High school is a whole different world. It’s the bridge between childhood and adulthood, the moment when you are figuring out what direction you want to take and how you’ll become independent for the first time. The reality of high school is almost never what we imagine it will be, and the reality of fencing in high school has its own set of unique challenges and rewards.
Whether you’re a competitive fencer looking for a college program, want to make it to international competitions, or want to simply enjoy fencing with your club as a teenager, you’ll find that fencing in high school will support your goals and your growth.
1 – Fencing relationships will help bridge the gap
Unlike high school sports, fencing is not captive to your fellow teenagers and it doesn’t stop when you graduate. Whether you go on to fence in college is a whole another issue, but even if you don’t go to a college program, you’ll always be able to come back to fencing as an adult.
The relationships that are built with other fencers, coaches, and mentors will help you to have one foot outside of your school and home relationships. It’s powerful to connect with other young adults and adults who become invested in you and your success. Competitive fencers have the added advantage of being part of a group of people who are not tied to their geographic location. Opponents at regional and national tournaments become allies when you’re heading into the sometimes intimidating arena of adulthood. The international nature of the sport also means that coaches have connections that are well outside your fencing club, offering teenagers the ability to create meaningful bridges that last past high school.
2 – Independence is a bumpy road
Unlike middle school, high school expects young people to do a lot on their own. Mom and dad are expected to step back and allow you to figure it out on your own. This kind of independence ramps up every year, and that doesn’t only go for the time spent on your high school campus.
As fencers progress to the Cadet, Junior, and Senior ranks, coaches expect them to show increasing self-reliance. You should know by now how to navigate your competitive routine, your practice schedule, and your equipment. There will always be support, but there is a natural level-up that happens here.
Mistakes are going to happen along the way, and that can be tough for teenagers to deal with from an emotional standpoint. Fencers tend to be high achievers anyway, that’s by the very nature of the sport. That inclination towards perfectionism can cause fencers to feel overwhelmed when they do hit a rough spot or make a mistake. The trick here is to embrace that you’re going to mess up and to choose to learn from those mistakes rather than letting them get you down.
If it’s any consolation (which, if I’m thinking back to my teenage self it wasn’t so much), every adult in your life has gone through the awkward transition from teenager to adult. We all know what it’s like to make mistakes as we learn to make our own way.
3 – Goal setting is central
More than ever before in your life, right now you’ll find that goals are your best friend. Whether it’s in fencing or in school, you can take control of your life by figuring out what you want to do and then creating action steps to take between where you are and where you want to be. This is the time for you to take hold of your life and make decisions.
What people don’t talk about enough about goal setting is how wonderfully powerful it makes you feel. You don’t need anyone else to create forward motion in your life, and your goals are only for you. Whatever your parents, your teachers, or your fencing coaches think – your goals can be whatever you want them to be. When you think about it in this way, goal setting becomes part of your road to independence.
Talk to your fencing coach about goal setting if you’re unsure about what steps you need to take. They’ll be able to give you ways to incorporate goals into your fencing and help scaffold you in creating a plan that works for you.
4 – Balance is not always easy
Fencing practice, especially at the competitive level, is a major time and bandwidth commitment. It means lots of practice during the week, including private lessons, group classes, individual practice, cross-training, and of course weekend travel. Going far in fencing means putting in the time and effort.
On the flip side, high school is a major drain on the brain and on time. Homework, projects, extracurricular activities, and social connections are all important and necessary parts of having a balanced life for a teenager.
There will be times that you have to make tough choices or that you have to muscle through when you feel overwhelmed and out of energy. You’re learning a lot about yourself, what you can handle, and just as importantly what you can’t handle. You don’t have to do everything, and prioritizing your own mental and physical health is a skill that takes trial and error to learn.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel out of whack. Your parents, your coaches, your teachers, your mentors, your friends – these are all part of the support system that you already have in place to help you get through and thrive. Don’t settle for a life that’s out of whack or feels impossible. While you’re strong and resilient, you’re also still learning. There are ways to find balance and still achieve your goals. Ask someone to help if you are struggling!
5 – You’ll look back on this time vividly
There’s a reason people reminisce so much about their high school years, and there’s some science behind it. There’s some evidence that the memories you’re making right now are stronger than they will be at other times. Whether that’s because the culture in America is so focused on the high school time period or because there’s some biological reason, you’ll most likely look back on this time of your life with a lot of intense and hopefully positive emotion.
What’s that mean for a teenager? It means you can throw yourself in and enjoy it while it’s happening. Adults like us often tell teenagers that they don’t realize how big the world is for them and how much potential they have. In fencing, you have a wonderful opportunity to enjoy this sport in a way that isn’t so easy once you have the responsibility of a job and all of those other adult things. The pressures of high school are not quite the same.
You can take your fencing and run with it while you are this age. You can forge relationships that you’ll look back on fondly and that will enrich your life. You can learn skills more easily and push your body with more athleticism than you realize. It’s such a wonderful moment! Savor it and be present in it, without judging yourself or throwing on the pressure.
Fencing can be a major support and source of verve in your life when you’re in high school! As you progress towards becoming an adult, fencing will stay with you and help you live your best life.