So what exactly does fencing tournament day look like at a national fencing tournament? For those who have never been to such high level competition, there are a few things that will help you to know more about what to expect. While every event is different (that’s what makes it exciting!), there are some things that stay the same. Read on for tips and tricks as well as just plain information about what to expect on competition day at Summer Nationals.
Timing is a big factor when you’re at any large tournament, but it’s even more important at a national championship. There is no wiggle room in the tight schedules, so you must be sure that your child is where they’re supposed to be. If you can arrive at venue at least a day before your child’s first event, plan to do weapon check at your absolute earliest convenience. Weapon check can unveil some unpleasant surprises with non-conforming equipment, such as mask or lame, and chances are the only way to fix it is buying a new piece. Having an extra day (or at least an extra morning!) for that will keep yours and your child’s nerves intact. Take your child to the venue to experience the environment a day or two before their event, or in the morning of the same day. Even if your child doesn’t compete until much later in the day, you’ll have the chance to really get used to the environment. If your child is competing in an early event, then plan to arrive there a day before weapon check to get acclimated to both the venue and the atmosphere. DO NOT leave weapon check for the morning of the same day event that starts early (like 8am!). Your child needs the time to warm up and get ready for the event in a focused and relaxed way. Be sure to know your check-in times for ALL of the events that your child is competing in. You can find the full 2015 Summer National schedule here. There is no set time for the competition to be finished, so don’t expect to be leaving at a set time.
Again, it is essential that you check in early so that there is time to take care of any issues that might come up. The worst thing is to miss competition because you have checked in late!
Eating and Drinking
There is always food available at the venue in wide variety. The prices might be might be inflated, but what else do you expect at such venues and events? A lot of it is fast food style, so do not plan to feed your competitor with that food, but there are generally some options to choose from for yourself and other spectators who might be with you. One important thing to consider is bringing some of your own snacks for your fencer. Having your own healthy bar, some fruits (like apples, bananas) or individual packs of trail mix in your child’s bag can really help to stave off the urge to eat junk food. Eating on fencing competition day is important to keep your child’s stamina through competition and to have the energy that they need to fence.
Bringing your own refillable water bottle is also important when you attend a tournament. You can always always refill your drink all day at the water fountain, but do not count on running back-and-forth to the water tanks scattered in the venue to hydrate your child during their pools or DE’s. Drinking water is necessary during the tournament and it will help your child to keep their focus sharp and their brains awake during competition.
Your child will follow the set warm-up routine that they’ve been doing throughout their training, including stretching and doing some footwork they learned at the club. Fencers should also fence a bit before their events. If your child has clubmates who also traveled and will be competing with your child, have them warm up together and fence. If your child arrived alone to his/her event, this is a great time to warm up with other fencers who they don’t know. Encourage your child to approach others – usually fencers are very friendly and will gladly include a new fencer into their warm-up fencing. Doing this will allow some of the nerves to subside, and to release some of the tension of the day so that they can focus. This isn’t the time to learn new techniques, but to get into the right mindset. Your coach will be able to give you more information about your club’s warm up practices.
One thing that novice competitors aren’t always ready for are the numerous vendors that are at competitions. There will be SO many that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of amazing fencing equipment available – chances are this is the first time you will have seen so much equipment available in one place! You can get all kinds of gear, souvenirs, and services like uniform stenciling. Create your own list of “must haves” and “nice to have” fencing items – fencing nationals IS the place to go for fencing shopping! If your child dreams about something (like my own son dreams about having Leon Paul mask!) – that’s a place to try and purchase it. It’s amazing to see so much merchandise for fencing available!
Recharging and Resting
Most clubs will have their space reserved and identifiable by their club banner. Find it and locate yourself there. If your club does not have its own corner, find a quiet, out of traffic place to rest and recharge. At most convention centers (and definitely at the San Jose Convention Center), you can get outside to breathe some fresh air and get some sunshine to clear your mind before the competition and between pools and DE’s. Just make SURE that you pay attention to the schedule so as not to miss your bout! There is SO much going on at a large competition that tension can build without even realizing it. Look for some space by a window outside the fencing hall or in a corner at the fencing hall to sit down or lie down to reset. On the fencing event day, don’t try to go all day, but instead allow for some flexible time when you’re not watching matches or getting ready for them to just have space. This is especially true for younger kids, who can really get overstimulated. Go for a walk, lie down, take a break! You’ll all enjoy the experience more.
Don’t forget to take pictures on tournament day! And lots of them. Not just of your fencer either – take pictures of the venue and of the other competitors. Make sure that you get pictures that have you in them as well! At tournaments there are always lots of friendly people, so don’t be afraid to ask a stranger to snap a picture of you with your fencer. Moreover, here you will see almost all famous US fencers – Chamley-Watson, Imboden, Kiefer, or any other hero of your child. Take their photos, ask for an autograph or just watch them fence or even warm up – the memory of this will make your child happy for years to come, not to mention will get them very excited about their own fencing.
If you’re able to videotape your fencer’s bouts, then that’s always not only a wonderful keepsake but also a great tool for looking back on how the bout went for your competitor , and will help them to improve their fencing skills when they go home and watch.
Tournament day is so fun and exciting that when you leave, you can’t wait for the next one! These days are long and hard, but the payoff of getting to compete is well worth it. The best part is that it’s an experience that you get to share with your child, and that you get to see them show their dedication and skill.