In a previous post, we covered the philosophy behind strip coaching and how to manage your expectations as to whether or not you will have strip coaching at any given bout. When you do have your coach at your bout, you want to be able to take full advantage of the opportunity. The best way to do that is to be prepared ahead of time by communicating expectations and also creating a protocol for competition day to inform your coach where and when you’re competing. Creating a protocol is especially important for big regional or national competitions with multiple concurrent events in many weapons.
Communicate your expectations. The best way to avoid any negative feelings or confusion with strip coaching at a tournament is to communicate ahead of time. Talk to your coach about their specific strip coaching philosophy and what you should expect. You can even ask them before a specific competition whether they expect to attend your event and see your bouts. They should know during the week how many competitions are being held the following weekend and whether they may be at your event—but keep in mind that this is just their best guess at the time. Many things can change during the weekend to affect where they end up.
Also, don’t be afraid to tell your coach what type of guidance works best for you. Ultimately it’s your coach’s decision how to instruct and encourage you, but it can help for you to share some of your preferences. You have a limited amount of time for coaching when you’re at the competition, so making the most of it is essential. It’s much easier to make the most of it with a little communication beforehand.
Create a protocol. On top of communicating ahead of time, create a protocol for letting your coach know how pool play is going and when and where your bouts are taking place. The most common form of communication these days is some type of text messaging. The coach can only make a decision about coming to your bout if they have all of the information! This protocol may be between parents and coaches, or between fencers and coaches—depending on age and circumstances.
You may want to use group messaging if you have multiple fencers at the same competition. That way everyone knows who is fencing when and can provide information to the coach or come cheer for each other. Send simple and timely texts to communicate only what is needed. The exact protocol/messages isn’t as important as establishing a clear protocol.
Here is an example: John fences next in pool 5/6 on strip B4 (so far 3V, 1D). Now your coach has a clear picture with which to make decisions: John has three wins and one loss and is about to start his 5th pool play bout (out of six) on strip B4. Here’s another example: John (seeded 8th) starts 2nd DE against lefty (seeded 9th) on strip D2. He is in panic. Now the coach not only has the basic information, but can also come prepared with the right type of encouragement, knowing that John is in a panic.
Of course, you may not need a sophisticated protocol if you’re at a smaller local tournament. Nonetheless, your coaches can still get overwhelmed at even small tournaments if many of their fencers are competing at the same competition. It’s always helpful to communicate with them with short, informative texts (assuming you’ve confirmed with them that they text!)
In summary, you can make the coach’s job easier by communicating with them ahead of time and then keeping them informed. If you do these two things, you are creating the best opportunity for success with your fencer having strip coaching when they truly need it.