Fencing Summer Nationals and July Challenge 2022 is fast approaching – in fact, it’s almost here!
Part of the magic of Fencing Summer Nationals is that it happens in a different city every year. Those cities provide opportunities for exploration and learning in new places, but it also means fencers and fencing families have to get their feet under them in a new city with a new venue every year. The learning curve is part of the fun, but preparation can help the whole thing go much smoother.
Especially those fencers who are going to Fencing Summer Nationals for the first time, understanding what to do to prepare and how to navigate it all can be a little overwhelming. Even fencers who are old and have been going to Fencing Summer Nationals for years can always use some new ideas or some reminders about old ideas for preparing for the competition.
Below, you’ll find information about Minneapolis and how to better navigate the venue and the competition.
Fencing matches are fast-paced, quick to go forward, and exciting. We focus our minds and our bodies to become this tight little ball of explosive power when we are on the strip, a power that only has a few minutes to make an impact on the opponent.
That compressed length of time is highly exciting, but when competitive fencers get into the thick of it, they often find themselves spending hours upon end without fencing. There is a huge amount of downtime during fencing competitions for competitive fencers. It’s in stark contrast to the intensity of competition.
This isn’t a thing that we think too much about for the most part. After all, we’ve all got plenty of other matches to watch, not to mention smart devices to scroll through. It’s an issue that we should think about, however. Not just because we want to be frugal with and conscious of our resources, but also because changing how we think about this can represent a happier and more fulfilling experience all the way around.
We all make mistakes. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing, you’re going to miss a cue, lose track of time, or take an extra step.
There is a fine line between showing our kids that we love them unconditionally and also giving them the right kind of guidance to keep moving forward. They have to keep on moving forward if they’re going to become the successful and happy adults that we want them to grow up to be.
To do this, we need to learn to help them build on their strengths, rather than pointing out their weaknesses.
Fulfillment and achievement are two sides of the same coin
As parents, we are charged with giving our kids the space and support to grow from their mistakes. It’s we who are responsible for showing them the path forward. Oftentimes we get fixated on the ways that we quantify that path forward. We look for the things that we can measure, like fencing rankings or test scores.
The less tangible things, like happiness and self-fulfillment, well we cannot easily measure those things. It’s not so easy to say “My child is highly fulfilled in their life.” That’s subjective. You can’t just measure it. On the other hand, it’s very easy to point directly to an achievement – “My child is the top-ranked fencer in their age category.”
The true conundrum here is that both of these are necessary. If you go too far to one side, you won’t give your child the scaffolding they need to succeed. Achievement does equal self-fulfillment, in one sense at least. If a child, or an adult for that matter, does not believe that they are capable of achieving the things they want to achieve in life, then they don’t value themselves. In the right context, chasing those big goals is an integral part of self-fulfillment.
One way to think of this is as two gears in a machine (the machine would be your child). You have to have both gears, fitting together and spinning at the correct speed, to make it work. Neither is less important.
Have you ever picked up your fencing weapon at the start of a bout and heard your heart pounding in your ears? Your thoughts start racing and your breathing starts to quicken. That hand holding your sword can get sweaty inside the fencing glove, perhaps even beginning to shake a little bit.
Even if your experience hasn’t gotten this far, maybe you’ve struggled to clear your mind and be present in the moment during a match. You might be in the pool round but thinking about your possible opponents in the direct elimination round instead of focusing on what’s in front of you. As a result, you give up more points than you’d like to and lose the bout.
When you’re traveling for a fencing competition or if you have a lot of other things going on in your life, those thoughts can become obtrusive, weaseling their way into your brain when you’re trying to put your attention on the opponent. You might be thinking about the bad weather outside that could delay your flight home or the pile of chores or work that’s waiting for you at home.
Every fencer gets nervous
Nerves are a reality for fencers who are competing at any level. Those first few fencing competitions are nerve-wracking because it’s all so new, then there’s a pressure that ratchets up as fencers continue to progress higher. The stakes can feel overwhelming, but in reality, it’s just another match, even when it’s not.
The most experienced fencers at the highest level get nerves. Olympic fencers and World Champions learn how to overcome those nervous feelings to help them compete with less anxiety. In fact, overcoming anxiety about the process is incredibly important because we cannot perform at our best level when we’re unsure of ourselves. That mind chatter and frantic energy is fundamentally detrimental to a good fencing performance.
In the center of the parking lot at our fencing club in Sunnyvale, there’s a cement sidewalk that’s about two and a half feet wide, separating the neatly parked rows of cars, a sort of thin line in the middle of the wide asphalt area.
If I were to take one of our fencing classes out into the parking lot and ask them to run up and down that strip of concrete, they’d jump up and go do it easily. In fact, during the height of the pandemic when we were doing a lot of outside practice, fencers were constantly up and down that path. It’s a no-brainer for them to run down this path.
Now, imagine that I took them up onto the roof of a building, just three stories up, not super high, but well off the ground at twenty-five feet or so. At the edge of the building, I show them a path that’s exactly the same width as the one they’ve just been running up and down. It’s sturdy and not wobbling, but there are no railings and they can see straight down to the ground. Will they charge across it, stomping their feet and laughing like they do at the club? Three stories is pretty high, and if they fell they’d certainly get injured. Many of them might walk across, but they’ll be slow and steady. Their parents would surely have something to say about it.
What if we went much higher? Say we went ten times as high, 300 feet and twenty-five stories into the sky. How many would walk across the path at all? Who would even get close to the edge to start? The stakes are suddenly much higher, and it’s almost guaranteed that no one is going out there.
The kid’s running skills are the same – those didn’t change at all. They haven’t suddenly “forgotten” how to move their legs. The length is the same, the path is the same. What changed in the environment and circumstances, as well as the price of error. Now, there is a steep penalty for a mistake. Every misstep is now severely punishable.
Suddenly, their minds play out different scenarios and their imagination calculates everything that could possibly go wrong. Each step is frozen in place.