Teaching sport the virtual way has been an unexpected learning experience for many. Getting up to speed with this unfamiliar teaching method so abruptly has meant navigating a fast curve with so much at stake. Technically it has been a challenge, and for many it has been a white-knuckle ride to keep their businesses on track.

I am a passionate teacher of karate to students of all ages and I specialise in movement classes for early learners. I am a strong believer in connecting with my students—no matter their age or the sport they practice—and of giving continuous praise and encouragement; inspiring them to do their best at all times.

School and gym closures have required many teachers to get to know a tool called Zoom to connect with their students virtually. This has been a surreal experience not only for me, but for my students as well. I find myself facing a tiny laptop screen in the beautiful yet empty dojo-gym, squinting to see the thumbnails of each student across the space. My beloved students are claiming their own corners and spaces to move in as their homes allow. Each one tries to follow, focus, understand and achieve the skill that is asked of them through the screen.

How I miss the ability to make direct eye contact, connect, correct and inspire my students using every possible teaching method I know. Students, parents, teachers and coaches have had to adapt to online academics, online meetings, online lessons of all sorts and now online karate and movement classes. For some it is a more focused and clear way to learn and train and pay attention to their own abilities. For others it is a struggle not to get the attention they are accustomed to.

I find myself exhausted after each class, not just from the physical effort of teaching in front of a computer, but also from using my voice and mental energy at a constant high level. I want to inspire those at home to keep on working hard, to try to do the movements correctly and still to give more. Karate is an especially challenging sport where all effort has to come from oneself, yet the instructor’s role is to guide and give constructive feedback.

Together with my husband we are giving our all to inspire students to develop and improve their physical condition as well as their karate form and technique via a screen. The familiar rhythm of direct demonstration, observation, teaching and personal interaction in the dojo is an altogether different way of working than teaching alone in front of the camera.

Yet there may be some benefits to this virtual method in the short term. Students are forced to self-correct, to have more personal discipline than ever before and to grow within themselves as they experience this new way of practicing a physical art they are so passionate about. Our respect for our students has grown as we see them working hard and doing their utmost to follow our instructions in their homes.

Teaching movement virtually to young children also has its challenges. I love to see those little bodies moving in those little thumbnail pictures as I take them through a range of fun activities. We do jumps and balances. We move to music. We improvise with equipment such as shoes, chairs and stuffed animals. Rolled up socks are tossed and caught. A long scarf forms a hoop or line on the floor to practice stability and motor skills that develop all-round body coordination.

My creative juices are flowing more than ever to plan purposeful movements that can be done in small spaces with little or no equipment. I am in my element as I use enthusiasm, passion and energy to inspire children to do the different activities and to have fun while doing so.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do what I love most: teaching others to move often and well, to move with purpose and to continuously be better than they were the day before. Yet I yearn for being together again with my students—both children and adults—to see them and say their names, to be able to observe and acknowledge their efforts. When we all do return to our jobs and classrooms and hobbies I believe we will have renewed respect for one another and more appreciation for what we do and for what we have.

Darlene Koskinen

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