Should your child compete in fencing? It’s a question that many parents ask when their child first picks up a sword. It’s also a question that many parents face once their child is deep into competitive fencing. Whether to start competing in fencing or continue to compete once a child has been competing is a major choice.
Competing in fencing or in fact in any youth sports has many valuable aspects. The first thing that people tend to think about is the boost that kids get from winning, but winning isn’t everything. Not by a long shot. There are plenty of ways that competition benefits kids beyond the good feeling of getting to the top of the podium.
In and of itself, competition is not inherently good or bad. What is good or bad is how we think about it and what tools we use to manage the feelings that it can elicit. Feelings that are natural and human by the way. If winning is focused on as the most important thing in fencing, it robs kids of the other compelling and essential life skills they could be getting from competition. In fact, you could say that it becomes toxic.
There is a healthy and wonderful place for fencing competition in the life of kids. The life lessons learned here are valuable in the fencing club and also far away from it. Here are ten reasons why fencing competition is good for children that aren’t winning.
1. Competition encourages learning
Fencers who compete work harder and learn faster than those who don’t. That specific goal of winning against an opponent serves to drive fencers hard towards their goal of growing! Whether the child makes it to the top of the podium or not, they still get a big push towards improvement.
Training is at its heart about learning. Whether its learning footwork or learning new strategies, fencers are honing their skills more effectively through learning in the lead up to competition. Having a goal gives the mind something to latch onto, a reason to fence better.
2. Emotional management
Competing teaches kids to manage their emotions, particularly those of anxiety and fear. While those butterflies that come before stepping onto the strip will hopefully never go away completely, kids can learn to cope with these feelings and do their best anyway. Strong emotion is a good thing, even when it’s challenging. Everyone has strong emotions, the difference between those who seem even keel and those who struggle to handle them lies in practice facing and then dealing with those emotions healthfully.
A powerful emotion that kids learn to overcome when they compete is fear. Be it fear of fencing in front of a crowd or fear of losing, facing fears is a big way that we grow. Competing in fencing allows us to face those fears. Learning to get out of that comfort zone is always, always a good thing. It’s easy to get scared of things, to make them scarier than the really are. Fencing competitively shows kids that they don’t have to be afraid to try something new.
Emotional management as learned in fencing competitions is a skill that translates to test taking and to job interviews when kids get older. Learning to regulate emotions is absolutely central to growing up happy and healthy.
3. Learning to cope with loss.
This is a central reason that fencing competitions are so good for kids. There is a lot of loss in competitive fencing, a lot. Even when fencers make it all the way up to the top of the podium, they’re almost guaranteed to have lost a match on the way there. They’ve certainly all lost points at least!
So many of the problems we see today in youth are that they are never allowed to feel failure. While we as parents would like to protect the feelings of our children and keep them from getting unnecessarily hurt, always protecting their feelings is a disservice to them. Fencers who compete are able to get through that loss and get on with life. Losing a match is hard, but it’s survivable. In fact, losing is not the worst thing that can happen to someone, not by far! Resilience is a key trait for success as an adult. There will always be losses in life, always. It’s how we face with loss that determines whether we are successful or not.
4. Sticking with it
To even get to a fencing competition takes a considerable amount of dedication and determination. Beginner fencers must go through a significant amount of training before they are even eligible to compete. That means getting to class, working hard, and sticking with the sport so that they can feel the excitement of a fencing competition.
This is a sport that doesn’t rush. There are no shortcuts to winning, no tricks that can get a young fencer where they want to go. Time and effort are rewarded in fencing, and the payoffs are pretty remarkable. Things along the path are rewarded for fencers who stay the course to keep them excited and invested, whether it’s winning a point in a match or earning a rating. However it still requires stamina and dedication to compete in fencing.
5. Better school performance
Statistically, kids who are invested in competitive youth sports are less likely to drop out of high school. What’s more is that competitive youth athletes trend towards more years of post-high school education and higher grades in school.
Those numbers make sense when you take into consideration the importance of goal setting and discipline associated with participation in competitive sports like fencing. Focus is not a natural gift that is plopped down into kids, it’s a learned skill that someone has to teach them somewhere along the line. Fencing is a perfect teacher, with skills translating into success in other areas.
Yes, competitive fencers must juggle school requirements and their fencing commitments. They by definition have more on their plate than children who don’t compete. What’s wonderful is the way that kids learn to adapt and find balance. They do more with the resources they have.
6. Travel opportunities
Whether it’s travel just within your state or across the globe, fencing offers participants a wonderful way to travel. It’s never the same, with cities for competitions often moving around each season.
We know that travel is good for the mind, expanding our horizons and letting us meet new people from different backgrounds. Kids who travel as kids are more likely to travel when they grow into adults. Being a part of a competitive fencing team gives fencers the chance to hit the road and see more of the world, interacting with people that they would otherwise not get the chance to interact with.
Vacationing is good, but traveling for fencing gives a reason behind the travel. It becomes more fun, more interesting. Not only that, but travel becomes a bonding time for fencers and their families, along with their coaches.
7. Playing by the rules
While yes, we want our kids to learn how to think outside of the box in order to be happy and successful, the truth is that they first have to learn where the sides of the box are. Fencing competitively teaches kids how to learn new rules and then abide by them within the context of a pleasurable activity.
The importance of boundaries for kids cannot be overstated. Kids need routine and structure in order to thrive, this is something that parenting experts agree on. Competitive fencing offers a strict set of rules that kids must learn, then they must learn how to adapt and then go after their opponent within the confines of those strict boundaries. Though it may seem counterintuitive, learning to follow rules fosters independence.
There is a major community aspect to fencing. The small size of this sport means that young competitive fencers can connect with more experienced fencers and grow relationships outside of their usual sphere. That’s important as a skill for life as well as for fencing.
For parents, it’s just always good to have another village who can support your child and who cares about them. Fencing coaches and peers have the best interests of child fencers at heart and will work to see them succeed. That’s a great feeling! And an important one. Being a part of something bigger feels good and helps fencers to grow in all aspects of life. Through competition, fencers build tight relationships with others that often last a lifetime even if they only compete for a few years.
9. Fencing competition builds self esteem
There’s not magic pill for giving kids self esteem – parents unfortunately can’t just hand it to them. Self esteem must be earned if it’s to be real. When young fencers develop their talent through hard work and get a result that they desire, it feels great! The sense of accomplishment that comes from setting a goal and then achieving it is indescribable.
The individual nature of fencing really lends itself building self esteem. When a fencer gets the result they’re looking for, they feel good about themselves. That self esteem can build on itself and spill into other areas of life, buoying kids towards happy and fulfilled lives outside of the fencing club.
Most of us enjoy games, whether we win or we lose. It’s why video games and smartphone apps are all the rage. Everyone loves to experience the good feeling of playing! Fencing is very much a playful and fun sport. Most of the time it’s not the winning itself that feels so great, it’s the time we invest in it and the memories we build along the way.
Swingin a sword at someone in competitive fencing just feels great! Competing is just fun! No matter what your age, background, or experience level, fencing tournaments are fun.
Competitive fencing offers a wonderful opportunity for fencers to become better and find their own path. Winning is not the only component of competition though, as the benefits beyond winning well outweigh the benefits of getting to the top of the podium.
Fencing in competition can and should be a positive, nurturing experience for fencers and for their families. Putting a higher level of focus on the road that leads to winning in competition as opposed to the overall result is the trick. However with patience and solid mentorship, it’s absolutely possible for a child to be enriched and to develop their character through competitive fencing.