12 Ways to become happier fencer in a new yearThere’s fencing and then there’s life. One and the other really go together! The other thing that goes with those two pillars is happiness. The goal of this sport isn’t the hardware on the shelf – it’s personal growth that we seek and the happiness that we find along the way.

One of the things that we love most about fencing is the joy that it brings us, just in the doing of it. Fencing is a sport full of happy people! To that end, we wanted to share some of what we’ve learned about happiness and fencing.

1. Stop training for medals, focus on the joy of sport

If you are happy and enjoying yourself with your training, putting in the time and focus that you need to with a solid team of coaches behind you, the accomplishment will come. At the end of the day, we cannot at all control what the end result of a competition will be – there are simply too many unforeseen factors that are out of our control.

The only thing that you have control over is yourself and your training. Notice that the best fencers in the world love what they’re doing! That joy doesn’t just mean that they’re happier people, it means that they’re better fencers.

2. Never compare yourself to other fencers

The only person you are competing against is yourself. That goes for looking around and seeing people who are doing less well than you and looking at people who are doing better than you are. Comparisons in both directions are dangerous and take you off course.

This year, notice when this happens in small ways as well as big ones. Do you look across during practice and see a teammate who is learning a technique more quickly than you are? Let it go! Instead take those natural observations as a chance to refocus on your own progress, no matter what someone else is doing.

3. Set up ambitious but doable fencing goals, then make a plan

This is one of the biggest keys to being a happier fencer. Accomplishment is part of what makes fencing so fulfilling. The mistake that many people make is thinking that it’s the end result that creates the pride. That’s false! It’s the process of getting to that accomplishment that drives the good feeling.

That’s why creating goals and laying out a plan to get to them is so critical. I could say that I want to drive to the Grand Canyon for my vacation, but without a roadmap (or a GPS), I’m not going to make it, as much as I might be able to visualize that destination. Stretch yourself towards your dream, then break it down into steps that you can manage.

4. Ignore the clock during fencing training

This is a trap that we all fall into – looking at the clock. This year, learn to really enjoy every training instead of counting minutes to the end of tiering drills. The clock is not a good coping mechanism for boredom during practice!

When you find your mind wandering, pull it back to a focus on the moment. Learn to redirect yourself to the physical sensation of what you’re doing instead of letting your mind wander away towards the ticking of the clock.

5. See the bigger picture

There is a bigger picture of your progress, even if it doesn’t seem so when you’re surrounded by a moment of disappointment. Don’t get stalled out or give up because of a failed bout or poor performance in competition.

Always think positively about your progress, and you’ll see how far you’ve come in the wider scope of things. Compare your fencing skills with yourself a year or two ago. Dig out some video if you’ve got it or talk to your coach about your progress. Fencing is not about one bout, one moment in time – it’s about growth and development over the course of years.

6. Build your relationship with your fencing coach

Work on building trust and the best possible relationship with your coach. It’s not just her job to make the connection with you special, energy from you is required as well. You can do this in little ways – write a note of gratitude after competition, bake a cake for his or her birthday, share your happy moments with your coach such as musical recital or great math test score. Simply tell your coach how important they are and how much you value them. Sometimes we don’t realize the things that we don’t say!

Your coach is interested in your life, as well as in your fencing. Think of the back and forth that’s important for you and your fencing coach in the same way that you’d think of a friendship, though there is much more to the coach/fencer relationship than friendship. You’ll be happier for it if you’ve got a strong relationship with your coach, and they will be too!

7. Be kind to one another

Always be kind to one another. It will bring you inner joy and relief that’s impossible to find any other way. The feeling of service is marvelous, of giving to others. To make this your happiest year as a fencer, start with being kind to others in your life – both on and off the strip.

8. Be happy for the success of your teammates

Did you ever stop to think that the more successful fencers there are in your club, the better sparring and inspiration you will get? Your teammates will help you to grow as a fencer. And you’ll help them to be better as well. This is a journey that you can enjoy together! It’s not something that is either for you or for them – it’s for everyone.

There’s a reason that the greatest fencers flock together – it’s good for everyone! Look at how great clubs turn out lots of great fencers. That’s not all because of training and coaching that they’re getting – it’s also got a lot to do with how good fencers learn from one another. If your teammate makes the podium but you don’t, you can still have a share of that joy! Being happy for them costs you nothing, but it gives you a whole lot.

9. Accept your failures and learn from them.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn! Nothing can make you a better fencer than your lost bouts, lost podiums or lost last points. When you win, you analyze it less – who remembers mistakes after gold medal? Embrace the moments of failure and think positive about the learning opportunity that it presents you with.

Loss is nothing more than a chance to grow. Learn to be happy in loss in 2017!

10. Push your own limits, try harder.

There is always somewhere to go, somewhere to grow. We respect ourselves more when we push our limits. We feel better about who we are and where we’re going. We’re happier when we dig deep.

Don’t stop trying double jumps after finishing your goal of 20 double jumps. Continue to surprise yourself and you will feel a huge satisfaction and happiness. Don’t be relaxed after qualifying for Summer Nationals , but set up new dreams of performing when you get there. When you reach your goal, it’s time to make a new one. Dig in and make more of yourself from the very start!

11. Be grateful to your supporting and loving family.

Great fencers don’t just appear – they are borne by the support of a family. Your dad and mom are always there for you – taking vacations to travel, choosing weird destinations for family fun because of your fencing competitions. Always remember that without them you could not be where you are now! They make these sacrifices without thinking of themselves, without asking for anything in return. You owe them your thanks and your recognition of what they do to make it all possible.

Be grateful to your friends and family, you are blessed with them! Gratitude doesn’t just make them happy – it makes us happy as well. You’ll be a happier fencer when you look around and appreciate your family.

12. Believe in yourself!

This last one is perhaps the most difficult to accomplish, but it’s also the heart of happiness. You’ve got a lot to offer the world, a lot to offer the fencing community. So often we don’t even realize that we aren’t believing in ourselves until it’s too late.

For the new year, look to yourself as a guide for how to find happiness as a fencer. You have a great deal more going for you than you realize, and it is possible for you to reach your goals! It might be challenging and you might have to grow in ways that you can’t even imagine just yet, but you can do it. When in doubt, believe in you.

2017 is set to be a great year for fencing. This year don’t look for medals or rankings – look for happiness within the sport. Everything else will follow!