As parents, we want our kids to be successful. It’s our job to make sure that kids have all the tools they need to reach their full potential and to be as fulfilled as they can be. That goes for fencing, but it also goes for school and other activities.
There’s a fine line between pushing a child hard enough that they can reach that potential and pushing them past it. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but parents can improve their odds by understanding how kids develop and what positive pushing looks like.
Pushing too hard on kids in youth sports can cause not only physical damage, but it can also cause mental struggles. These can become long-term issues, leading to the exact opposite outcome of what the parents want. Not only that, but it can be damaging to the relationship between parents and children.
Parents need to be encouraging, not overbearing. The same goes for coaches, who need to offer support and structure without charging past the limits of kids’ ability.
A strong internal drive
To succeed in life, kids need to develop a strong sense of purpose and an internal drive that will carry them through difficult times. Practicing is hard, especially when you’re tired or mentally worn down by a loss.
No one is born resilient. Kids learn to be resilient because someone has been there to teach them how to be that. There’s a saying in parenting that is really apropos here – kids learn to self soothe because they were soothed by someone else countless times before. This is our job as fencing parents. We need to be the ones there to build them up a thousand times so that one day they will be so strong that they don’t need us to build them up.
This happens in small ways at first, and it has to be built over time. You cannot hammer into a young athlete a sense of resilience without building them up in strong ways all along the way. It happens over time. It happens with years of practice.
A strong internal drive can only be built by first letting a child be independent, and then supporting them with positive reinforcement and encouragement. Pressure will tamp down that drive and put out the light of passion.
Both coaches and parents can support the development of a strong internal drive by giving kids guidance, then stepping back and allowing them to do it on their own. No child can develop independence when an adult is always there to hold them accountable. They have to figure out how to hold themselves accountable.
This will take time, and often we’ll see kids fall down and fail while they’re working through tough things. It’s hard for us to watch this sometimes, but we have to let them make mistakes. Fencing already teaches kids to come back from losing a point or losing a match. It’s a fantastic teaching tool, because resilience is baked into fencing if we allow it to be.