Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: August 2022

Quitting for the Right Reasons, Quitting for the Wrong Reasons

Quitting for the Right Reasons, Quitting for the Wrong Reasons

“You cannot fail unless you quit.” – Abraham Lincoln.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” – Vince Lombardi.

“Quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.” – Elliott Gouldi

“Nothing I ever want to accomplish will ever become a reality if I always quit.” – Michelle A. Homme

If you do a quick web search for “quotes about quitting,” you’ll come up with page after page of things just like what’s up there. 

There is a deep seeded sentiment in sports culture especially that says that you must continue to keep going no matter what if you want to succeed. It’s what the Rocky movies are all about. It’s what we see constantly in motivational stories at big tournaments – how top athletes stayed the course even when they wanted to give up. 

True, there is a whole lot of good that comes from pushing past obstacles. However, there are also times that we need to step back and take a different direction. There are right and wrong times to quit. 

A healthy perspective

Fencing is a passionate sport to be involved in. For those of us who have discovered that love of the sport, it can be hard to imagine walking away from it. However, there are lots of reasons that people don’t keep fencing, and pushing them isn’t the way to keep them involved. 

We want fencers to stick with it for the right reasons, and those all start and end with taking joy in the sport. Everything flows from there! 

I recently had a conversation with a teenage fencer in our club about quitting. She walked into our office and told me that she wanted to give up the sport. In the many years that we’ve been doing this, this kind of conversation has come up plenty of times. From our point of view, it’s important that we stay impartial. Pushing someone to stick with the sport when it’s not working has never turned out to be the best thing for them or for us. We might keep them coming to classes and competing for a little while, but it never lasts. 

That doesn’t mean that every teenager who walks into our office is told to hang up their fencing mask. Instead, we engage in an honest conversation about the good and the bad reasons to quit fencing. 

The mindset has to be one of a healthy perspective that gives each person the genuine chance to reach their potential. This doesn’t just apply to fencing, but to every area of life. 

Getting Out-fenced Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Fencer

Getting Out-fenced Doesn't Mean You're a Bad Fencer
sad puppy on the street

When a fencer loses a match, one of the most natural things to do is to start looking for a reason why they lost. 

  • What if my lunges had been longer?
  • What if I had controlled the distance more effectively?
  • What if I were more focused during the match?
  • What if I had cross trained better?

These are pretty standard questions that fencers ask themselves, but they aren’t the only things that roll around in the minds of athletes when they lose. The big question, the elephant in the room, is this one:

What if I’m just a bad fencer?

How Fencing Boosts Mental Health

How Fencing Boosts Mental Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Though fencing in particular and sports in general are well known for how they benefit us physically, there are also a huge number of ways that they boost mental health. 

Mood improvement

Mood happens on a spectrum, from being far down in the dumps to being elated and excited. What we want is to stay in the middle somewhere for the most part. The low lows can help us to learn resilience, and the high highs can of course boost us tremendously. 

The trouble with the high highs is that, if we become too attached to them, we can spend too much time chasing them. This keeps us from being able to live in the present, as we’re always thinking about how great it felt to have that big experience. The trouble with the low lows is of course that they bring us down. Both can be disruptive to our mood and throw our life off course. 

Being relaxed allows you to be present in the moment, without worrying too much about the future or fretting too much about the past. Physical activity of any kind releases brain chemicals that relax our minds and even our moods. 

Regular fencing gives you an additional mood boost because of the constant competitive nature. Point, point, point – sometimes for the opponent and sometimes for yourself. It gives you a consistent sense of being in that middle, even as you are excited and ready to go. This isn’t just about the physical benefits that fuel mood improvement, it’s also how the highly competitive nature of fencing gives us a regular mood boost. The highs and lows aren’t so drastic, but they are still exciting enough to engage us. 

Beyond those, there’s also the mood boost from the social nature of the sport. Though this is an individual sport, it’s also in direct competition with an opponent. The camaraderie, even with the person on the other side of the strip, is a great boost for a fencer’s mood.

The Power of Napping for Fencers

The power of Napping for Fencers

Did you know that elite athletes use napping to help them perform better? Napping isn’t just for little kids, it’s a powerful tool for anyone at any age. 

Adding napping into your fencing routine, both during training and on competition days, can really up your game and improve your all around health as well as your performance. This goes for youth fencers all the way through veterans. 

People are often judgemental about napping. Shouldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time? The thing is, napping is absolutely a productive activity. If you are sluggish or groggy during a fencing lesson with your coach, you’re going to get less out of it than if you’re alert and feeling strong. This is even exaggerated in competition. If you’re not able to perform to your optimum level because your body needs some rest, how is that helping anyone? 

Using napping is about training smarter rather than harder. 

Why Fencers are Better Students

Why fencers make better high school students

High school is no walk in the park for anyone. For almost everyone who’s lived through the ups and downs of high school, it’s a challenging time. There are transitions, there’s pressure. Young people suddenly feel the weight of adulthood coming for them, and the world itself gets more real than it ever has been before. College and choices are coming, and teenagers are just dipping their toes into making some of those huge decisions. 

What it really boils down to is that there are real consequences for the choices that young people make when they get into high school. What they do during those years will determine which college they’ll get into, which will determine so much of their future. 

How do fencers succeed?

I recently had an interesting discussion with a fencing mom in our club. Her son is in the eighth grade, getting ready to start high school in just a few weeks. Like any parent, she’s invested in his success and concerned about how he’ll fare when he makes the big transition in the fall.

“How do all of these fencers succeed?” she asked me. “How can they combine competitive fencing, with the training, competing, and traveling, and the rigorous demands of high school?”

Her question made me reflect on all of the competitive fencers that I’ve seen do this dance in the past decade. I thought back to the conversations I’ve had with our students over the years and their families. Not just those who transitioned from middle school to high school, but also those who transitioned from high school into college. 

Looking back through all of our students, I can see a theme in how they handled high school. I’d say that 90% at least of our competitive fencers had a smooth and successful experience in high school. There are always challenges, of course there are always challenges, but on the whole we have seen almost no problems. And the same theme is seen in the USA Fencing All-Academic and All-American Program, which recognizes high schoolers with high achievements on-strip and in school.

This is counter to what you would intuitively think. It turns out that having lots of things to do doesn’t make it harder for competitive fencers, but instead it leads them to a better balance. Most of these fencers spend tons of time in competitions, doing all kinds of training, going to camps, and spending hours doing cross-training, and yet they successfully graduate and get accepted to top colleges

The sentiment I hear from both students and parents is that, since they started competitive fencing, their grades went up and they found more success in school. They’re better students who are more interested in their school work and more invested in their future. 

Every young person is different, but it’s well worth analyzing what’s behind this. 

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