So you’ve decided to sign your child up for fencing! Congratulations to you, new fencing parents, and welcome to the world of your child hitting other people with long pointy metal sticks.
There are lots of things about being a fencing parent that no one really tells you about. These aren’t dark secrets, but they are the reality that we all live with as we attempt to guide our kids through the wonderful world of this sport. Buckle your seat belts new fencing parents, it’s going to be one crazy ride!
Here are the things that we think you should most look out for in your young fencers, and that we wish someone had told us about!
Sudden swashbuckling syndrome
Now that your child has started fencing, you will find that they will fence everywhere. Go out for Chinese food? Those chopsticks are now epee. Working on homework? The pencils will transform into foils. Hiking with the family? Congrats to you, the entire forest is made up of fencing weapons. There is no escaping how much new, especially young, fencers are going to use every possible object to fence with. They will practice their footwork holding a baguette if you leave it on the counter for too long. There is, unfortunately, no cure for this syndrome. We have seen it occur in veteran fencers who are past retirement age. Our biggest suggestion is to embrace it, but to be sure to put your foot down if they try to fence with anything that is actually pointy. Also, you should probably stock up on pool noodles for long school breaks.
There will be yelling
Not like the yelling that you see in other sports. There is the occasional yelling of a parent at a coach or referee (we ask that you not become that parent), but that is not the norm at all. Most of the time, parents show good manners and decorum at fencing events. However there is sometimes a lot of yelling on the strip. We mean a lot of yelling. It can be a little jarring to have these two kids in masks coming at each other with swords and then one just goes “AAHHHhhhRRR”. They’re just channeling their energy to try to get a point. Don’t worry. If your child does this, it’s probably a good sign that they are into the sport.
Watch out for college scouts
By “watch out” we mean watch out for watching out, because money for university is a bonus, not a goal. Give your child some time in the sport before you start dreaming of scholarships or of Ivy League admittance based on fencing. College fencing is a prestigious thing and a worthwhile goal, but if you have a nine-year-old who is just starting fencing, the college scouts aren’t coming just yet. If you do see one, try not to mention it to your child. Just in case.
Other fencing parents will not eat you
There’s so much tough press out there for extreme sports parents that you might be a little worried that the parent of your child’s opponent is like a wild predator. Understandable, but not our experience in fencing. Fencing parents tend to be kind, encouraging, and helpful. Overall the culture in fencing is one of support. Even at the higher levels, we don’t see fencing parents get overzealous and angry. It almost never happens. Instead, fencing parents tend to be the kind to give your kid an extra protein bar or ask if you want them to pass along their child’s outgrown fencing gear.
The Olympic countdown has not begun
It is very tempting to do the math about which Olympic games your child would best fit in. They’re too young for Tokyo in 2020, but maybe you could push them towards Paris in 2024 or Los Angeles in 2028? No, stop. Don’t get ahead of yourself or your child. Do not, we repeat do NOT make reservations at the Eiffel Tower for the summer of 2024. The Olympics can be inspiring, and they should be. Hanging your hat on your child making it to those games is a patently bad idea. Don’t do it, it will only make them feel too much pressure. Instead, learn the names of great fencers who will be competing and get excited to watch the Olympics with your young fencer!
Your child is going to know more than you
Unless you have an extensive fencing background, we can pretty much guarantee that your child is going to learn a lot more about fencing a lot faster than you will. Their knowledge will outstrip yours quickly, and if you let that happen it can be a lot of fun! It makes kids feel important and capable. We love that. Kids are innovative little sponges. Kids usually have a better perspective on winning and losing matches if we let them take the lead. For a seven year old, losing a fencing match generally only becomes a big deal if they see their parents freak out. You keep smiling! It’s only a game after all.
Fencing is hilarious!
Shocking right?! It really is! There are laughs all of the time in fencing, constantly. When someone is practicing and misses a point or goes the wrong way, it can be light hearted if we let it be lighthearted. A lot of fencers are smiling under that mask! Whether they are getting a point or missing a point, just the art of holding a sword has a magic to it. People often think of fencing as a big and serious sport because it involves holding a sword and that seems like serious business. We find that, while our fencers take their training very seriously, they also just take joy in their training. Even in the hard work there is laughter, after long days and tough competitions.
Your wallet might never recover
It is no secret that youth sports can be expensive, and fencing has its share of high expenses. You can help to mitigate costs by carpooling for competitions and teaching young fencers to properly maintain their equipment so that it lasts longer, but the cost of the sport is unavoidable. Especially if you end up with higher levels of competition, the travel is a big part of that. The good news – every fencing parent we have ever known says that it’s money well spent. Remember, kids are not just learning swordfighting, they are also learning valuable life skills like discipline, grit, perseverance, and how to think on their feet.
You might decide to slay dragons yourself
Did you even know that adult fencing is a thing? You can start fencing at any age, and be good at it even if you didn’t start when you were nine. We have encountered innumerable parents who decide to pick up fencing because their child enrolled. Sometimes parents keep fencing even if their child decides it’s not the sport for them! Be aware that, if you aren’t careful, you might want to try fencing yourself and to slay your own dragons with an epee or a foil!
Being low-key isn’t always possible
When your child wins that final point in a competition match, you might not be able to stay as chilled out as you’d like. You might start to jump up and down. You will definitely change your phone background and show off your pictures to all of your coworkers. Being a fencing parent can make you very enthusiastic, so much that you get a fencing mug and a bumper sticker. Oh, and a “proud parent of a fencer” t-shirt. And maybe those cool fencing cufflinks or charm bracelet you saw online . . . Please do just think long and hard before you commit to that fencing tattoo. It’s not that we’re saying you shouldn’t get a fencing tattoo, just that we’re reminding you that tattoos are lifetime commitments, unlike tshirts.
Fencing might swamp your social
You may find yourself taking not one, not two, but dozens of pictures. At one practice that you observe. If you were to look at the social media feeds of lots of our parents, you might find that fencing dominates them. What can we say? Fencing looks really cool. We mean really freaking cool. It’s really cool to take pictures of it. It’s even harder to hold back when it’s your incredible kid under that mask. When it’s competition season, you might have to free up storage on your phone to accommodate all of those pictures!
Sometimes the lessons that we have to learn as fencing parents aren’t the ones that we expect to learn. Sometimes the lessons are downright strange, and oftentimes they are downright heartwarming. There’s really no way to know what the outcome will be until you get there, and every fencing family is a unique experience. There are lots of ups and downs, and you can never expect how much fencing will change your family’s life until you are a fencing family.
We hope that your journey is as fun and rewarding as ours has been. Hopefully, it will be!