The fencing match started out well. You felt confident, missed a touch at the very beginning but almost got in. Your opponent jumped right back in with an answer, getting a point against you. That’s ok, you brush it off, focus and go again. You miss, and they come back with back-to-back touches. You shake it off, take a deep breath and come back to your en guarde, ready to go for your opponent again. This continues, on and on until you look up at the score and realize the match is 14:0.
Should you give up? Just one more touch and the match will be over. With time running out, you don’t possibly have enough time to get the points and save the match, so it would be very easy and even have some logic to just pulling back to let your opponent have the point. Get on with things and move on.
Don’t give up!
You know that you’ll probably lose. You know that it would take a miracle to win. Fencing isn’t about winning. Fencing isn’t about beating your opponent. It’s about you becoming better, it’s about you improving over yourself. Oftentimes we see fencers just give up, sometimes well before the match really is over. They think it’s impossible to catch up and they just think it’s not worth it. It’s never worth it to give up.
Here are twelve reasons why you shouldn’t give up in a losing fencing match.
1. Character building.
The character to keep on fighting is good for every part of life. Pushing on through to the end of a test that you know you won’t pass, working late at a job that you know isn’t what you want to do forever, these are just a couple of examples. The more a fencer learns to fight through against all odds, the more they can do that in real life.
What we do over and over again becomes habit. If you get into the habit of not following through to the end of a match, then it becomes harder to follow through to the end when you need to. If you are always quitting, then you’ll start quitting earlier and earlier. Until eventually you’re not fighting through nearly as hard as you could be and your fencing all around suffers.
3. Earned respect
Among you opponents, among your coaches, with parents, with teammates, and with referees. Everyone will respect a fencer for continuing to fight on when the battle seems lost. How many movies do you see where the hero keeps going in spite of impossible odds? We all stand up and cheer when we see this! They’ll cheer for you too.
4. Experience freedom
When you are in a match that you are likely to lose, it gives the fencer an unexpected freedom. There are suddenly ways to become more creative because now there is no pressure. Oftentimes when you think that there is nothing to lose, you just free your mind and start fencing for fun. That brings results.
5. Spirit to build upon
Keep on going and you’ll show your coach that you are willing to keep going, that you’ve got the true spirit of the sport within you. That’s something that you can build upon. Actually, it works in both directions. When you show your coach that you will not give up easily, she or he knows that they can build that stamina inside you. They’ll get excited, you’ll get excited, and your fencing will grow by leaps and bounds as a result.
6. No bitter taste of defeat
Defeat doesn’t have to taste bitter. The after taste of the bout that you fought through to the end of it, even if you lost it, is great because you know you did your best. You know that you tried your hardest up until the very end. That takes the bite out of a loss, it makes you have even a satisfaction from it. Your fencing and your inner strength have won, even if you technically lost. Remember, you are fencing against yourself always!
7. Sweet taste of victory
More than just not having the bitter taste of defeat, when you push yourself to the end of a match you get to have the sweet taste of victory. How can that be when you lost the match? Because you can feel victorious over your own potentially negative attitudes. It’s not the same, we know, but it’s still a sweet feeling to overcome your own self doubt!
8. Learning about yourself
You may not win this time, but you will learn. You will learn that you don’t fence well when you are distracted by something else, or that your footwork suffers if you don’t warm up properly. Losing a match, especially one that you lose when giving a great fight, is an opportunity for you to learn a lot about your fencing! Look back and see what went so wrong, and though you can’t prevent it from ever happening again, you can definitely get better.
9. Learning about your opponent
Fencing is a small community, and the odds are that you will meet the opponent again at some point in the future. Every single second that you are fighting them, you are learning what they do. Do they get you every time with a slight lean to the left? If you can figure that out then next time you meet them you can block against it. This is not something you will necessarily figure out on the strip, but thinking back over the match things will come to you. If you give up early, you might miss out on the lesson!
10. Pressure cooking
The value of the experience of fencing under high pressure cannot be overestimated. When you score more touches because you didn’t give up and fought till the end, you learn more about your fencing, your opponent, and how to score under pressure. If the score is high against you, the time is ticking way, and you teach yourself to cope with that pressure by facing it, then next time when you do have a chance to win you will better be able to face that pressure.
11. You might lose next time
The flip side of this is not giving up when you seem to have a match already well in hand. Nothing is over until it’s over! If you practice giving up when it looks like you will lose, then you’re going to more easily give up when you might win. Don’t let that happen! Matches are not over until they’re over and the ref calls it. Keep going so that you don’t lose your match in the future!
12. You could win
Yes, it is very much a long shot that you will actually win in the match. But what if you did? History is full of such times when the score is high against a fencer and they somehow miraculously make it to the end and win. It could happen to you! Why shouldn’t it? Keep on going to the end, and who knows what could happen for you. There is nothing like the feeling of such a victory, why not go for it? If your opponent thinks they have the match in hand because they have not learned the lesson to keep going, then you may have a real chance. There is no way to know unless you try.
There are some people who are naturally optimistic and never seem to give up, even in the face of certain defeat. If that does not come naturally to you as a fencer, that’s ok! You can still teach yourself to have that resilience and grit. It’s easier if you know the reasons why not giving up is a good idea, so talk yourself through it. Sometimes we see fencers freeze on the strip when they know that they cannot possibly make it. That’s not helpful for anyone. Find it inside of yourself to push through the disappointment and make the most of your fencing match.