The Smart Coach Center is the most effective martial arts studio in Howard County, Maryland. The Smart Coach Center isn’t just your typical karate studio. Owned by Dr. Michael Garant (“Dr. G”), the Smart Coach system offers a concrete formula for raising strong, responsible, confident, and focused children. It can help your child improve academically and socially in addition to strengthening athletic abilities. Smart Coach has proven success in helping children with ADD/ADHD, autism, and other learning disabilities.
Before I jump into why we think The Smart Coach Center offers the most effective martial arts program in town, let me back up a moment and explain our experience at another studio….
Our First Experience with Martial Arts
We started our son Zack out in martial arts a couple months after his 5th birthday. He was – and still is – full of energy and attention seeking. We were hoping that martial arts would allow him to be more disciplined and focused. Since we weren’t sure how he would like karate, we took advantage of a Groupon we found online.
The enrollment form stated to let the team know if our child had any medical issues. When we met the director, we let him know that our son was born prematurely, had developmental delays, and that we thought he might have attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD) since it ran in the family. The director assured us that they had experience working with children with ADD and that the classes would help Zack.
At first, Zack was very excited about classes. He got a lot of attention as a new student so he did well with picking up on the basics.
There were usually 16 to 20 students in the classes. After warm-ups, the coaches split kids up into 4 groups in separate areas of the mat in a large room. This part made it challenging for Zack because he was easily distracted by the other groups.
Our Struggle with Getting Effective Results
After a few months, Zack stopped progressing with his lessons. He either purposely didn’t do as the coaches instructed to seek out attention or he put forth minimal effort. The coaches tried to correct him at first, but after they realized he wasn’t trying, they just ignored him. This was quite frustrating to watch as parents.
We talked to the studio director about Zack’s personality, reminded him of our discussion about ADHD, and that we were certain he could do better. They said they could work with him to improve, but unfortunately, nothing seemed to work.
They had several coaches working in the studio so he would do better with some, but it was the luck of the draw as to which coach he ended up with at each lesson. We stuck it out for six months and then decided to terminate the lessons.
Our Turning Point
I felt that Zack needed a more specialized, effective program in a smaller studio. Fortunately, I had saved an article from the Maryland Women’s Journal written by Dr. Garant that explained how children with ADD and other learning challenges need a different approach in order for training to be effective.
I called Dr. G and asked him a lot of questions. He patiently and thoroughly answered all my questions and scheduled a convenient time for us to bring Zack in to meet him.
The next week, we met in Dr. G’s office and he explained more about the Smart Coach system and asked questions to get to know Zack. We could instantly tell that this would be a more effective program for us! We signed up for classes and we’ve been happy ever since!
Eight months after starting at Smart Coach, Zack received the Most Improved Student Award when he graduated from his beginner White Belt to his Gold Belt. Here is a video of Dr. G reviewing Zack’s achievements and awarding his Gold Belt. It was a very proud moment for all of us!
What We Love About The Smart Coach Center
Here is a list of some other things we really like about Smart Coach:
- Parent Communication: Dr. G is ALWAYS available in person, by phone, and by email for any concerns we have. Prior to graduating into the Level 2 class, Dr. G invited us to a meeting and asked us to let him know what areas we felt Zack was struggling with and what goals we wanted him to achieve. Then, he met with us for an hour and talked to Zack about expectations for becoming a Level 2 Green Belt and being accountable for achieving goals, keeping a training log, and most importantly, acting as a leader on the mats and in the community.
- Academic Focus: To advance, students also need to submit their report card and have their teacher complete a form to confirm they have been attentive in class, respectful of others, and accountable for their work.
- Life Skills: Starting at Level 2, students must be accountable for a log of their martial arts training that includes chores and homework as well as a monthly goal to work towards. The goal can be mutually decided between parents and their child. Zack has learned to take pride in cleaning up his room. He makes his bed without us even having to ask!
- Convenient Schedule: Classes are offered at different times several weekdays and once on Saturdays, so if a scheduling conflict arises on our typical day, we can go another time. Dr. G is also very flexible on make-up classes if we miss due to vacation or illness.
- Consistent Instructors: Unlike the other studio we experienced and other studios we’ve heard about from friends, Dr. G is the primary instructor. This has made a tremendous difference in our son’s progress.
- Consistent Curriculum: Since students are divided into stages, there is only one lesson taught in each class that all students follow. There are no distractions on the mat. Students learn from each other and motivate each other.
- Consistent Expectations: There is a clear and consistent outline of requirements that students need to work towards to graduate from each belt.
- Videos: There are several training videos that we can use at home to help our son practice and perfect his form.
- Community Service: Students are encouraged to volunteer in their community and are recognized for their efforts by being presented with a star patch for their uniform. Smart Coach also supports Scares That Care, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting families coping with childhood illness, burns and breast cancer, by holding fundraisers and adopting a family at the holidays.
- Supplementary Support: Smart Coach offers individual private lessons and Play Attention, a computer-based program to help children and adults improve their attention and focus skills in as little as 4 weeks. Play Attention sessions are just 30 minutes long and engage the learner with interactive games that are fun to play.
We feel that Smart Coach is the most effective martial arts studio in Howard County, Maryland. Our son has truly excelled in this program on all fronts and we highly recommend this program to all parents!