Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Health Page 1 of 11

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. 

How Fencing Boosts Mental Health

How Fencing Boosts Mental Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Though fencing in particular and sports in general are well known for how they benefit us physically, there are also a huge number of ways that they boost mental health. 

Mood improvement

Mood happens on a spectrum, from being far down in the dumps to being elated and excited. What we want is to stay in the middle somewhere for the most part. The low lows can help us to learn resilience, and the high highs can of course boost us tremendously. 

The trouble with the high highs is that, if we become too attached to them, we can spend too much time chasing them. This keeps us from being able to live in the present, as we’re always thinking about how great it felt to have that big experience. The trouble with the low lows is of course that they bring us down. Both can be disruptive to our mood and throw our life off course. 

Being relaxed allows you to be present in the moment, without worrying too much about the future or fretting too much about the past. Physical activity of any kind releases brain chemicals that relax our minds and even our moods. 

Regular fencing gives you an additional mood boost because of the constant competitive nature. Point, point, point – sometimes for the opponent and sometimes for yourself. It gives you a consistent sense of being in that middle, even as you are excited and ready to go. This isn’t just about the physical benefits that fuel mood improvement, it’s also how the highly competitive nature of fencing gives us a regular mood boost. The highs and lows aren’t so drastic, but they are still exciting enough to engage us. 

Beyond those, there’s also the mood boost from the social nature of the sport. Though this is an individual sport, it’s also in direct competition with an opponent. The camaraderie, even with the person on the other side of the strip, is a great boost for a fencer’s mood.

The Power of Napping for Fencers

The power of Napping for Fencers

Did you know that elite athletes use napping to help them perform better? Napping isn’t just for little kids, it’s a powerful tool for anyone at any age. 

Adding napping into your fencing routine, both during training and on competition days, can really up your game and improve your all around health as well as your performance. This goes for youth fencers all the way through veterans. 

People are often judgemental about napping. Shouldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time? The thing is, napping is absolutely a productive activity. If you are sluggish or groggy during a fencing lesson with your coach, you’re going to get less out of it than if you’re alert and feeling strong. This is even exaggerated in competition. If you’re not able to perform to your optimum level because your body needs some rest, how is that helping anyone? 

Using napping is about training smarter rather than harder. 

Five Safe Steps for Fencers to Keep Training While Injured

Five Safe Steps for Fencers to Keep Training While Injured

No matter how safe a sport might be, it still involves moving the body in a wide variety of ways, and there will always be injuries. 

In our club, we have been incredibly fortunate to only have (knock on wood!) a few injuries during training or competition. Most of the injuries that we see are from things that happen outside of the club – something during gym class at school, an accident at home, a fall on a bike or a tumble on rollerblades or a skateboard, a skiing injury, etc. Though these didn’t happen during fencing itself, they are still injuries that require modification of fencing training. 

The options for injured fencers

Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a broken wrist, a pulled muscle, or any number of potential injuries, the immediate concern has to be safety and long-term healing. The first priority in any situation is to keep the body safe. Though in the past there was a great deal of pressure on young athletes to push through their injuries and keep on going, things have thankfully progressed now to a point where the long-term health of athletes takes priority over pushing past the breaking point. 

However, that does not mean that we are giving up. 

What do you do? There are three options: 

  1. stop training altogether
  2. do some modified training
  3. keep training as normal. 

Which option you choose to do will depend on the specifics of your injury and the demands of your current situation. If it’s a week before Fencing Summer Nationals, that’s a very different place to be than if you’re hurt at the beginning of the season. 

No matter the situation, time wasted is time wasted. The reasoning is irrelevant. People tend to think that only options one and three are viable, and that is so wrong! We have many more possibilities, and they all center around modified training. Injury downtime can be a great opportunity to enrich your training and expand your abilities in new directions. 

Tendinitis (Fencer’s Elbow) – What it is and how to get rid of it

Tendinitis (Fencer’s Elbow) - What it is and how to get rid of it

One of the most common injuries that fencers get is commonly called “fencer’s elbow”, or tendinitis if we’re being technical. 

A tender, painful spike of sensation that hangs in the dull curve of the elbow joint is how people usually experience it. Like a pinch that can progress into a fiery, throbbing ache. Without the right kind of support and precautions, it’ll only get worse. 

It’s the same thing as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, except of course that those come from holding a tennis racket or a golf club. In fact, any repetitive motion or long-term action that uses the arm can cause the same thing. It could happen to hairdressers or plumbers, to carpenters or artists – anyone who uses their arm over and over again in the same motion. The medical term for it is lateral epicondylitis.  

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