An Officer with the Nigeria Civil Service Defense Corps, and presently a member of the National Coaching Crew, Coach JOHN VICTOR is, without doubt, currently the top performing Taekwondo Coach in Nigeria for the past five years. On a personal level, his team NSCDC has undoubtedly been the best team of the past decade, remaining undefeated in all national competitions since 2012 and winning the top prize in all national events in this past six years. In service to the Nation as the National Coach, he guided the National Taekwondo team to the last 2015 All African Games to 1 Gold 4 Silvers and 2 Bronze Medals. In his interview, the soft-spoken former National University champion talks candidly about his entire life which has revolved and still revolves about Taekwondo, and also gives solid pragmatic advice to upcoming athletes and coaches.

Can we meet you?

My name is John Victor, Head Taekwondo Coach of the NSCDC and a member of the National Coaching Crew.

Can you tell us about your coaching achievements?

As head coach of NSCDC, my team has been undefeated for the past six years. We have won all editions of the Korean Ambassador’s Cup since 2012, all editions of the CCSF International Taekwondo Open as well as the inaugural Nigeria Taekwondo Open Championships which held in 2017, and also came up tops at the National Trials Open Championships which was held in January 2018.

As National Coach, we guided the National Team to 1 Gold, 4 Silvers and 2 Bronze at the 2015 All African Games; we also won a Silver at the 2017 Korea International Open and a gold at the 2017 Ghana International Open. Other International events that I have taken the National Team includes the 2013 World Team Championships, 2016 Rio Olympics Qualifiers and 2017 World Championships.

NSCDC flouts their medals won during the inauguralCCSF International Opens, where NSCDC came first overall.

Your achievements as an Athlete?

As an Athlete, I competed for Ahmadu Bello University and won three NUGA medals – Gold at ABU 2001, Silver at UI 2002, and Bronze at Uniport 2004. I also won a Gold at the IBB National Tournament and participated in the Bauchi 2000 and Abuja 2004 National Sports Festivals.

What do you regret as an ex-athlete?

I regret waiting for someone to discover me, or for someone to fully expose me. I was always waiting for a coach to tell me that I am competing in a tournament, before I will start preparing for it. If I pushed myself on my own, beyond the coaches’ dream, I would have gone a lot further. I honestly feel that I did not achieve my full potential because of this.

When did you start your coaching career?

I started coaching in 2006 in Abuja. At the time, I was the most senior and had to be training all those under me. I also discovered that I had a lot to give them especially as I saw their potential and I could see myself taking them to the podium.

Coach John Victor trains athletes at the 2018 National Training Camp

When did you start working with the NSCDC?

I was employed by the NSCDC in 2007. I started working because everybody needs a job and NSCDC gave me an opportunity to pursue a coaching career in Taekwondo, so I could do what I loved doing and still pay the bills.

What are the secrets for Team NSCDC being so successful for the past five years?

We are consistent in training, give respect to every individual in the team and constantly mentor our athletes. We do not wait for a tournament before we train. We train all year. Even while we are winning a tournament, we are already training for the next one and the next one and the one after that. There is scarcely any break. During training sessions, we do not just see the athletes as a bunch of people who do not have a mind of their own. We recognize them as individuals, try to respect and understand their individual mindsets and we train the athletes to improve on their weaknesses and strengths.

Team NSCDC after wining the top position once again at the 2016 Korean Ambassador’s Taekwondo Championships.

Most challenging Moment as a Coach

When you need to get your athletes to see beyond the obstacles that are currently around them and get them focused on becoming champions. The nature of our environment has created obstacles like financial duress, referee/official mistakes, injuries etcetera. It has become a norm. So what I have made my athletes realize is that we can improvise to reduce these pressures. For instance, where we cannot afford flight tickets to a competition, we can take night bus. Where we do not have kicking pad for training, we can use slippers as our target pads. Where we do not have training cones, we can fill up empty bottles with sands. Improvising like this helps reduce costs. As another example, in cases where referees are not fair, I teach my athletes to use techniques that can make them win e.g. if the electronic scoring protector seems bad, then I can tell them to go for strong punches of head shots. Constantly having to improvise around these obstacles is what makes it very challenging for me as a coach.

What do you do to improve yourself as a Coach?

I make a lot of inquiries from coaches that have improved in some areas that I know I am interested in. I also do a lot of extensive online studying. I go for coaching courses that would improve me like the Olympic Solidarity Course, the WTF-KHU International Coaching course etcetera. I take every advantage of opportunity for coaching learning that is available.

Most satisfying moment as a Coach

Watching an athlete deliver a specific instruction without hesitation. It makes me shiver with pleasure.

What is your advice to upcoming Coaches?

They should stay focused on their goal and always empty themselves to the athletes.

What is your advice to upcoming athletes

First, always see your hero, with whom you are in the same weight category, as your next opponent. Second, respect your coach, stay hungry and make your dreams bigger. To explain the second point further, athletes should not ever get to a point where they feel they know it all. They should always that space in their mind that needs more information, knowledge and understanding so they will stay hungry. Everywhere they go to, there is information to be gleaned, no matter how small it is.

Coach John Victor [in red] with National Top Ranked Players at the last National Training Camp in A.B.U Zaria.

You seem to more successful with female athletes than males? Why is this the case?

I give both my male and female athletes equal training and I push them very hard, and when a woman is pushed as hard as a man, she tends to do well in her weight category in taekwondo when she meets other females, especially in taekwondo where the male categories are much more competitive.

Coach John Victor with successful female athletes, Chinazum Nwosu and Chiamaka Onumonu.

Why is Taekwondo not in the Commonwealth Games and what should be done to ensure this happens?

Even though we are not in the general Commonwealth Games, Taekwondo has its own Commonwealth Taekwondo Championships. I know that the Commonwealth Taekwondo Union in partnership with World Taekwondo is making major moves to ensure that Taekwondo is included at the Commonwealth Games proper. Hopefully, by the next Commonwealth, this would be achieved.

 You got five athletes to the finals at the last All African Games, but only one was converted to a Gold medal? How was the pressure of that moment and how you and the team felt after the event?

The pressure was very high because the bulk of our athletes were new athletes who had never had an All African Games experience. As we converted only one of these finalists to be a Gold medal winner, the team as not happy because our aim was to convert a lot more. But then, we knew it was our first time and we had gained experience. We felt very bad at the result, but it didn’t break our spirit. It has made us even more determined to do better at the next Games.

 What lessons did you learn from the athletes narrowly missing out at the last Olympic Qualifiers that would be helpful for the next Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers?

One, to make sure all distractions are properly taken away. Second, I would treat our international events like I do with our national and local events. We will train hard, not just to win the opponents, but to win the politics. Last time, three of our athletes lost to Egypt, which is not just one of the strongest taekwondo countries, but politically strong. I felt that we lost some of our matches because of this. When we are competing against a country like this, it means that we need to step up our game both on the curt and politically. Finally, our board members with strong international connections should step us to ensure we get all the support we need, both technically and politically. Now that our athletes are ranked and known, our opponents will be more ready for them. No longer do people think that there is no replacement for Chukwumerije. Our opposition now know that there are good replacements and each of these replacements is a good medal.

 Cote D’Ivoire has a reigning Olympic Champion and another reigning World Champion. Niger Republic has a reigning world champion who is also an Olympic Silver Medalist. Tunisia has a current Olympic Bronze medallist who is hitting top form recently with a string of gold medals in WT events. Egypt, Senegal & other African countries have stepped up their game? With this strong opposition field in the background, gearing for the 2019 All African Games and 2020 African Olympic qualifiers, what does Nigeria Taekwondo need to do to come out on top?

It is true that all these countries mentioned have champions. We are already doing what any country should do to have champions. We have gone back to the drawing board to get new athletes who are hungry. All we need to do is to expose them, because this is what other countries do. They go, look and come back and they kept doing this until they got their game right. For Nigeria, we have a great technical capability. With good sponsorship, we could get this exposure, as our programs are already drawn up. Once we can follow our programs through, I can see that Nigeria would be listed as one of the countries with champions.

The most important person in your life.

My wife!!! “She is everything to me. That very person after God. I do not do anything without her and she gives me the stability I need to carry on my work”

How did you meet your wife?

We met in Church in 2000 and became friends as time went by. We started dating in 2002. In 2012, we got married.

Coach John Victor with his beautiful wife and son, Ziora!

Expectations for 2018

I expect some new taekwondo athletes to come to the limelight in the national team and I expect some of the older athletes to make it to the WTF Grand Prix series.