so far!)

Being so well versed in all things judo, it’s no surprise that Vanessa McCarron is very involved with her home club, NUMA (Nova United Martial Arts). In fact, she’s in charge of their “Lil’ Ninjas” program, which introduces children aged 2 to 4 to judo.

“I really enjoy teaching children. My greatest strength as a coach is adapting to each child’s needs – some take judo classes for fun and others want to excel. I’m able to see that, and offer coaching that suits each child.”

These responsibilities fit perfectly with the busy family life of the former Judo Nova Scotia administrator. ” Of our five children, ages 2 – 8 years old four are in Judo since the age of 2/3. The youngest is only 8 months old, so obviously she’s not taking classes yet – and I do mean yet! Being able to balance family life and judo is in large part thanks to my husband. He understands my passion, and helps me maintain a balance between my family and professional lives. Much to my delight our children love judo so far, so it’s easy to get them on the mat with me,” McCarron notes.

“It’s not always easy to go coach a training session when one of my kids is sick or if one of them doesn’t feel like coming with me but head Sensei Jason Scott is like family to me and is always very accommodating. A huge thanks goes out to him for all his help along the way in my coaching career. “

“I’m still at the club two to five times per week. Yet, when I go to the dojo, I see my students’ smiles and it brightens my day. At the dojo, I can forget all my problems and focus on my passion. My goal is not to create international stars – if that happens, great – but honestly, my goal is to share my passion and make a difference in the lives of the youngsters I coach.”

Looking for a judo club near you? Visit this page: judocanada.org/club-finder-tool/