A senior National Poomsae team of eight athletes and two coaches from Australian Taekwondo will contest the World Poomsae Open Challenge in Muju, Korea, from November 3-5.
Carlo Massimino feels extremely fortunate that at six-years-old, he was in the right place at the right time.
Back then, he happened to be neighbours with the founder of Tiger Lee Taekwondo, one of the first Taekwondo schools in Australia.
“Master Lee was one of the first Koreans to come out and introduce Taekwondo to Australia,” Massimino says.
“At that time, kids didn’t really participate in Taekwondo and he wanted someone his son, Chris Lee, could train with, so they asked me to join.”
After a few training sessions at the club, it was clear that Massimino had a knack for the sport’s dynamic skills and movement. He enjoyed pushing his body to the limits, while he threw flurries of punches and kicks.
By the age of 12, Taekwondo was all Massimino could think about, and he set himself the lofty goal of competing for Australia at the Olympics.
“When the Olympics started to come on the scene and Taekwondo was a demonstration sport at the Seoul Games in 1988, one of my instructors was the first ever Olympians to be selected for Taekwondo, and he really inspired me,” says Massimino.
“From that moment, my dream was to go to the Olympics.”
A string of prestigious national and international medals followed on the road to his Olympic dream, which came true not once, but twice. Massimino won Australia’s first World Cup silver medal, along with bronze at the Asian Championships. He finished 5th at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, before finishing his career as a Quarter Finalist at the 2004 Athens Games.
But just as his international career came to an end, an even more rewarding journey began.
Upon retiring, Massimino established Team Carlo Taekwondo, opening his first studio in Preston, Melbourne.
Massimino opened Team Carlo to share his knowledge and experience with the next generation.
“I always knew as an athlete that I’d like to pass on that knowledge,” Massimino says.
“I always journaled any ideas I had, or anything I saw, in preparation for that opportunity ... I worked with some of the best coaches from around the world at the AIS and VIS. I was privileged to have that opportunity to train with some of Taekwondo’s best minds.”
Throughout his career, Massimino paid close attention to best practices in Taekwondo instruction, as well as key methods he could use to take it to the next level.
“I got to see how things were done really well and I got to see areas where we could improve the industry and how we deliver the teaching of Taekwondo.”
One such innovation was a tailored coaching style designed to build on each athlete’s unique strengths and abilities.
Team Carlo provides this form of personalised coaching by delivering classes with a student to instructor ratio of 5:1.
“I felt smaller groups worked so much better. Traditionally, it had always been big groups in a class environment… I’ve learned from other industries that when you put people into smaller groups, especially children, you can give them extra attention that accelerates their learning and development.
“Personal connection is also very important. It’s hard to connect with a huge group of people at once. When you’re in a small group of five students, that connection is much stronger.
“Our student-teacher ratios of 5:1 are so much more effective and the kids really get the most out of it.”
The club’s individualised coaching has also been vital for its increasing number of para-athletes.
“We have a lot of special needs students coming through now and they all need to be taught in different ways. Doing that on a larger scale would be quite difficult.”
Team Carlo’s approach to coaching and leadership has proven to be extremely popular, with the school amassing one of the highest memberships bases in Australia. Team Carlo now has four studios across Victoria in Preston, Ivanhoe, Airport West and Taylors Lakes.
Each studio has a Centre Manager with either a teaching degree or a business background, so they can contribute to running the organisation smoothly. There are also a number of senior instructors, many of whom are also completing teaching degrees.
“That’s a real trend at the moment with our staff. I feel like we’ve inspired them to be teachers after going through our instructor program.
“It’s a win-win for us too because we’re able to utilise the skills they’re learning at Uni. They’re bringing all the latest technology and teaching strategies back to the club.”
Team Carlo is not only one of the biggest Taekwondo schools in the country, but also one of the fastest growing ones. The school is now looking to expand outside of Victoria, starting in Queensland.
“One of our projects for this year is to expand across the Eastern Seaboard, starting with Queensland. We’re hoping to open a location, either in partnership, or maybe through the acquisition of a school, for someone who’s looking to exit the industry.
“So we’re looking for partners in Brisbane at the moment to help with that expansion.”
Expansion seems like a natural step since the business has managed to grow and thrive even through the most tumultuous of periods.
“Coming out of Covid, where essentially for two years, everything was up and down… we were fortunately able to keep the connection going with students during lockdowns by using Zoom with those small groups.
“It was a pretty scary time. We had actually opened a brand new school literally a few months before Covid hit, but we kept a large amount of our student base.
“Now we’ve come out of Covid and we’ve never been as big as we are now. We grew over 30% last year.”
Team Carlo has also built group fitness facilities at two of its centres for a new brand under development called Team Carlo Fitness, which will incorporate Martial Art group fitness skills. This is aimed at encouraging parents to train while their kids are also training.
“We want to support the whole family and get everyone involved and keep them connected.
“My whole family does it. We’re all black belts, from my youngest child to my mother. So it’s in our DNA and we have that connection. We all live the philosophies that come from the top down.”
Team Carlo offers a range of age-based classes to meet the learning and development needs of any student from the ages of four upwards. These include:
The trademarked “Taekinda” program introduces four-year-olds to foundational movements and discipline, with the Ninja classes building on kids’ motor skills and social skills. The Warriors program is the beginning of a more traditional white belt to black belt program, much like the junior and teenage programs.
Within each of the school’s programs, there are two levels such as “Beginner” and “Intermediate or Advanced”.
Classes run five to six days a week, sometimes in multiple rooms simultaneously.
Ultimately, the club strives to create a fun and inclusive environment where every student can become the best version of themselves physically, socially and emotionally.
“Coming from a high-performance mindset as an athlete, I wanted to bring that into our schools. I wanted our schools to perform really well and for the environment to be both outcome-based and experience-based.
“Rather than it just being an after-school activity for our students, we really wanted to be able to create an outcome for them on that journey towards their black belt, but at the same time, have an incredible experience where they make friends, and they feel safe and comfortable.”
That’s why the school runs development programs where students learn leadership and public speaking skills.
“It’s a 12-month program that we put them through and from there, they can be selected to go into our instructor course. They can apply to be an instructor once they reach a certain age.
“It’s about a four-to-five-year process to reach the stage where they’re a senior instructor here.”
The program ensures that new instructors within the school have all come from within, allowing Team Carlo to maintain a consistent culture of excellence and respect.
“Culturally, they’re all a really good fit for our organisation and one of the major purposes of it is that through this journey, there’s real purpose and there’s development. So there’s always upskilling involved and my wish is that as a student, you’ll walk away with an outcome.
“They can walk away with a lot great skills and contribute to society. I’ve seen that in the past – a lot of our instructors have gone on to be professionals in whatever qualification they’ve been pursuing while they’ve been working with us. They’re always leaders in their newfound roles.
“It makes me really proud to see that we’ve been an integral part of that process for them. Part of our vision is to profoundly impact the community. All of our team genuinely want to help people and they want to be the best versions of themselves.
“Obviously very few people get to be elite athletes, so that’s not really our goal. If that comes, that’s fantastic, but that’s not the main purpose. Our main vision is to create confident people who are comfortable in their own skin. That’s what is most important to us.”
The family’s next champion
Christian Massimino has begun following in his father’s footsteps and has already added major medals to the family’s trophy cabinet. He recently won gold in the Cadets (53-57 kg division) at the Australian Taekwondo National Championships.
Carlo noticed that Christian had a lot of natural athletic abilities from a very young age, but was careful not to pressure him to compete in Taekwondo if it wasn’t what he wanted.
“I’ve tried to make things as fun as possible and not put any pressure on him.
“I hadn’t even coached him up until last year. Prior to that a lot of the other coaches at the school were coaching him at some junior competitions.”
Now, the father-son duo are following a 10-year plan, with a goal of Christian ultimately representing Australia at the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.
“We’re looking 10 years down the track and that’s how long it takes. I’ve taken over his program and we’re starting to get a little more serious.
“It was really challenging through Covid because we just didn’t have the training partners for him, so we really didn’t know where he was at last year, when he got to Nationals.
“But we’re really grateful that we’re doing something right and he performed really well.”
Christian has now moved up to the juniors and is adjusting to competing against bigger opponents. Just last week, he fought a 17-year-old who was much taller than him.
“He’s having to start from scratch again now as he builds up to make his way into the national team and get some experience overseas. But it’s all really important time towards his long-term goal of hopefully competing at the Brisbane Olympics.”
“Hopefully I can help him not make the same mistakes I did. But to be honest, it’s fun. It’s a great opportunity to do something together as a father and son.”
“This weekend, we both flew up for him to fight at the KP&P Open on the Gold Coast, so these are great opportunities. I always say to him ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination. Make sure you focus on enjoying that journey and the experiences you get along the way’.”
Why should you try Taekwondo at Team Carlo?
The club’s five-person classes allow it to give young students the nurturing, care and engagement they need.
“We’re really proud of our growth and that has come from word-of-mouth, implementing these small student-teacher ratios, and having an all-inclusive membership structure,” says Massimino.
“All the things in the industry that frustrated me and I was able to change in my own school, I feel like that has really made a difference.”
Students are not only taught to become more physically capable, but also to be community-minded leaders.
“Essentially, this club creates a foundation for kids’ future, so we feel like we’re in a real partnership with their parents and helping develop their character.”
To learn more about Team Carlo, visit the club’s website.
Melbourne will host the next Kukkiwon courses in late September. The Kukkiwon International Master Course and Kukkiwon Poom / Dan Examiners course are available for members and non-members.