The biggest single influence on your child is you, their parent. That’s both a wonderful thing and an intimidating thing all at the same time. Learning how to navigate fencing parenting isn’t something you’ll learn from a blog, but there are some “aha!” moments that we’ve found helped us to feel more understanding about the process.
Here are five truths that, if you apply them to your fencing parenting regularly, will transform not only how your child experiences fencing but also how you as a parent experience it! It’s worth exploring what fencing means for you as well as what it means to your child, as well as how those two things affect one another.
Fencing Parenting Truth #1 – Your Child Can Fence Without You
Though parents tend to be around their kids all of the time these days, that hasn’t always been the case. In the past, kids often played games without adult supervision. They made things up, used their imagination, and they got along just fine for the most part. This reasonably included picking up sticks to swordfight with the neighborhood kids.
Though the “good old days” aren’t always as rosy as we remember them, it’s still something for modern parents to learn from.
Your child is perfectly capable of fencing and having fun without you. Though we tend to focus a lot in fencing on classes, lessons, tournaments, and structure, that’s not all there is to this sport. The biggest joy in fencing comes when young fencers learn to make it their own, in those moments when it’s just them without their parents to push them. The spark comes from inside of them! The more you can step back and let that spark for fencing grow without you, the healthier it is all around.
We should encourage the purity of fencing as fun and all about the experience that our kids are having.
Fencing Parenting Truth #2 – One Season Will Not Make or Break Their Fencing Journey
We live in this world of instant gratification. It’s not a healthy thing, but it is a portion of life that fencing parents can have a profound impact on.
If your child is in fencing for the long haul, if this is a sport that they want to stick with, then one season will not be the end. Fencing is a sport that kids can carry with them from childhood through college and on into adulthood, both casually and as a competitor.
I’ve seen fencers who suffer season ending injuries that totally ruin their goals for the year. Something like this can be hugely demoralizing for a youth fencer because they feel like their world is crushed. As a parent, you have the power to put this in perspective because you know from experience that life goes on and that brighter days are ahead. They can still fence later, they can still pursue their dreams, they can still enjoy the sport.
The same thing goes for youth fencers who don’t quite reach their goals. Say your child works hard all year to try to make it to Fencing Summer Nationals but just miss the qualification. It can feel like a season wasted! It’s very important that parents don’t view it that way, because it is only one season among many.
Fencing Parenting Truth #3 – The Olympics are Not the Goal
When we think of fencing, it’s hard not to think about those magic rings and the medals podium. The Olympics are iconic to everyone, and rightly so, but while they can be a motivator they should not be the only motivator.
Your child’s goal in fencing is to reach their full potential. It is not a failure if they train hard and never make it to the Olympics. The only failure possible is if they are miserable and stressed out in fencing. It’s common for parents to harbor these massive dreams for their young fencers, and it is always, always detrimental to everyone involved. While we certainly want to reach for the stars, the truth is that the fencers who do get to the Olympics are those who have a deep passion for the sport, not a deep passion for winning a medal.
Remember that there are many paths to success in fencing. Look to your child’s coach or to fencers in your child’s club who have gone from youth fencing to college and adult fencing for positive role models. The definition of success in fencing is broad and beautiful! Helping your child to see it will mean they are happier and more enthusiastic about the sport.
Fencing Parenting Truth #4 – Your Child Fencer is Capable
This one will really blow your mind if you let it. Enjoy it. Savor it. Relish it.
Kids are smarter and tougher than we realize. They bounce back if we let them. They stand back up with grit and determination when they get knocked down in a fencing match. They figure out how to get to an opponent who has far more experience. They take the things they’ve learned and piece them together on the strip in new and wonderful ways.
But only if we let them show us.
What we’re talking about here is the fine line between interference and support from mom and dad. Interference is when you protect your child from every possible negative experience. Support is when you’re there for them only when it’s too much for them to reasonably handle.
Try this sometime! It’s the makings of some of the sweetest and most beautiful moments in parenting, and it’s the kind of thing that can happen so much more often if we just stand back and allow it to. The more parents step in and try to fix things for their fencers, the less kids are able to do it for themselves. You’ve got to let your young fencer fail if they’re ever to fly. Then when they do fly (and they will!) the pride is indescribable.
Fencing Parenting Truth #5 – Fencing Should Not Define Your Child
Fencing is a means to an end, the end being growth into a strong and responsible adult. It is not the end to be all of your child’s life and it should not be the only thing that defines them.
Along the way your child might well end up with a college scholarship or some nice trophies, but your child will always be more than those things. A great way to think about this is to differ between how a child “defines” themselves and how a child “describes” themselves. A child who “defines” themselves as a fencer will be devastated if they have to stop fencing or if they don’t reach their goals in fencing. A child who “describes” themselves as a fencer will know that fencing is only one part of who they are, not the whole of who they are.
While we of course hope that your child will become a lifelong fencer who does this well into adulthood, they might choose to stop at some point. The world won’t end for them if they find something else that they love to do, and that should be ok both with your young fencer and with you as a fencing parent.
We hope that these truths about fencing parenting give you some insight into how to support your young fencer and how to enjoy being a fencing parent. It’s not always easy to put youth sports into perspective these days, but doing so will make the experience better both for you and for your child.