Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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Manifesto of a Fencing Parent

Manifesto of a Fencing Parent

As a fencing parent, you play a vital role in supporting and guiding your child’s journey in this remarkable sport. Fencing is not just about wins and medals; it’s a personal and transformative journey for your young athlete. The following ten essential principles will help you create a positive and nurturing environment for your child and enable them to thrive in their fencing pursuits.

1. Embrace the Journey of Your Child

Recognize that fencing is a unique journey filled with ups and downs. Encourage your child to set personal goals and enjoy the process of improvement. It’s crucial to celebrate progress, regardless of the outcome. Remember, success in fencing is not just about winning – it’s about personal growth and development.

2. Support Your Child’s Passion

Wholeheartedly support and respect your child’s love for fencing. Show genuine interest in their experiences, listen to their aspirations, and provide the necessary encouragement. Your support and enthusiasm will fuel their motivation and confidence, helping them excel in the sport they love.

3. Foster a Healthy Balance

While commitment is crucial, ensure your child maintains a healthy balance between fencing and other aspects of life. Encourage them to pursue diverse interests, maintain friendships, and excel academically. Balancing different areas of life will prevent burnout and contribute to their overall well-being.

4. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Teach your child the power of a growth mindset – the belief that abilities can be developed through effort and dedication. Encourage them to embrace challenges, learn from setbacks, and persist in the face of adversity. By fostering a growth mindset, you empower your child to overcome obstacles and reach their full potential.

5. Promote Sportsmanship and Respect

Emphasize the values of good sportsmanship and respect for opponents, coaches, and officials. Teach your child the importance of fair play, integrity, and kindness. Success in fencing goes beyond winning – it’s about conducting oneself with grace and dignity both on and off the strip.

6. Trust the Coaching Process

Have faith in your child’s coach and their expertise. Refrain from interfering with the training or offering unsolicited advice. Instead, provide unwavering support and encouragement to your child. Trust that the coach will guide their technical and tactical development while you focus on being their biggest cheerleader.

7. Nurture Independence and Responsibility

Encourage your child to take ownership of their fencing journey. Involve them in decision-making processes, such as goal setting and managing their training schedule. Teach them the importance of responsibility, including being punctual, maintaining their equipment, and practicing self-discipline.

8. Prioritize Safety and Well-being

Ensure your child’s safety and well-being are paramount. Provide the necessary protective gear, promote warm-up and conditioning routines, and educate them about injury prevention. Prioritize rest and recovery to avoid overtraining, and listen to their body’s needs to maintain a healthy balance between training and rest.

9. Create a Supportive Community

Build connections with other fencing parents to create a supportive community. Engage in positive and respectful interactions, share experiences, and offer encouragement to fellow athletes and their families. By fostering a sense of belonging, you contribute to a nurturing environment that enhances the fencing experience for all.

10. Celebrate the Journey, Not Just the Destination

Remember to celebrate every step of your child’s fencing journey. Acknowledge and applaud their achievements, no matter how small. Whether it’s a personal best, a hard-fought bout, or the joy of participation, celebrate these milestones. By doing so, you reinforce their love for the sport and inspire continued growth and development.

By embracing these principles, you create a supportive and positive environment where your child can flourish. Fencing is not just a sport – it’s a transformative experience that shapes character, resilience, and lifelong skills. With your unwavering support, your child can embrace the journey and find joy and fulfillment in the world of fencing.

In Defense of Crazy Fencing Parents

In Defense of Crazy Fencing Parents

Written by an anonymous Crazy Fencing Parent

I’ve known some crazy fencing parents. I’m one myself.

Not that I scream curse words at the fencing referees when my child gets carded. Nor do I jump up and throw things when my young fencer loses a match. I don’t berate the coach if my child gets knocked out in the first DE or give evil looks to the opponent’s parents at competition. When my child doesn’t want to go to that private lesson or whines about the long drive to a fencing competition, I don’t get mad and yell at them.

That’s not being crazy, it’s being controlling. It’s being disrespectful. It’s the opposite of what the fencing community is about. Let’s be clear – doing those things is the mark of a disordered fencing parent. That kind of behavior gives youth sports a bad name, and I think we can all agree that no one likes to see it. The worst part is that behavior like that makes fencing unpleasant for kids!

I’m crazy in that I’m crazy in love with my child fencing.

Crazy in love with my child fencing

I’m the kind of parent that has a fencing bumper sticker on my car. The kind of parent who has fencing parent t-shirts and a spare protein bar in my purse at all times for my young athlete. I’m the parent who’s got a Pinterest board full of ideas for storing fencing equipment, cooking healthy meals, and prepping for tournament travel. (Granted I’ll probably never get to most of what’s on there!) I’m the kind of parent that reads fencing blogs to learn how to do this better!

I’d like to think of myself as the GOOD kind of crazy fencing parent.

What I love about being a fencing parent is the incredible growth that I see in my children. I’ve seen my kids blossom through fencing to become more confident, more independent, and happier! They’ve got goals that they want to reach, they make priorities, they work hard. The other adults they interact with and the positive relationships they form with their peers. The sibling relationships in my house are even better for fencing!

It’s not just the kid fencers who benefit

I’m also a crazy fencing parent because I’ve grown myself, even though I’m not the one on the strip holding a sword. Part of being a fencing parent is learning ourselves! How crazy is that?! Who would have ever thought that in all of these chaotic times, with the focus seemingly totally on the kids, that we parents would grow too.

Here are some of the crazy ways that fencing has helped me, the parent, grow.

I’m an amateur dietician

With my kids fencing and needing to fuel their athletic fire, I have had to learn how to feed them more effectively and efficiently. I’ve read and read and read on what the best food for young athletes is, and my house is now stocked with protein bars, oatmeal, far less sugar and far more whole foods than it was before I was a fencing parent. I now know the importance of hydration and eating small meals across the day. While we don’t eat perfectly by any stretch, I can definitely say that being a fencing parent has made me choose better food for our family. 

I’m a master multitasker

I hesitate to even really bring this up, because the expectations for parents to multitask can go extreme. Please know that I’m not here to pressure you or anyone. At the same time I’m really proud of the multitasking skills I’ve developed since being a fencing parent! I’ve learned to bake muffins for the tournament drive while soaking a load of fencing uniforms and quizzing my kids on their math facts. I’m shocked at how well I can keep it all straight while doing lots of things at once. It’s a skill I have grown so much with!

I’m a calendar champion

There’s nothing quite so beautiful as my calendar! I’m getting all fluttery thinking about it right now. It’s a truly marvelous thing, and it’s something I never did this well before I was a fencing parent. I’ve got it down to a science! Juggling competitions and training and school and work, I could not do it at all without a solid calendar. As for growth, this is a spot I feel it, because becoming a fencing parent forced me to get it together, and I love it.

I can identify weird smells

What’s that funk? Is it sweaty fencing shoes or a moldy yogurt pouch? Since becoming a fencing parent, I can name smells I never imagined I’d be able to name. Thank you fencing, thank you so much. 

I can let go of control

Fencing has helped be promote independence in my kids. I can’t hold onto them and protect them when they’re on the strip with a sword coming at them! I have learned so much about letting go of control as a fencing parent, and through that I’ve seen my children thrive on that independence. I took the act of letting go of control to an extreme level! Now I refrain from shouting instructions to my children during their bouts, and stopped dictating the steps for making parry-6, despite having watched a video tutorial countless times and memorizing the process. I don’t criticize referees for making bad calls when my children lose their bouts. Without fencing, I never would have believed how many amazing things my kids could do on their own. 

I can appreciate everyone

I’ve learned a crazy appreciation for the parents and volunteers who make tournaments run smoothly. For the coaches and staff at the club who make it all run smoothly too. I have learned to keep my cool and go with the flow as a fencing parent, to appreciate the effort rather than the outcome. That seems nuts! Instead of getting more uptight, I have insanely become less uptight and more appreciative. Sometimes I still get ornery about things for sure, and frustration comes up for me at times, but for the most part, I have learned to focus on my gratitude instead of the things that bother me. 

I adore my kids more

You know how when your child is born, you think that you couldn’t possibly love them more than you do in those first few weeks? I’ve shockingly discovered that the glow of adoration for my kids still shines that bright. When I see them step back from their frustration on the strip, or listen intently to their coach, or get that hard-won point, I find that same flood of happy emotions that I did in the early weeks with them. It’s sappy, but it’s true. With fencing, I’ve found this great culture that values what you put into the sport instead of what you win, and it’s helped me adore my kids even more!

Sometimes I feel really crazy for handing my child an actual sword – isn’t that the opposite of the kind of thing that a parent is supposed to do? Shouldn’t I be keeping them away from weapons? The simple fact of what fencing is with the swords makes me seem like a crazy parent. But a crazy parent with a gleam in my eye, and my kids have the gleam in their eyes too!

Through all of it, I embrace the wild ride that fencing is. I might not be your average parent, and I might be more enthusiastic than many people think is reasonable, but I can say that I’m happier and my kids seem happier for my giant feelings and unabashed adoration of this sport. 

So go ahead, call me a crazy fencing parent! I’ll take it any day. 

When the Fencing Coach Says Your Kid is Great but You’re not so Sure

When the Fencing Coach Says Your Kid is Great but You're not so Sure

Sometimes, what we see doesn’t line up with what people say. What do you do when the words of the coach don’t make sense with what you see happening on the piste?

If you’re a parent who doesn’t have a history in fencing, this can be all the more confusing and frustrating. Though you might observe matches, watch videos, and read blogs, fencing is not a sport that’s quite as clearly defined as something like basketball or soccer, where you can clearly see that the ball gets points. All fencers lose points, and the intense vigor of the sport can make it difficult to see the progress a fencer is making when they are indeed making progress.

What happens if you can’t see how a fencer is moving forward? Is your child really a potential Olympian, or is that just something the coach says to all the kids? It can be confusing and challenging when a fencing coach provides feedback that is different from what you observe about your child’s abilities. 

Consider Your Child’s Development 

The first real question to address is this – does it matter if your child is going to be the greatest fencer of all time? What are the goals that you and your child have, and how do those goals dovetail with what’s happening in the fencing club and also with what’s really possible?

Keep in mind that youth sports, in general, works best for kids when it’s focused on development and improvement. If you’re looking at a goal that’s eight or ten years away, then you’re putting the focus on something that’s so far away as not to have a real impact on today. By this same token, if your child’s fencing coach says “your kid is gonna be a great fencer”, but your child isn’t winning all of their matches, it might well be that they are doing great for where they’re supposed to be developmentally.

Another important point to think about here is that your child’s abilities will change over time. It’s also important to consider that different children develop at different rates. Your child might be losing a lot right now to kids in their age category that are taller and stronger than they are because kids grow and mature at different rates.

When your child has a seeming dip in their performance in competition or they experience a plateau, it’s more likely than not that they’re still on track. Their coach can see things that you don’t, like longtime patterns of development. 

Regardless of the coach’s perspective, it’s important to encourage your child and to help them build confidence in their abilities. This can include focusing on their strengths, celebrating their accomplishments, and helping them to build resilience. You can do this while at the same time understanding the long game that’s at play for your child. 

From a developmental standpoint, focusing on effort rather than outcome is where we should be for kids. If they keep on trying to improve, they’ll get better over time. If we saddle them with lofty goals that are unattainable, or if we forecast that the most important thing is the outcome, then we rob them of resilience and the freedom to fail. We learn more from failure than we do from success, and failure is a natural part of life. Allowing kids the opportunity to fail gives them the space to grow. 

The enjoyment of fencing is the other thing that parents need to prioritize. It’s ok to be a recreational fencer and just enjoy the sport in that capacity. It’s ok to be a competitive fencer who goes to regional competitions or local competitions – those are still fun places to be on the spectrum of playing youth sports. It’s ok to go all the way to Summer Nationals and not place at the top – you can still really enjoy the competition.  

Instead of focusing solely on winning, encourage your child to focus on their effort, their improvement, and their enjoyment of the sport. By focusing on these priorities, your child can build a love for fencing that will last a lifetime, and that’s what it’s really about anyway. Everything else is just gravy. 

Remember, it’s all about your child!

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that fencing is about more than just what happens on the podium. Winning and losing are such a small, small part of the process.

Your coach might say that your child has Olympic potential, but you might not see it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there – it could be that you coach sees the bigger picture. 

Fencing is about helping children to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally, and to build a love for this sport that will carry along with them throughout their life.  By keeping this perspective in mind and working closely with your child’s fencing  coach, you can help your child to have a positive and enjoyable experience, no matter where they end up.

Lack of Confidence, Overconfidence & Self Image in Teenage Fencers

Lack of Confidence, Overconfidence & Self Image in Teenage Fencers

“Raising a teenager is hard… But, being a teenager is hard, too, which is why our kids need someone they trust to lean on, to come to for advice, and to share their lives – the good, the bad and the ugly. Having a front row seat in our kids’ lives is a far better place to be than sitting on the highest bleacher.” 

This quote from Raising Teenagers Today really hit home when I saw it. While kids today have a lot of advantages in life, they also have their own tough things to carry. The world is more complicated than ever, and teenagers are right at the crossroads of the world that came before and the world that is coming ahead of us. At the same time, they’re dealing with their own growing pains as they figure out who they are and what their place in the world is. 

Parents and fencing coaches have a front row to the ups and downs of teenage life. The old joke is that teens are full of drama, but trivializing the teen experience is not helpful to anyone – not the teenagers themselves, not the parents who are raising them, and not the sport of fencing. To minimize their experience is shortsighted and can ultimately be destructive. Instead, it’s better for everyone if we acknowledge the reality that highs and lows are baked into the teenage experience. That way, we can support them in becoming the best athletes and people that they can be. 

We see a lot of teenagers in our fencing club. In fact, competitive fencing is chock full of teenagers, no matter where you look. As a parent of teenagers, I watch my own fencers as they navigate the sometimes rosy and sometimes rocky terrain of growing up. As the quote says, having a front row seat to these experiences is better than being far away. That goes for my own kids of course, but in a fencing club we’re also there for the other kids, too. 

What I see a lot of in teenage fencers is the oscillation between a lack of confidence and overconfidence. It’s hard thing for them to learn to thread the needle and find a balanced place for themselves, but with the right kinds of structures and supports, we can help teens thrive.

Fortune Telling in Youth Fencing: When Parents Choose to Pull the Youngest Fencers

Have you ever played with one of those Magic 8 Ball toys? You know, the ones that look like a pool ball and are supposed to tell you the future if you shake them and look in the little window. 

There have been times when I see fencing parents who seem to have used some method like this to see into the future of their child’s fencing career. It’s also the case that parents often want to know whether a coach or I can tell the future of a young child’s fencing skills based on little more than our intuition. While both parents and coaches are going to be more accurate than a child’s toy, we’re still trying to tell the future, and no one can do that. 

One of the hardest things that I see in running a fencing club is parents who have great intentions for their children, but who are frustratingly focused on getting their kids to some nebulous end goal of elite sport success more than they are focused on nurturing the love of a sport in their kids. 

This kind of thing happens all the time for those of us running fencing clubs. You see kids come in who just fall in love with the sport, only to have them pulled out by parents too soon. In this scenario, kids don’t get the chance to explore the thing that they love, and it’s pretty heartbreaking for coaches and staff to watch happen. 

Parents certainly have the ultimate choice about what to do with their kids, but I must encourage parents to think hard about prioritizing their child’s happiness and development over some imagined future that is far away. 

Not long ago, I had a discussion with a parent on this very issue. Though I’ve seen this kind of thing happen many times before, the candid way that this parent told me what they were thinking gave me a new window into how parents get to this place.  

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