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Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Fencing Parents & Patience (or Lack Thereof)

Fencing Parents & Patience (or Lack Thereof)

Patience is a virtue, but it’s one that many of us struggle with. 

I know that I struggle with patience, particularly when it comes to things that I don’t feel like I have a great deal of control over. I get frustrated when I get stuck in traffic or lose my patience when I get stuck on hold with my cable company. It’s a tough thing. I get that.

Patience is something that I see a lot of other parents struggling with as well, particularly as I watch parents navigate their kids in beginner fencing. How a child progresses in fencing can be frustrating for parents, in large part because it is out of their control. Whether your child “gets” it and moves forward in the sport isn’t anything that a parent can do for them.

Instant Validation, Instant Success

People talk a lot about how kids today want nothing but instant gratification. It’s not just kids – parents want instant gratification too sometimes. 

It’s a pity when I watch parents decide to pull their kids out of fencing after just a few unsuccessful tries. They think that if their child doesn’t take to fencing right out of the gate, they’ll never be good fencers.

Parents in this situation are looking for instant validation that this is the right sport, but the reality is that you can’t tell at all in just a few weeks that fencing is or is not the right sport. It takes more time than that. Just because a child is struggling hard in fencing in those first few weeks, well that doesn’t mean that their competitive dreams are gone. It just means that it’ll take some time for them to get grounded and find their groove.

What it looks like is that these parents are looking for a miracle, some fantastic and immediate return on their investment. Their child has taken classes, they’ve taken private lessons, they’ve gone to camp. Where are the results? 

Parenting is not a transaction. 

You have to ask yourself – what are you here for? The answer cannot be that you’re here for trophies or metrics. The answer has got to be that you are here for your child to grow as a person. That’s what fencing is here for. It’s a sport that can do that powerfully if you only allow your child to grow at their own pace and without your interference. 

We know that can be hard for a parent when they are looking around at the kids who are perhaps fencing and winning those trophies. You might think that you want your child to do more, to be better. The idea of competition gets in there and gnaws away at you, till you’re always comparing your child to other kids who might be progressing more quickly in the same amount of time. Then parents start to think that if their child isn’t progressing in the right amount of time, they should abandon fencing and head to another sport (and then another one, and then another one. . . ). 

It can look like parents have as their goal, not the love of the sport, but some transactional goal like college or the Olympics. With this kind of attitude, those things are not going to happen. Instead, what you’re going to get is frustration for everyone. 

Is My Child Great?

This is an incredibly common thing. Parents want to know as early as possible whether or not they should invest in a sport, both in terms of time and in terms of money. The tough part here is that it takes time to find out if a given sport is a good fit for a child. You won’t know whether your child is great right out of the gate. 

When a child doesn’t show that immediate promise, we unfortunately see some parents lose their patience and decide to pull their kids from fencing. That’s heartbreaking to see! Kids need to have time to figure out if they even like it or not. 

Instead of waiting, we see parents looking for that instant validation and those instant results. They’ll ask the coach every two weeks if fencing is a good fit. That’s not helpful for anyone! Most notably the young fencer, who can’t get their feet under them in this kind of crunched timeline. You won’t know if they love the sport after two months. We all get bored of things after a few months if we don’t really love them.

Things need time for the newness to wear off. You are also not going to know if your child will be an Olympian after just one competition. The first competition is a whole bundle of nerves for a young fencer. They need to stick with competing for, well really for a competition season, if they are going to find out whether they like it or not. 

Yes, a whole year. 

Finding out if your child has promise, or more importantly whether they have a passion for the sport, doesn’t take as long as you might think. Again, a season is a good chunk to go with. If your child commits to doing fencing and they’ve done a camp or a trial month, then put down roots and give it a go for six months or a whole season. Without questioning constantly along the way. 

Stop inquiring. Stop chasing. Just stop. 

Parents who do this are themselves creating an unhealthy environment for their children. Your child sees you consulting with their coach and they hear you asking after them. This ruins the process for the child because they cannot learn at their own pace, they are pushing to get results right now to serve your needs. It’s not about your needs, it’s about your child’s needs. 

Trust the Process

Putting trust into the process is important. Chose a fencing program and then just go with it, put your faith in the people who are training your child. Allow those people to guide you, and let go of some control!

The best part about letting go of that control is that it takes the stress off of you. It hurts the parent too when they are holding on so tight. Your child is going to progress in fencing at the pace that they are going to progress at, and what they need from you is support, patience and encouragement, not unrealistic and demanding expectations. 

This doesn’t have to be that hard. 

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2 Comments

  1. R

    I began fencing in seventh grade. I earned my first classification 22 years later and jumped two classifications within a year. I was the vet team first-alternate ten years later. I’ve earned, lost and regained classifications over that time and am still a national-level fencer.

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