The holiday rush affects us all in major ways, and even the joy of the season isn’t always enough to keep us in balance. In competitive fencing, the holiday season is smack in the middle of the fencing season. That means fencers and their families can feel stretched and it is very important to be able to balance fencing with family time.
We’ve put together five ways for fencing families to help find balance during the holiday season!
Hurray for a wonderful holiday season! For the first time in two years, the holiday season is finally back to some kind of normalcy, thanks to the miracle of vaccines, and we are excited to publish our traditional fencing holiday gift guide.
This year, we’ve put together our annual holiday gift guide, and it’s as big and broad as we are. It’s hard not to be excited about this year! One thing of note here is that supply chain issues are a real problem in 2021. While most of the gifts we’ve included in this holiday gift guide are likely to get to you in time for Christmas, part of the reason we made this gift guide bigger than in years past is to give you more options and ideas in case your favorite fencing gift falls through.
You’ll find this gift guide broken down into five different categories – mental training, exercise/fencing training, books & media, fancy fencing gifts, and silly/fun fencing gifts. There’s something in here for everyone and for every budget, and we can honestly say that we don’t know a fencer who wouldn’t love to find any one of these fencing gifts under the tree!
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a community to grow a fencer.
A part of fencing that we don’t talk about nearly enough is the positive community that this sport is brimming with. The people in fencing create an overarching sense of belonging and support, whether they are coaches, the club staff, the referees, the officials, the fencers themselves, or the fencing families.
Despite the rivalries and the intense competitive nature of fencing, the whole of the fencing community is an extremely positive environment. Good people are everywhere here, and it’s important that we highlight the good things that are happening within our community to show our appreciation and keep it going.
I was feeling good. I had spent three years working towards this day, two weeks at camp preparing, (and then taken some time away from fencing to clear my head) and just the day before my teammates and I had won the team event. There was no one in the room I couldn’t beat if I fenced my best, and I knew I could win this competition. I knew I could lose it too — I had to be careful, to walk that balance between confidence and overconfidence — but, well, I was confident I could do that.
It certainly seemed that way in pools, where I won all my bouts comfortably. Moving into DEs I kept that same energy, and while there were a couple of challenging bouts near the beginning, I held it together and won each of them. As I progressed through the tournament, I could feel the energy in every part of my body with the intensity of my belief — what my therapist would call a ‘deeper knowing’ — that I could do this. A feeling of supreme confidence.
My bout in the top 8 was tough, but I won comfortably. The semifinal was also against a good fencer, but somehow I was fencing better than I had all day and I won 15-6 or so. Going in to the final I felt everything I had been feeling all day — but more so. The intensity, the anxiety, but also the knowledge that I was prepared, the feeling of my body being more ready than it had ever been, and my mind being totally focused. I knew that if I kept my cool, I could win this tournament. As I got on guard, I was supremely confident.
The event was junior national championships 2008, and if you read the first post in this series I’ve written for the Academy of Fencing Masters blog, (about setting goals) you know what happened next.
It felt amazing — and as I referenced in that
previous post, I had set that as a goal years before, and this was the payoff
from those years of hard work. But what happened that let me be so incredibly
confident going into that tournament, all the way to the final? And why was
that confidence so important?
In this post I’m going to outline some of the
reasons confidence is important for athletes, (fencers especially) some of the
factors that go into feeling confident, and how you can build your own
We talk so often about the things that fencing brings to us. It brings us physical fitness and mental sharpness. It helps us to grow and find personal fulfillment through overcoming challenges. It allows us to find the best version of ourselves. All of those things are wonderful, they’re great. But I would say the greatest gift that fencing gives us is friendship. Not just friendship, but the lifelong friendship that enriches our lives in ways that no one expected when we first stepped foot onto the strip and picked up a sword.
It’s not the medals we are after
This past weekend, we held our customary graduation party for our fencers who are ready to step out into the world. It’s become an important tradition for AFM that includes sharing memories, connecting our community, and sharing our excitement about the future.
Last year, COVID pushed us into a virtual celebration. We made the most of it, highlighting our graduates with an online party and driving by their houses with signs. It wasn’t the same, but then nothing was the same during the pandemic. This year, we were ecstatic to be able to hold our party in person!
What I didn’t expect, what I never thought about happening, was for our graduates from previous years to come to the party. It was truly joyful to see them. These young people of the Class 2021 had gone on to different, fantastic places – Brown, Columbia, MIT, Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, Brandeis, and more. These were great fencers who had fantastic national achievements. They each brought something special to their training, and it was an enriching experience to have them back at AFM.
Surrounded by these wonderful people who are making their way in the world, they asked me for some wisdom. When I looked around at them, all I could see was the friendships they had forged through fencing and how those continued long after they left the club.
The thing is, they will forget that they were United States Champions or National Medalists. Those achievements are made up of long months of work, but they only flash for a moment. The medal is hung around your neck for a day or an evening. Family, friends, teammates, and coaches celebrate with you on social media and over festive meals. Then the next day comes and you go home, hanging up your medal or putting it in a drawer. We don’t celebrate our medals and our achievements every day, we keep on moving forward. The rank doesn’t make you shine, and even a wall full of certificates of national achievements don’t give you value.
The next day after that amazing competition and that walk up the podium you’re back to your routine. It’s like nothing happened, but something remains with you.
After the peak that is winning those big competitions, what remains with you are the connections. The friendships that are forged through shared experiences don’t ever go away. In fact, with time they only grow deeper and more meaningful. The glow of getting that final point in a championship match is fleeting, but the bonds of friendship are long-lasting.
Champions cannot just sit back on their laurels and wait around for something to come along. They have to continue to get up out of bed every day and do the hard training. They have to continue to do the diligent work that makes those medals. The medals aren’t what we’re really after – it’s something else we’re looking for. That’s why fencers have a hard time stepping away from the strip, and indeed why many of them never do. The medals are part of the journey, but they are not the destination.