Many fencers find their way into the sport after trial and error with other sports, or through a genuine interest in fencing. Some may have watched a competition online or saw an Olympics bout that was exciting. Many discover fencing because of siblings, or other family members who encouraged them to check it out. Whatever the reason, many students don’t know at first whether or not it will click for them.
When it does it can feel like lightning in a bottle. And that feeling is something that some fencers end up turning into a burning desire.
What Is a Burning Desire?
Simply put, a burning desire is a feeling that pushes some athletes to reach goals, then break them. It encourages them to advance beyond the expectations of their coaches, their peers, and their parents. It’s a passion for a sport that fuels a love for the game.
It’s pretty easy to recognize a burning desire, and I’ve seen it in fencers from all stages; from the very beginning fencers to more advanced students. There are those who have a burning desire to succeed in their sport that takes their interest in fencing beyond merely showing up to practice and traveling to competitions.
For these fencers with a burning desire, they can only think about fencing. When they’re not training, they’re thinking about training. When they’re not competing, they’re thinking about their next competition.
When you love what you do, when you have a burning desire to fence, it’s easy to find yourself going an extra mile to improve your technique. In fact, you don’t even need to have the most talent, the most natural ability, or even have fenced for very long to tap into this passion and love for the game.
Why a Burning Desire is Different from Talent
Having natural talent is always helpful. Being naturally athletic or mentally tough is also a huge bonus. But, in many cases, a passion for the sport is what differentiates the fencers who consistently place highly at competitions, from the ones who don’t. A burning desire feeds even the most novice of fencers to reach higher, do more, stay late, work harder, push their limits, and learn not just from practicing and training, but from watching and observing other fencers.
Many of the most successful fencers, the ones who have this burning desire, stay to watch everyone else in their competition event. Even if they have been eliminated, even if they have played several exhausting bouts, the ones with a burning desire cannot just simply go home.
They read and analyze score sheets and tableau’s, they watch more advanced fencers to learn what traits of other competitors are worth paying attention to. They ask questions and seek advice. They watch YouTube and learn. They google videos of competitions around the world and learn. They follow their role model fencers on social media not just because they enjoy the fun of it, but for real deep learning.
Why You Should Mimic a Burning Desire
It is possible to be an excellent fencer, to have raw talent, love the sport, be competitive and NOT have a burning desire.
It’s actually quite rare to find a fencer who has a true burning desire. I try to nurture a burning desire as soon as I’m able to recognize it because in my experience, it’s the marker of a specific level of competitiveness. But more importantly, especially as a parent, this is a lifelong skill and a relationship to their craft that I want my children to learn and develop.
However, if you don’t feel this passion, you can still incorporate the tools that someone with a burning desire may use.
How to Mimic A Burning Desire to Improve Your Fencing
Show up early. Leave late. Watch fencing Youtube videos when you’re waiting at the bus stop or for a friend to pick you up. Review your own bouts, especially those where you lost. Follow all the big fencers on social media. Check out other highly ranked competitors once you’ve been eliminated at a competition. Stay open to feedback from coaches, peers. Ask for help. Take private lessons. Do your school homework on time so you do not skip a training later because of it.
Even the smallest extra effort beyond your standard routine and practice has the potential to improve your game.
Nurturing a Burning Desire
It’s easy to nurture a burning desire once you recognize it happening, but what do you do when you’re not sure if your child has a passion for the sport they play? The best thing to do is to provide lots of space and options for your child to learn, grow, and enjoy the game. Encourage them every step of the way but don’t smother them with expectations.
At the same time, if your child loves fencing, but is not doing these extra things, it’s ultimately okay. By helping them to discover more about the sport, beyond their training regime, beyond their club and local competitive circuit, you will help them to see the bigger picture.
You will also help them to develop deeper bonds with the sport they’ve chosen and to be able to enjoy it more as a result..
A Burning Desire Can Be Contagious
No matter how talented a fencer may be, how fantastic their coach is, or how supportive and encouraging their parents are, a child must come to this burning desire on their own. It cannot be forced.
However, I’ve seen the feeling of a burning desire spread through a club of fencers like it’s contagious.
If a specific child has a passion for the sport, it’s common to see them take on a natural leadership role, encouraging their club-mates to do more. They can even inspire a burning desire in anyone who comes into contact with them.
These fencers, if they can indulge their passion, can live and breathe their craft and art and encourage others around them to do the same just by doing what they love.
Not everyone will have the same burning desire. What’s important is to learn how to develop the tools and abilities to go the extra mile and aspire to push yourself harder than just the basic practice. This will take anyone far in fencing, and ultimately, in life.