Keeping momentum in the summer for youth fencers can be crucial for their development and performance. If you don’t keep working on it, then those skills you’ve invested all of that energy into developing will dull with time. Coming back into the full swing of things in the fall when school and other activities are all going will be that much harder, making the road forward more challenging than it needs to be.
For fencers who are qualified for Fencing Summer Nationals, maintaining that momentum is easier, because they’re pouring themselves into their preparation for the big tournament. Most fencers in America aren’t there yet, and the national championship is naturally selective in its participation. That leaves a huge swath of competitive and recreational fencers out there who don’t have a major competition to keep them focused and going.
How can fencers maintain their progress during the summer months without competitions to motivate them? Here are some ways to make it happen.
Being specific makes all the difference
Work with your fencer to set clear and achievable goals for the summer. This is something you can define with their coach, but it can also come a lot from your fencer and what they feel they need.
Goals could include improving specific skills, increasing strength or endurance, or participating in summer competitions that aren’t part of USA Fencing. Keep in mind that competing outside of the qualifying paths is still incredibly helpful. Go for things that are as challenging as possible, but also realize that summer training can be less intense and more fun. Setting goals to participate in specific local or even intramural competitions can keep things light for the break while also pushing them forward.
Setting targets will provide direction and motivation throughout the season, but keep in mind that you don’t have to be harsh or incredibly rigid. Structure that works for youth fencers works best when it accommodates their needs. Given that, you will be happy if you develop a structured training plan that outlines specific activities and workouts for your fencer to follow during the summer. This plan should include a combination of skill development, physical conditioning, and rest days. Having a plan in place will help your fencer stay focused and organized without feeling boxed in.
Encourage your fencer to continue practicing their sport regularly in their club, even during the summer break when things are looser. Consistent practice will help them maintain and enhance their skills on the strip. This could involve working on individual drills, participating in open fencing, or attending fencing camps or clinics.
That last one – camps and clinics – is really important for the summer because it’s an unusual time with opportunities that you won’t often have. Take advantage of the possibilities during the summer that kids can’t get during the year. Summer camps are a unique way of building camaraderie but also building skills and having fun. They’re lower pressure than competition, but the skill development is real and impactful. Fencing clubs often bring in special guests during the summer, allowing kids to train with a different and valuable perspective.
Cross training fills time & keeps interest
Not all of the summer has to be spent in fencing in order to support fencing development.
Cross-training helps develop different muscle groups, prevents overuse injuries, and adds variety to their training routine. Encourage them to try activities like swimming, cycling, hiking, or participating in other sports that complement fencing. For example, fencers can improve their cardiovascular health through things like running or cycling in ways that will support their stamina in competition in the fall.
Encourage your fencer to stay active even on non-training days. Engage in family activities like bike rides, hikes, or playing games together. It will help them maintain overall fitness and create a positive association with physical activity. Being physically fit contributes incredibly to fencing. Part of what we’re here for is to give kids a lifelong love of movement, and the summer is a perfect time to build that in for them.
Don’t worry if your child is more interested in other activities over the summer. They might go heavy into interests beyond fencing, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be just as passionate about it come the start of the season. While cross-training and engaging in other interests, make sure your fencer stays in their regular classes and participates in extra activities like camps and clinics. This way they don’t lose their progress in fencing but they also have space to grow and explore.
Rest is still productive
While maintaining momentum is important, it’s crucial to monitor your fencer’s training load and avoid overtraining. Pay attention to signs of fatigue, both physical and mental, and allow for rest and recovery during the summer. Adjust the intensity and volume of training as you need to so that you can prevent burnout and injuries. The point here is to give them the right balance so that they can sustain their development and enjoy the sport over the long term.
Set aside time for rest and rejuvenation. Your fencer needs dedicated periods for rest and recreation that allow them the space to love the sport again. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy outside of their sport, spend time with friends and family, and recharge both physically and mentally. Summer is a precious time of open space and experimentation. If your fencer isn’t competing in the summer, that leave them with a breadth of time to come down.
Kids need to experience boredom, to give their minds a break. Fencing is an intellectual sport as much as a physical one. Creating a supportive environment that encourages your fencer’s passion for their sport is something you can do by giving them a little structure and a little space. Let them take the lead. Offer praise and positive reinforcement for their efforts and achievements, even the small ones over the summer. Fencing is not just about competition, it’s also about just enjoying the sport. If your youth fencer isn’t competing in Summer Nationals, it’s a great chance for them to engage with fencing in a low-pressure environment and enjoy it. You can also do this by connecting them with like-minded teammates or training partners who can help maintain motivation and camaraderie during the summer months.
Remember, it’s important to strike a balance between maintaining momentum and allowing for rest and enjoyment. By implementing these strategies, your fencer can continue to make progress while also recharging over the summer.