Every parent wants their child to be successful. That’s not just in one area of life – we want our kids to be successful all the way around. As fencing parents, we want to give our young fencers the best chance possible to become a wonderful fencer, but it’s easy to fall into some negative behaviors that can be detrimental to your child’s progress.
We’ve had the great joy of watching many of our young athletes progress through to success. Along the way, we’ve learned to appreciate the broad perspective of what it takes to support a fencer from here to there in success. We’ve had the chance to work with some marvelous parents who support their child’s success in spades, perfectly getting them the things that they need to become great fencers.
Unfortunately we’ve also seen some parents who, often with the best of intentions and wholly unwittingly, end up sabotaging the future of their young fencer. You can avoid those mistakes! That’s why we’ve put together these four ways that you might be destroying your child’s fencing career, not to mention harming their quality of life in general!
1. Micromanaging your child
The best fencers, the most successful who have the highest level of competence, are generally those fencers whose parents are the least overbearing.
Learning to scaffold your child while still letting them do this on their own is the key to being a successful fencing parent. Hold them to their commitments, take them to practice, make sure they have every opportunity to get to those competitions, but don’t get involved in every detail of their sport. That’s just not your place! When it comes to the nuts and bolts of fencing, or even fencing training, parents who over manage every little thing find that their kids get burned out and get frustrated.
There is a long timeline on fencing mastery, one that can’t be rushed by parents. That’s a hard truth, but micromanaging a young fencer brings nothing but friction.
*Try this instead – Find a great fencing club and trust them to take care of all of those little things. Letting go of control as a parent is hard, but we speak from experience when we say that it feels great once you do it.
2. Pushing your ambitions on your child
Having a child is definitely about living through them to some extent. We share in their joys, their sorrows, their triumphs, and their defeats. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about allowing yourself to enjoy your child! However there’s a fine line between supporting your child and pushing your ambitions.
We’ve seen it all too many times – parents see their child as a “second chance” for them to relive and have the success that they missed out on. You always wanted to go to the Olympics and you feel that you can get to that dream through your child! But if that ambition isn’t shared by your child (getting to the Olympics in fencing is no small thing after all), then you’re going to find yourself wasting time and resources, not to mention harming your relationship with your child.
Looking at your child as your second hope is a very, very slippery and destructive slope.
*Try this instead – If you feel like you’ve missed the boat on your dreams of success in a sport, try fencing yourself! Adult fencing is fantastic, and the competition can be fierce. You won’t be sorry you took it up.
Children have growing bodies that need rest and balance. Fencing all the time, cross training constantly, and going to every single possible competition just isn’t good for kids. Yes, we want them to be passionate about fencing. Yes, we want them to love the sport. Yes, we want them to enjoy coming to the club. However what we don’t want is for them to train so much that they get injured.
The rise in orthopedic injuries among children in sport has been breathtaking. Of every trend in youth sport, this is perhaps the most astounding. Children (and often teens as well) are being pushed too hard too soon. They need a strong foundation in the fundamentals of fencing to build those muscles.
The other consideration, aside from injury, with over training is that young fencers need balance. We all need balance! Kids should have the latitude to explore lots of different activities. Even if fencing is their absolute calling, which we hope that it is, they should continue to enjoy academic pursuits, artistic endeavors, friends, etc. Balance prevents burn out.
*Try this instead – Talk to your child’s fencing coach about the level at which it’s safe for your child to train given their age. Then find other activities outside of fencing for them to participate in!
4. Putting the cart before the horse
Kids need praise, that’s something that is universally true. However what kids don’t need is excess pressure that comes from overzealous parents who get ahead of themselves.
Throwing around words like “phenom”, “Olympian”, “scholarship”, “champion”, etc., especially for a relatively new fencer, are just detrimental. Don’t give your child expectations that they can’t live up to, or that they might not live up to. Potential is just that – potential. It’s not realized yet, by definition!
Patience is a hard lesson for parents to learn, just as it’s a hard lesson for children to learn. Keep things in perspective. Learning to fence is challenging all the way around, and it’s only made more challenging when children feel as though they’re weighted down with expectation. If your child wants to pursue fencing seriously, then they’ll follow that path with your support. If fencing is not their thing, then there’s no way that you’re going to force them to be champions. It doesn’t matter that you’ve driven to a thousand practices, or spent a great deal of money, or used up your vacation days to go to fencing competitions. Rigid expectations aren’t useful, and neither are accolades that aren’t yet earned.
*Try this instead – Place the emphasis on your child’s growth and progress, not on the accolades that you wish for them to earn. Focus on who your child is right now! The future is far less important than the present with children.
Every parent wants the best for their child. For fencing parents, navigating a competitive sport can prove to be immensely stressful for both the parent and the child. Your best bet is to give your child love, support, and encouragement.