We have put out many gift guides for fencers in the past, but for 2020 we have had to rethink how we approach gift giving and holiday shopping. The needs are not the same for fencers as they have been before, so to give the right kinds of gifts, we need to think about where things are right now.
There is not a need for the usual travel equipment, obviously. Fencers also aren’t decorating backpacks or looking for bumper stickers to show their fencing pride. The needs this year are more pressing perhaps than in years past, both because we need the extra boost and because we just have different needs.
Though there is hope that things will get back into the direction of normal in, fencers must prepare to continue to train with social distancing protocols into the foreseeable future. That makes this a wonderful time to give practical gifts to make that training easier! These little boosts are incredibly meaningful right now, and for the fencer in your life, a thoughtful and useful gift can make a major difference. Both the thought and the practicality count!
It can feel like the last year has been nothing more than one long and impossible series of choices that are gut wrenching for us to make, yet they have to be made. Gratitude is not an easy sentiment to come by as the months drag on and on, especially when we realize that pandemic lockdowns are only going to get worse in the coming months.
I miss fencing competitions.
I miss the sound of swords clashing.
I miss hugging my family.
I miss the feel of getting on an airplane.
I miss my opponents.
I miss movie theaters.
I miss handshakes from my coach.
I miss sitting over dinner with my friends.
I miss yells on the piste.
I miss not having to think about coronavirus all the time.
I miss feeling confident in the future.
Before this pandemic lockdown, we knew what was what. We planned for fencing competitions years in advance at times. We knew that Fencing Summer Nationals would happen every summer and that every four years we could count on the Olympics to give us a fresh infusion of inspiration and determination. High school seniors knew that they would go off to live in a dorm in the fall. Middle school fencers knew they would come to the club after school and practice. You could count on these things, just the same as the seasons turning or the sun rising in the morning.
It is very much as though the sun isn’t rising the way it’s supposed to.
There’s no reason to deny the struggle that this time is. We can put a shine over it, try to dig harder to make it through, but that wears on us. It is wearing on us. The well of sunshine that we project is not endless, and it does no good to try to pretend it is. We are worried about our future, and also about our present. That makes our light dimmer, though it doesn’t put it out.
Sometimes, I think we should allow it to be dim. It’s recharging, and most of all it’s honest. The toll that this long lockdown has taken on small businesses, including fencing clubs, is real and it is wearying. Will fencing still be here when everything reopens? Once the vaccine does come, and it will come, what will be left? Once lockdown is not our everyday life, can our everyday life be what it was before? The truth is that life will not be the same as it was before.
These months have been demoralizing in many ways, for many different people and for a whole lot of different reasons. It activated a part of our brains that is focused on survival, something that most of us have not had to think about before. We are pushed to give more than we ever have before, and sometimes we don’t even know how to give it.
Attention is basically the action of fixating the mind on some activity or some event. And when I say fixating the mind, it means being able to carefully listen and watch, and be in constant and instant awareness of everything happening in the event of interest. Driving is a fantastic example, right? You’re fixing your mind on the road, and you’re constantly aware of everything that happens near you—whether it’s other cars, pedestrians, traffic signs, a policeman, any obstacles on the road like potholes or objects, animals, whatever it is.
You are constantly watching, you’re constantly listening to what happens. You are in a driving mind zone, where not only you’re aware of what is going on around you, but—because of that—you can essentially predict what will happen in the next moment, because you catch some subtle cues from the surrounding that allows you to predict. You see the body language of a pedestrian, showing that he or she is about to cross. A car starts to do a change of lane, or use their signal. The traffic light turns from green to yellow.
So: Attention is the action of fixing your mind on something by carefully listening and watching, and being constantly and instantly aware of everything that happens around you. And, because of that, being able to predict the next moment.
The mind is the most powerful thing that we have. In both fencing and in daily life, we have the opportunity to change our manifested world when we adapt our mindset. It’s no easy thing to do, and in the midst of a global pandemic that has changed our daily lives, it is both more important than ever before and also more difficult than ever before.
There are a great many things that the pandemic calls on us to adapt to. We must adapt to a new physical environments and models of learning. We must adapt to wearing masks and social distancing. We must adapt to new ways of fencing, with socially distanced instruction and new modalities of practice. It’s all well and good to recognize that we have to adapt, but how do we adapt effectively?
The answer is that we must change our mindset. This doesn’t happen easily or without focus. Changing one’s mindset is a tough process, but that’s why it’s transformative! A mindset reset allows us to push ourselves in new directions and to take advantage of the opportunities that are sitting right in front of us.
In fencing, the fencer is the priority, but young fencers are necessarily supported by their parents and their coaches. Both of these stakeholders have an important role in facilitating the growth and development of fencers, but what happens when they don’t get along, their relationship deteriorates, or when they have different ideas about what is best? How about when a fencer pushes back against their coach?
These relationships are complex. It is challenging to keep the momentum going in a positive way, or to change course when things need to change. There are differences in opinions, and this is normal. Issues that develop here can turn into insurmountable obstacles that push fencers to quit the sport altogether, and no one wants to see that.
The truth is that parents don’t always know what to do when conflict comes up. Our first reaction might be to step in because that feels like advocating for your child. All parents have that instinct to protect their kids. It’s a good instinct, but sometimes it can get in the way of what’s best for kids as they get older and need independence. Navigating that line is one of the toughest things for parents to figure out how to do and it is never an easy task to find the right balance.
How can parents and coaches work together more effectively for the benefit of fencers? Here are ten ways to smooth the relationship between fencing parents and fencing coaches.