What is the thing that we love most about fencing? It’s FUN!When a child first signs up for fencing, they see before them the cool factor – an adult is about to hand them a sword. There’s really very little that’s cooler that could happen to a child beyond that!
After a while, the coolness gives way to training, and more training, and hard work and sacrifice. These are good things, things that kids need to participate in. Things that make kids better, help them to grow. But they’re also things that are challenging for anyone, and especially for kids.
Keeping fencing fun is a great way to combat the struggles, and to help kids to learn some great skills that will carry them through life. Coping with stress by having fun is something that we can all learn from. Parents have the chance to step in and take action to keep that sense of fun and excitement in the sport for their young fencers!
16 Ways to Keep Fencing Fun
1. Look back
Remember that first day when your child stepped onto the strip? You can see how much they’ve learned and grown. Remind them of it! Break out the videos and pictures of those early matches to help them see. This has the added bonus of reminding them about the great fun feelings that they had then.
2. Join in
Unlike many other sports, fencing is something that everyone knows a bit about! We all played musketeers, pirates or Jedi in our youth, and now is the chance to go back and play it with our own children. Pick up a pool noodle or a foam sword, and play with your child like you did when you were their age. And when they win, stop exclaim that it was “not fair”, that they had an unfair advantage by “being a professional fencer”. Make them feel their skills are useful! Boost that confidence! Oh, and have tons of fun yourself in the process!
3. Remove the pressure
Competition and the drive to perform well offer plenty of pressure. Don’t add to that pressure with your own, but let it go and allow your child to feel only support and joy from you.
4. Watch your reactions
Your child is looking to you for cues as to when to be nervous, when to be frustrated, when to be happy. Work hard to cultivate the right outlook in yourself, and you’ll see your child have a great outlook as well. If you’re anxious before a match, your child’s nerves are going to take a turn.
5. Don’t reward (or console) with stuff
Allow the consequences for a win or a loss to be natural and logical – advancement or rank for wins and the sometimes challenging feelings that come with losses. These give your fencer the chance to process and to grow, and will actually be a huge help to them in the long term. It’s ok to lose, and it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Offer support with your time, attention and affection, but not with your wallet.
6. Apples and oranges
Don’t compare your child to anyone – not in good ways or bad ways. Fencing is not about your child versus another child, it’s about your child versus themselves. They’ll only resent their teammates if they are compared, while they’ll resent themselves if their compared to other fencers.
7. Dream big, but love always
Dream big, and encourage your child to, but don’t equate your love or affection with accomplishment. It’s fun and worthwhile to dream of becoming an Olympic fencer, but NOT being an Olympic fencer is still great! Emphasize your love for your child for themselves, not for their accomplishments.
8. Encourage camaraderie
It’s a great idea to have kids stay through at competition. At a recent NAC, we strongly encouraged all of our fencers to stick around until the last competitor was still in DE’s. This helped to those who lost to focus on the team, on the spirit that we all love in fencing, and on the friendships that they were supporting instead of on their own struggles. It’s nearly as much fun watching a teammate win as it is to win yourself!
9. Be open to have spontaneous fun
Fun doesn’t have to happen where we think it does, and as parents we need to be open to it wherever it happens! During the a recent NAC at Salt Lake City some of our competitors, including my own kids, had a swim party in our hotel. When I later asked everyone what the most fun part of the NAC was, they unanimously proclaimed that it was the “swim party.” Isn’t that great? Fun with fencing friends doesn’t just happen on the strip.
10. Fencing friends
Social events that with fencing friends (outside of training!) are extremely important! This is true even for young children. Work out some social events with fencing friends to help grow those bonds that make everything even MORE fun! You might organize a simple afternoon at the park or organize a party for your child’s fencing class. There are so many ways to do this, and all of them lots of fun for right now, while also building for your child’s healthy and positive future.
11. Make memories
There are so, so many chances to make memories in fencing! Life is about the small moments, the little bits of laughter and the easy cheer that comes with wonderful time spent together. When all of the competitions are over and the swords are put away, it’s the memories that your child will carry with them.
12. Be age appropriate
Everything changes with age. Kids are a moving target! Your child’s needs and desires are going to change with each passing year, and that’s really the way that it’s supposed to be. Speak to your child’s coach about how to handle the routine for them at various ages, and don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something new.
13. Show it off
When our kids had their VIP student weeks at their school in 3rd and 4th grade, we asked their teacher to allow us to make a fencing presentation to the entire class. Needless to say how cool the kids felt and how happy they were with the amount of positive attention and admiration that they got for doing something as wonderfully special as fencing. The feeling of uniqueness, of coolness is super important to the kids and re-ignites their joy. Don’t make your child keep their fencing a secret! Share it with the world!
14. Keep it positive
There is never a need to criticize your child’s performance – there just isn’t. Your child knows precisely what they did wrong, and their coach will discuss it with them when the time is right. Talk about the good things that your child did during every match, even if they lost!
15. Be theatrical
Fencing is a sport that has plenty of movies and books out there. Make some family time to watch some great like fencing movie, of course chosen wisely for the age of your fencer. While there are very few movies about modern sport of fencing (unlike the tons of movies out there about football or baseball), there are still SO many movies with fencing as a major element in them – from Pirates of the Caribbean to the Princess Bride to the Three Musketeers. Even Star Wars has light ”sabre” fights.
16. Make fun a big deal
Fun is a big deal! It’s awesome! Go out of your way to put an emphasis on how fun fencing is, and how much fun your child is having thanks to it. Don’t forget to make a big deal of the fun that you’re having with fencing, because let’s face it, being a fencing parent is fun! Ask them about what the most fun thing is in fencing, talk about the things that you find to be the most fun about fencing. Let the fun start with you.
You can keep fencing fun while still working hard and pushing your child to do their best. In fact, keeping it fun is actually a key to success – because the more fun your child is having and the more exciting fencing is for them, the more likely they will be to want to stick with it and to work harder at it! At its heart, fencing is just really a fun sport, all we need to do is to give it space to be that way.