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Thank You

During these last 9 weeks, ever since March 16th, 2020, I’ve had a few chances to sit down and write my next blog. The COVID-19 situation provided so much material to speak about and put words down for others to read. Many times I used those blog posts for my Tae Kwon Do students’ email newsletter and updates. Other times, what I wrote one day, didn’t feel right the next.

I personally, like I’m sure most people did, felt a roller coaster of ups and downs, twists and turns, not always knowing which way to look. I wanted as much information to make the most informed decisions I could. And at the same time I wanted to limit the information I took in, because it was effecting my mental, physical and emotional state. To see so much negative news takes a toll on anyone absorbing it.

With so many decisions weighing on me as I thought about what is best for my students, business and employees throughout this pandemic, I didn’t sleep much. I know in a year from now, 5 years from now or at least sometime in the future, I’ll look back and wish I spent this “down” time with more relaxation or at least more at ease. But while we are in the thick of it, it’s hard to see out. I struggled with the tug-of-war that every decision seemed to have.

Closing is the right thing to do to avoid catching and spreading COVID but…

Closing means not providing instruction to my students who need Tae Kwon Do as an outlet for their own health.

Having staff come in to shoot videos is a risk for their health but…

Not shooting videos and staying in front of our student would risk our jobs.

Zoom classes allowed us to connect live virtually but….

Zoom classes were not the experience that we want to give or meet the standards we set to give to our students.

The list seemed to go on every single day and hour. As much as we weren’t physically in front of our students, Zoom classes are physically exhausting to teach and frustrating because so many things are so difficult to learn within the limits of the technology. All we wanted to do as instructors was be next to you, and tap your correct leg so you’d move the correct way. All we wanted was to high-five when you brought the right energy and focus. All we wanted was to sweat with you when you were working hard. Instead we settled for all we could provide.

And that gets me to the point of this post. I know we didn’t provide the service you’ve come accustomed to in our schools. But you didn’t care. You cared that we tried everything to stay connected. You cared when we tried to bring our best to you. You cared even though we couldn’t give a real tip on a belt or a real belt at testing.

Now that we are getting through the most isolated parts of COVID-19, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I want to thank you. It’s the only thing worth writing about right now.

To my students and families,

I want to thank my student and families for supporting us throughout this situation. Financially you allowed us to survive and be able to upgrade our facilities for you. The outpouring of gratitude that you sent in with messages, emails and calls kept us going. Families donating funds on-top of their regular tuition rate to support your instructors…parents asking to pay their membership upfront for multiple years to support our organization…I love what we do and these situation makes me love it even more. I’ve always been committed to providing the best service to you, but I am challenging myself to bring that to another level. Soon you will see upgraded training targets and technology woven into the class. The schools will continue to be upgraded for safety, fun, and technical improvement. I know many of our families faced hardships of their own, and may face hardships still, but I want you to know I am indebted to you for your support.

To my instructors and staff,

My team is made up of great people. I know, because I picked them to be part of my team. I don’t hire someone to join our team because they are good martial artists, I hire them because they are good people. The right people to be in front our students of all ages as role models, in and out of our school. This pandemic proved this to me. I had my full-time instructors requesting to lower their pay even though they wanted to work as much as needed. I had 14 and 15-year-old assistant instructors volunteering to help out and asking that I don’t pay them. They asked to come back as soon as possible to start working with our students again. That’s pretty unbelievable for a teenager to ask to work for free just because you love being with our students. Some of my full-timers and head management team saw me stressed and frustrated with our situation and still supported me with whatever decisions I made. They were soldiers on the front line ready to come in as early or stay as late as needed. My head instructors kicked their butt trying to teach with as much excitement as possible over Zoom while trying to track attendance, tip progress and review countless email submissions as they came in. Teaching 11 classes in a day to make sure classes stay as small and safe as possible all while wearing a mask that gets hot, sweaty and uncomfortable hasn’t stopped them from bringing their energy to every student. To say my team stepped up is an understatement. I owe it to them to make our school continue to grow for their benefit because of their support during this time.

To my personal family,

I am pretty close with my parents, but even though they are 1,000 miles away living in Buffalo, NY, I might be closer with them now. Normally I speak with my dad once or twice a week, but he called me EVERY SINGLE DAY since this broke loose. I know he had sleepless nights for the stress he was feeling for me. As a business owner, it is scary to be told to just stop operations, and don’t do what you’ve done your whole life. So many things could have taken a turn for the worst. He felt that with me every step of the way. He “checked” in on me every day. He texted me every time he learned of new news or government assistance. He sent me charts of when the worst was predicted to be over. It was non-stop support. At one point, to ease his stress, I told him the worst thing that could happen would be, “We go bankrupt, I lose the school, and we start over. And I will build it again even better.” I remember it was like I felt a 1,000 pounds get lifted off his shoulders. Obviously I hoped that it wouldn’t come to that, but I did mean it. If we had to start over, we would. I would do it for you, my Tae Kwon Do family. That you to my parents for sharing in the challenges every step of the way.

To my wife, Jessica,

There is a general saying about spouses not being each other’s teachers, and another saying about not going into business with friends or spouses. Well I have done both, and I am so glad I have. I won’t lie and say it’s so much fun all the time. I will say it’s Tae Kwon Do talk probably too much of the time. We both have a hard time not talking about it. She has been a rock for me throughout. Especially during these last 9 weeks, as I’ve had days when I wake up at 4 a.m. ready to crush the day and other days when I don’t really want to get out of bed. She has been an unbelievable listener, reflector, advisor and guider. She looked over every email I wrote, we discussed every decision that was made, and tried to think of every angle throughout. She always brings a great perspective, and I believe we wouldn’t have made it through this situation as well without her being a part of it.

As much as I want to go on and thank everyone individually, I will end on this note. Thank you for being good to me. My mission of providing Tae Kwon Do to benefit our community is stronger than ever, and this is pushing my vision to new heights. I hope you’re ready for a ride because things are going to be better than ever! I don’t know what the future holds or what obstacles are next, but we will face them and we will overcome!

Thank you, WORLD CLASS!

- Master Justin Scarsella


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