Grass Roots participation (or foundation) is the first stage an individual encounters when they are introduced into a new sport. Here, a young athlete will learn the rules and regulations numerous games and will participate in recreational activities. The fundamental core competencies are learned, and a Judoka is given room to grow.
The success of foundation Judo is dependent on various factors, due to the nature of the sport there are some barriers to participation. This becomes clearer when looking at the difference between developed and developing countries.
Figure 1: Young upcoming Judoka at Grass roots level.
Judo is a sport that requires incredible skill, technique, and dedication. When looking at developing countries, it is evident there is a significant lack of understanding and awareness of Judo. In a country such as Kenya, students going through schools will have a lack of early experience with the sport because there's an absence of skilled trainers, volunteers and a significant number of the population don't know what Judo is. This means that there is a limited amount of opportunities and programs available for participation at a young age with a lack of training and competition as well. With a significant lack of awareness of the sport, finding accessible facilities such as a Dojo will be challenging. Developing countries have limited access to detailed information and resources concerning Judo and this limits Grass root development and growth for potential athletes.
Developing countries also face a series of social and cultural barriers that have a direct impact on sports participation. These barriers include religion, culture, language, and the continued influence of colonialism.
In regions where there are lower numbers of participation such as Africa, the International Judo Federation (IJF) has taken steps to ensure that there are local governing bodies that are made available to athletes. Countries like Kenya now have the Kenya Judo Association (KJA) which is a governing body that has been put in place to create awareness for the sport and give an opportunity for athletes interested to further develop the fundamental basic skills of the sport.
In countries classified as developed, athletes will be exposed to sports like Judo when they are much younger. The Grass roots participation is extensive, and athletes can pursue Judo recreationally or develop their skills further in aims of competing. Physical education for various sports is available. In the United Kingdom (UK), there are government incentives that avail funds for the development of Judo. The National Lottery and the Government work hand in hand to support sport in the UK. This means that adequate equipment and sports facilities can be accessed at a young age and this facilitates growth and development of those interested in Judo. Funding is also available for people to be trained as teachers and judges in Judo. The UK also can host major sporting events and allows the region to be exposed to a wide variety of sport and professionals. Grass roots participation also depends on the availability of volunteering, and at the London 2012 Olympic Games, there were a staggering 70,000 people who volunteered to help with proceedings.
Figure 2: Volunteers at the London Olympics 2012.