A question that’s not unusual for us to hear, especially from families who are relatively new to fencing, is this one: “Is my child a fencing genius?” People want to know RIGHT NOW whether their child is a fencing prodigy, or even just naturally gifted at fencing, and ask for an assessment of their child’s skills and abilities. They want to know whether their child has fencing talent, a fencing future and a promising career ahead of them.
Before we even begin to talk about it the answer for individual children, let’s talk about why we’re asking and what the ramifications are.
Why Parents Want to Know
1. Wonder about the future
We as parents want to do the best for our children and oftentimes the way we define the best is what next step this will enable. For many parents that next step is college and the expanded college and scholarship opportunities that are available for talented fencers are a large incentive for their participation in the sport. And of course there’s the opportunity to compete, and we of course dream big when it comes to competition! Parents are asking this question to try to get an idea of where their child might be going and to help envision their child’s future. This is a great reason to want to know about your child’s promise as a fencer, because it is putting the child’s interests at the center.
2. Return on Investment
Another reason that parents want to know about their child’s potential in fencing is because they want to know whether this sport is worth the investment that they’re being asked to make. Time is a real investment when it comes to fencing, and so is money. We recognize that there is a financial piece to this equation and that fencing requires use of those resources. However we don’t believe that the idea that children need to provide a return on the investment of money with accomplishments in fencing. Many of the benefits that children get from fencing (self esteem, physical development, increased focus, passion, valuable life experiences . . .) can’t be measured in dollars or even in opportunities. For us, this is not a good reason to ask this question, as it takes the child out of the center and limits their opportunity to grow and have fun.
The Ramifications of Asking
When we put these hard-line goals on kids, when we push for them to be evaluated constantly, we’re really dampening their ability to live as children and to explore a discipline like fencing. It is not about whether they’ll be a top level competitor or win a big scholarship – it’s about them growing and having fun. Everything else comes from that. Even if the high level on the podium will not be in the mix you’re still raising a healthy, happy child with a lifelong sport and good habits of physical activity, along with acquiring great friends and creating memories. This is a high enough result for every parent to wish for their child!
Fencing is unique to every child. Assessing a child only in the club situation is not valuable, as fencing is not limited to the club. We need to see them in competitions, since the mental part of the game is more important that mere athletic or technical capabilities. We need to see how they grow and develop over a long time period, and how they’re able to handle various situations.
Regardless of the talent, it is the work and the desire, the commitment to the sport that will make or break a success. Without these things talent is worth nothing. History knows a lot of super talented people that were lazy and reached nothing, while it is full of less talented people who put in sweat and effort but then took the stars.
We’ll leave you with one final note. We recently heard this story from one of our coaches, and it really resonates with the idea that we need to let fencers grow at their own pace and to allow them the opportunity to learn the sport.
Tatyana Sadovskaya, a member of the Russian national women’s foil team back in 80’s and 90’s who was also an Olympic bronze medalist from the Barcelona Games, was initially rejected by the recruiting fencing coach as his opinion was that she did not possess any visible fencing talent, nor did she have a promising future in fencing. Tatyana did not give up, and thought that if she attended another beginner group few days later maybe the coach wouldn’t recognize her and might let her start. She of course did make the team and the rest is the history!
It is not about your child’s talent in this moment, it’s about their drive and willingness to grow. Fencing isn’t just about accomplishment, it’s about seizing life and living it to the fullest. Your child is more than just their numbers!