While it is your fencer’s primary job to improve their skills, learn their craft, and have fun, the parent’s primary responsibility is simply to offer support. As a parent, you know that your encouragement can mean the world to your child. However, it isn’t always easy to be a fencing parent—watching your child lose a bout can be heartbreaking, and a fencer’s training schedule and competitions can certainly take an emotional (and physical) toll on the whole family.
A recent post from fencing dad, Andrew Lorenz, really resonated with our readers. He shares 8 useful tips from his experience as a fencing parent! With the success of the first post, we asked Andrew back! Another recent post shares his reflections on his fencing has positively affected his son.
This post takes a slightly different take and we’ve outlined some of the most important and meaningful ways you can support your children and help them navigate through a positive fencing experience.
#1 Encourage them to set goals.
These can be training goals (with the help of a coach), emotional goals, short-term goals, or long-term goals. Always urge your athlete to set goals that are specific, realistic, and attainable. Remember—success is not the same as winning, so goals should include something other than winning and rankings. Let your children choose the goals—this will add to their satisfaction when they achieve them, and children are also much more likely to stay committed and pay attention when they are given more control.
Remember that the achievement of the goal is its own reward! Be careful with any incentives and never pay your child for winning a bout. The best way to help your children meet their goals is through positive reinforcement and encouragement.
#2 Allow room for mistakes.
Failure is a part of success and mistakes help children learn and grow, and ultimately ensure that they are more well-rounded and smart competitors. Moreover, fencers who are just starting out are likely to experience many more losses than wins. Your child may face back-to-back-to-back losses more often than not, and will need your support to persevere.
Whether they are experiencing a triumphant win or a disappointing loss, provide a safe place for your fencers to experience the emotional highs and lows of training and competition.
#3 Manage your own expectations.
It’s unlikely that your child will qualify for the Olympics one year after picking up a foil. Instead of setting unreasonable expectations, focus on the fact that through fencing your child is learning responsibility, sportsmanship, teamwork, and getting exercise. Try not to judge your child based on other fencers’ experiences and progress. Instead, offer encouragement based on their unique progress.
Always refrain from any kind of negativity (about your fencer’s performance, the bout, the tournament, officials, other parents) and engage in positive reinforcement. “Did you have fun?” is a great question to ask after a tournament.
#4 Get involved … in the right ways.
We’ve shared some more specific posts on what to expect at tournaments and how to cheer for your fencer. Reading through these posts is a great way to be prepared and learn how to best support your child in specific environments.
An important task for any parent of athletes is to get them to the club for regular training, so be sure to join a club that suits your and your fencer’s schedules. Regular training is a must if you want to see regular improvement. Find a club that you both like and put down roots—it’s best for your child’s emotional and athletic development and his love of the sport to develop a strong relationship with coaches, other fencers, and other fencing families.
#5 Help your child love the sport.
You’d be surprised how many goals are achieved, how fun practice and tournaments become, how your relationship with your child grows, and what a great addition to your life fencing will be if your child loves doing it. When you get right down to it, your only real job is to support and love your fencer unconditionally. That means win or lose, rain or shine, Olympics or no Olympics. If you can do that, you’re already the best fencing parent in the world. The rest of these suggestions are just icing on the cake.