Her Internet handle says it all. Fran McCrodden is "Judomom."
So she is to the more than 500 men, women and children who will come to the Terry Miller Recreation Centre in Brampton, Ont., for this weekend's 33rd annual Tora Martial Arts and Judo Club invitational tournament.
It is the longest-running judo event in Ontario and McCrodden, the tournament director, has been involved in all of them. She started running transportation and has done every job in the Tora club from running fundraisers, to cooking and freezing meals for officials, to registration of athletes, to ordering uniforms to keeping the statistics. This year, she will be mom and commander to 85 volunteers.
"The fact the tournament's been going for 33 years is a miracle, since I only admit to being 29," says McCrodden. "But as long as I'm able to walk and talk – and give orders, I'll be there.
"My kids are no longer on the mat, but my grandkids are."
Some of the judokas have gone on to the national level, she says, "but what keeps me going is watching these kids and how they act and the discipline they learn."
She will start Saturday morning with 500 recreational athletes in up to 118 divisions, spread them across four judo mats, put them in matches ranging from two to five minutes in a double knockout tournament – and keep it under control through Sunday.
Judo Ontario past president Charlie Formosa referred to her as "the mother of judo in Ontario. … Fran is the backbone of the tournament and of the club. It would take four or five people to replace her."
McCrodden got into the sport when her children, daughter Diane and son Ken, signed up in 1972.
Diane played hockey, but because it always took up her weekends, she didn't want to go. "I told her she couldn't let the team down. So she decided she had to give one of them up and she stayed with judo," said McCrodden.
She's kept up the April tournament even in the past 12 years since she moved three hours away from Brampton to Campbellford, Ont. "The 401 is my second living room," she says of her attachment to the Tora club. She spends about $400 on gasoline each spring to commute for tournament organization.
McCrodden threw herself into organizing the club events as a volunteer because she attended a judo tournament where she didn't the manner in which things were being run. She made her feelings known, "and it was suggested to me that if I felt I could do a better job, I should do it."
She went home in tears from the first tournament she ran "because I expected more than the 75 kids who showed up. But from there it's grown in leaps and bounds. …
"I remember going to a Canada Winter Games with a team and when one of the kids pulled out a win, I cried. The boys saw that and they weren't cheering for each other after that, It was 'Make Fran cry! Make Fran cry!' whenever someone got an ippon [full point]"