High school is a seminal time in the life of just about everyone. Young people are starting to form their own identities during this critical point in life. They’re figuring out who they are and getting ready to step out into the world beyond their home and family.
It’s also a time when much more is expected of them than ever before. There’s a great deal of stress and expectation placed on high school students. Prepping for that college resume is a major issue, and many parents find that their children feel overwhelmed by the whole high school experience. Fencing can be a big boost for teens, helping them learn to negotiate life during this time with better success.
Let’s dig deeper into what fencing means for high school students.
What? Doesn’t fencing take up lots of time and so make high school students who are already overwhelmed feel even more overwhelmed? Actually, the exact opposite is true. Fencing is a release for teens who are feeling out of control. Hitting the strip does eat up time, but there’s also evidence that sports help teens learn to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.
The reason that it works is because fencing takes the rise and fall that we experience in other situations and shrinks it down into a three minute bout. Fencers are presented with a situation (a fencing bout) , which causes their bodies to react. Just the same as a test, or a college application, or a peer relationship. Then they have to appraise that situation and decide what to do. Then they have to act accordingly. That whole process is the same in other situations, it just takes longer. Fencing teaches teens to make quick decisions and then they have to face the consequences of those decisions in real time. Learning to handle stressful situations is a skill that can be taught, and fencing is a great way for teens to learn it.
Honing the Intellect
There’s a reason that fencing is often called “physical chess”, because it’s a problem-solving sport. Each match is different, and each opponent is different. Even the same opponent in a different match requires fencers to look at the situation in a new way, because no one is going to fence the same way twice. The opponent is also learning and growing.
To be successful, fencers must learn to target a very small area of the body on their opponent. It takes skill, practice, and above all control in order to do this. Learning control is perhaps the most important skill for high school students, who can often be less than focused about their activities. Being able to pull all of that wonderful intensity that the teen years bring down into one match, one motion, requires learning how to manage the mind and body together.
Fencing being “physical chess” means that teens can stimulate their minds through the use of their bodies. That kind of kinetic learning is powerful for young minds, and healthy for young bodies.
Taking on competitive fencing teaches high school students the importance of balance. If they’re passionate about the sport, then it’s likely they’ll have to give up some other things that they enjoy in order to be able to practice it. Which is ok! Life is full of sacrifices, especially for adults who have to place priorities appropriately in order to be successful.
There are so many demands on high school students. School is a big one, with tests and grades at the top of the list of things that teens are worried about. Fencing teaches self-discipline, a primary way that young people can learn to juggle the various responsibilities that they have in life.
Getting into College
Fencing offers high school students an incredibly powerful way to set themselves apart in the college application process. In particular, competitive fencing is an addition to the college resume that lends a level of weight that’s unlike almost any other extracurricular activity. All things being equal, high school students who fence are often more successful than their peers in getting into their college of choice. There are no guarantees of course, but participation in fencing is always a positive addition to any college resume.
There are also all of the intellectual and coping aspects of participating in fencing that we talked about earlier. Studying for all of the high-profile tests like the SAT and ACT that high school students need to take is made much easier with the focus and stamina that’s gained through practicing fencing. Fencing reduces performance anxiety and gives teens confidence.
Building Positive Relationships
More than anything else, it’s the relationships that we treasure when we remember our high school years. Parents want their teens to build positive relationships with other adults and with their peers, and fencing affords an opportunity to do just that.
The coach/fencer relationship is particularly resonant for young people. Fencing coaches serve as mentors for teens, guiding them through their development as fencers. Having good relationships with adults outside of their parents is important for high school students as they prepare to step out into the world beyond home. Fencing is a great way for teens to learn to interact with adults outside of the classroom.
The same thing goes for peer relationships. The group matters for teens, and fencers tend to be a great group of young people that parents can feel good about their teens having close relationships with. A major bonus of training in a fencing club is that fencers get to socialize with other people their age who are getting all those same wonderful benefits of fencing. These are relationships that can last well beyond the high school years and have a positive effect in their lives for the long term!
High school students learn to grow and develop through fencing, not just in terms of physical fitness, but also in terms of mental engagement, stress reduction, building relationships, and even planning for the future through college. Hitting the books and hitting the strip go hand in hand for teens!