Fencing Summer NationalsFencing Summer Nationals are different than other competitions that your children may have participated in. It’s not unusual for parents to be nervous about this large and complex event that comes with high honor but also with high pressure.

Read on to learn about how to prepare and how to be comfortable with going to Summer Nationals.

First Major Tournament

For many participants, Summer Nationals are the first major tournament in which they will participate. And it’s unlike anything they’ve participated in before.

Structure

This tournament is far more official, more structured and more complex than regional tournaments. In addition, the rules are followed much more strictly than what you might have found before. That bears repeating: there is no bending the rules here – everything must be followed to the absolute letter.

Size

Local events and even the RYC/SYC are nowhere near the size of Fencing Summer Nationals. Even in relatively large events, we might see event entry to be around a half dozen participants (especially in younger events like the Y10 Women’s Epee), while at Summer Nationals there will be about 60 for the same event! Suddenly for these girls this event becomes huge and intimidating. The thing to remember is that while it may seem extreme, the competition is only different, not worse. A larger division only means more opportunity to succeed!

Coaches

Coaches at regional tournaments are able to juggle their time between rings much more easily than they will be able to at Summer Nationals. Their job is extremely difficult (and of course rewarding) at Summer Nationals – it’s exhausting! Don’t be shocked to see coaches running like squirrels between different pods in order to give time to all of the kids.

Performance

Whereas in local tournaments there is an emphasis on fun, camaraderie and the event as a learning experience, you’ll find that at Summer Nationals the focus is very much on performance. Competitors are very focused and driven to perform at their best. Even relatively new fencers are focused on performing at their peak and getting the highest score possible. There is often much more aggression and decidedly less socializing. Coaches are more determined as well, and are focused on getting an edge for their students.

Intimidation

There is a much higher level of pressure at this level of competition. That is might be intimidating for your child, especially given that there is a much more competitive nature to the event. This doesn’t mean that you and your child should be intimidated, but it does mean that you should feel ready to face that kind of intimidation leading up to the day and during the event. Talking to your child about the format of the competition and getting them acquainted with what the events will look like will help your child not to be nervous.

New People

At local competitions, even RYC’s, everyone seems to know one another. Kids will see the same faces again and again at local competitions, but at Summer Nationals they’ll see so many more. They need to be ready to face fighting styles that are new to them and unusual, and also to interact with kids from all over who might have slightly different customs and cultural realities. Kids can easily become intimidated by children who seem superior in skill, particularly in the Y10/Y12 events.

The Venue

The venue is BIG, and travelling back and forth between bout committee, monitors, restrooms, strips, armory and vendors will take more time. While in the local circuit, event referees will often be very understanding of delays and issues with timing (ie restroom breaks, etc.), at Summer Nationals kids have to be on time and ready to start their events. If you miss your event because you’re not there when it begins, then there is nothing to be done – there is no mercy.  That’s not because the officials are bad people, it has to do with the nature of the huge tournament, many concurrent events and the tight timetable. The convention center where Summer Nationals are held is huge! Make sure that you’re in the right place at the right time and that you learn where to go BEFORE you have to be there. Advanced planning is absolutely critical.

Parents, It’s On You

In the end – a lot depends on parents. Summer Nationals are super fun as there is so much to learn and watch fencing wise, and it is up to parents to make this experience to be really great and rewarding to the kids, regardless of competition results. This is a time to enjoy fencing, to celebrate achievement (qualifying and making it to Nationals is an amazing achievement by itself!), to discover fencing with new kids from all over the country, to make friends with some of those children, and to experience a new city

Making the Most of Summer Nationals

Don’t just rush in and then out for the event. You have the wonderful opportunity to make the most of this visit. You can turn Summer Nationals into a time that you can bond with your family, enjoying everything that the area and the experience have to offer. 2015 Summer Nationals are in the heart of Silicon Valley, a hot tourist destination in its own right. This place is the center of the California Dream. Do some touristy things, eat at local restaurants and explore the area. This will go a long way to easing the nerves and to helping your child to do their best.

Enjoy it! Getting over the nerves and participating in an event like this will help your child to grow and to have confidence in their potential. Savor the moments and create some great fencing and family memories! And good luck!