Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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How Hard Should Parents and Coaches Push Young Fencers?

How Hard Should Parents and Coaches Push Young Fencers?

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.

Why Fencing Should be Your Child’s Next Sport: Benefits and Advantages

Why Fencing Should be Your Child’s Next Sport: Benefits and Advantages

When you’re looking for a sport for your child to try, you’re competing against a host of rivals for your child’s attention. Trying to find something that is mentally engaging, physically active, goal driven, and also fun and offers a positive culture is a challenge. 

Steeped in tradition and full of excitement, fencing offers a unique experience that sets it apart from other youth sports. It’s a great place for kids to start exploring themselves and building confidence.

Let’s explore some of the benefits and advantages of enrolling your child in fencing ths year.

1. Building physical and mental fitness through fencing

Fencing engages both the body and mind. As fencers participate in intense bouts on the piste, they enhance their cardiovascular endurance, speed, agility, and coordination. Footwork drills, lunges, and quick changes in direction are integral to the sport, leading to improved balance and flexibility.

Moreover, fencing is a mentally stimulating activity. It requires split-second decision-making, anticipation of your opponent’s moves, and the ability to strategize on the fly. Fencers learn to think critically, analyze situations, and develop tactical approaches to outmaneuver their opponents. This mental challenge helps sharpen focus, enhances problem-solving skills, and boosts cognitive abilities.

For kids, this kind of whole-body and whole-mind engagement supports their development in incredible ways. Young fencers enjoy being in a place that pushes them and keeps them growing. It’s also important to note that fencing is a great way for kids to get immersed in something that’s positive and not screen-oriented. 

Out of Control – How to Teach Young Fencers to Control Their Emotions in Loss

Out of Control - How to Teach Young Fencers to Control Their Emotions in Loss

Fencing, like any competitive sport, is a rollercoaster of emotions. Victories can elate fencers, filling them with a sense of accomplishment and pride. However, on the flip side, defeat can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially for young athletes who may struggle to control the intense emotions that come with losing. 

We’ve seen this recently in large competitions, and it’s always troubling when it happens. It can have serious consequences for everyone involved, and things can reach well beyond the player involved, as we saw with a recent incident at the Pan American Games that could keep the U.S. Men’s Epee Team out of the Paris Olympics. 

An outburst at the Pan-American Games

Curtis McDowald, a 2020 Olympian representing the U.S. men’s épée team, had serious trouble controlling his emotions during the Pan-American fencing championships in Lima, Peru in June. 

Following a crucial loss in the semifinals against Colombia, McDowald received a red card on the decisive point. Frustrated, he stormed off the competition strip and expressed his anger by kicking and damaging a free-standing banner nearby. We’ve seen it before in other competitions with other fencers, and though we can understand the emotions, the consequences of these actions are serious. Another member of USA Fencing attempted to calm him down amidst the heated moment. 

As a consequence of his actions, McDowald was shown a black card, resulting in a complete disqualification for the U.S. men’s épée team. This disqualified them from participating in the bronze-medal match and dealt a severe blow to their chances of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. Prior to the incident, the U.S. men’s epee team held a strong position to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

In response to the incident, USA Fencing expressed disappointment in Curtis’s actions, acknowledging the harm it caused to Team USA’s Olympic qualification prospects. The national governing body revealed that McDowald had been removed from the Pan-American Championships team following a hearing. As a consequence of his actions, he was also ineligible to compete at the 2023 Fencing World Championships.

His actions have highlighted the importance of sportsmanship and maintaining composure in the face of defeat, as emotions can have significant consequences on an athlete’s career and their team’s prospects.

As coaches, parents, and mentors, it is crucial to teach young fencers how to control their emotions in the face of defeat, fostering resilience and empowering them to grow from setbacks. These are important life skills not just for right now in their pursuit of sports, but for their whole life as they have to learn how to control their emotions in all kinds of situations. 

We want to grow a group of young people who can interact in healthy ways by handling their emotions effectively. It’s important for them and it’s important for society as a whole. Finding effective ways to support young people when their feelings are too big for them is a great way to help our fencers. Learning emotional control and how to cope with losses in a constructive way will help your fencers get to the next level on the piste and off.

But how can we do it? How can we learn from these kinds of incidents and show our kids that they don’t have to respond with this kind of outburst? Here are some effective strategies. 

Signing Kids Up for Fencing this School Year: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know

Signing Kids Up for Fencing this School Year: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know

A new school year is a busy time of year for families that’s full of excitement and new beginnings. Kids are starting new grades in school with new teachers and new classmates, and everyone is full of energy after the summer. 

This time of year is also when extracurricular activities get going, and choosing which one is right for children is both exciting and daunting. Fitting it all in and knowing how to effectively plan out time and commitments can be difficult. We don’t want to overload our kids with activities, but at the same time we don’t want them to miss out. 

Fencing combines athleticism, strategy, and a touch of elegance, making it a thrilling and engaging extracurricular for children. Competitive fencing is certainly an option, but beginner fencers who have never tried the sport before don’t jump into the deep end – they just dip a toe in. 

If your child is considering fencing this fall, this blog will give you everything you need to know. 

Understanding the Thrill

Fencing is a sport that involves dueling with a weapon. Sword dueling is an exhilarating and enjoyable activity that brings with it a sense of comfort and excitement. Unlike other sports, where players are bound by various rules and equipment, dueling with a sword allows for a thrilling and immersive experience. 

Imagine standing across from your opponent, the weight of the sword in your hand, and the anticipation of the bout ahead. The world around you seems to fade away, leaving only you and your opponent in a dance of skill and strategy. As the duel commences, your senses heighten, and each movement becomes crucial, requiring precision and quick thinking. 

The beauty of sword dueling is that it welcomes participants of all ages. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned duelist, the joy lies in the act of wielding a sword and engaging in a friendly clash. Beginners need not fret about choosing a specific weapon; it’s the thrill of the fight that matters most.

If your child picks a stick and imagines it’s a sword, if your child thrusts into you or their friends with pool noodles, then fencing is a sport that most likely they would love. And then you should learn what’s the next step and what this sport will give your child, as well as what preparations to make for your child to pursue this beautiful sport.

How Fencers can Maintain Momentum Through the Summer Break

How Fencers can Maintain Momentum Through the Summer Break

Keeping momentum in the summer for youth fencers can be crucial for their development and performance. If you don’t keep working on it, then those skills you’ve invested all of that energy into developing will dull with time. Coming back into the full swing of things in the fall when school and other activities are all going  will be that much harder, making the road forward more challenging than it needs to be. 

For fencers who are qualified for Fencing Summer Nationals, maintaining that momentum is easier, because they’re pouring themselves into their preparation for the big tournament. Most fencers in America aren’t there yet, and the national championship is naturally selective in its participation. That leaves a huge swath of competitive and recreational fencers out there who don’t have a major competition to keep them focused and going. 

How can fencers maintain their progress during the summer months without competitions to motivate them? Here are some ways to make it happen.

Being specific makes all the difference

Work with your fencer to set clear and achievable goals for the summer. This is something you can define with their coach, but it can also come a lot from your fencer and what they feel they need. 

Goals could include improving specific skills, increasing strength or endurance, or participating in summer competitions that aren’t part of USA Fencing. Keep in mind that competing outside of the qualifying paths is still incredibly helpful. Go for things that are as challenging as possible, but also realize that summer training can be less intense and more fun. Setting goals to participate in specific local or even intramural competitions can keep things light for the break while also pushing them forward.

Setting targets will provide direction and motivation throughout the season, but keep in mind that you don’t have to be harsh or incredibly rigid. Structure that works for youth fencers works best when it accommodates their needs. Given that, you will be happy if you develop a structured training plan that outlines specific activities and workouts for your fencer to follow during the summer. This plan should include a combination of skill development, physical conditioning, and rest days. Having a plan in place will help your fencer stay focused and organized without feeling boxed in.

Encourage your fencer to continue practicing their sport regularly in their club, even during the summer break when things are looser. Consistent practice will help them maintain and enhance their skills on the strip. This could involve working on individual drills, participating in open fencing, or attending fencing camps or clinics

That last one – camps and clinics – is really important for the summer because it’s an unusual time with opportunities that you won’t often have. Take advantage of the possibilities during the summer that kids can’t get during the year. Summer camps are a unique way of building camaraderie but also building skills and having fun. They’re lower pressure than competition, but the skill development is real and impactful. Fencing clubs often bring in special guests during the summer, allowing kids to train with a different and valuable perspective. 

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