Getting your child started in fencing is exciting and can also be intimidating, depending on your child’s age and personality. Don’t worry! We’ve got all the information you need about what to do and how to make it work. Fall is a perfect time to try the sport out.
1. Gauge your child’s interest in fencing
The first thing you’ll want to do is to determine what your child’s interest level is in fencing. Lots of kids are ultra excited about the sport thanks to having seen swordfighting in movies and read about it in books. Just the mention of learning how to fence is enough to have some kids jumping up and down with excitement. For other kids, the idea of swordfighting is fun, but then they get a little shy and intimidated about it once it comes down to the reality of it.
Often it’s kids that bring the idea to their parents, but it can go both ways. If fencing is something that you think your child might be interested in, start by talking to them about it before you move to the next step.
2. Watch fencing online
There are so many resources for watching fencing online! If you and your child are totally unfamiliar with the sport, it matters less which weapon you’re watching and more that you’re watching something exciting. In my opinion, team matches at Olympic Games are the most exciting events for the first timers, and epee is the easiest to follow rules-wise. The nuance of fencing, like the nuance of any sport, won’t be totally clear when you first watch it. Most of what you’ll see is very fast movement and then a point scored.
This is all about getting a feel for the sport and building interest. It’s hard not to want to try it when a kid sees how cool fencing looks! Check out matches from the Olympics for the flashiest kind of fencing, but you can also look at USA Fencing for matches that are more like what kid fencers will actually encounter.
3. Think about your time commitments
Every family has different time commitments, and it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you jump in with your kids. After their introductory period of a few weeks, beginner fencers typically take one or two classes of an hour or an hour and a half per week plus potentially a private lesson of twenty minutes each week.
Similarly to any other sport, the further a fencer goes in the sport, the more time commitment there is, but this gradually increases over several years of fencing if a child chooses to become a serious competitor. It’s also totally reasonable for fencers not to get into heavy competition and to just do the sport casually for fun.
In the fall of the year, kids are just getting started with their activities and so tend to have more time and flexibility than they will further in the school year. Getting started now means that fencing can become a regular part of the schedule and so less of a stretch.
4. Visit a fencing club
Location is important, and with fencing there are not nearly as many clubs as we would like to see in America.
USA Fencing has a listing of member clubs, which is a good place to start looking. There are roughly five hundred sanctioned fencing clubs in the United States. Most major cities are home to a good fencing club, but places with smaller populations are much less likely to have formal fencing lessons that are competitive in nature. Community centers, dance studios, and gymnastics gyms sometimes have fencers who offer fencing lessons, but these will be unfortunately limited. If you have the option, go with a formal fencing club.
Once you’ve found a club, go visit! Though there are pandemic restrictions that limit interactions for safety reasons, you should still be able to see the inside of the club, talk to a coach, and even see a class. You can also attend and watch a fencing tournament of any size to understand what fencing is like. For kids, being able to see what it’s like in real life is an important step.
Walking through the details in a visit can help kids feel less nervous about this sport. This is especially important for kids who are prone to anxiety in new situations. Having your child talk to their potential coach allows you to ask questions too. Though we tend to focus on the kids, it’s important that parents are comfortable too!
5. Sign up for an introductory class
To try out fencing, you shouldn’t have to invest in a lot of equipment before you know that it’s the right fit. Larger fencing clubs will have fencing gear that students in introductory classes can borrow until they can get their own equipment. The cost of a set of fencing equipment is on the high end of kid’s sports equipment, but it’s by no means prohibitive. Still, it’s always good to be able to test it out.
Your club will be able to guide you through what’s needed, but for the most part your child will need pants they can move in, tennis shoes, and a long shirt. In almost all cases, your individual club will provide a fencing jacket, glove, chest protector face mask, lame, sword, and cord while your child is enrolled in the introductory classwork.
After a fencer has decided to move on from the introductory course to the next level and train consistently, then they can invest in the equipment. It’s also worth noting that used equipment can help to cut costs, as kids do grow out of gear before it’s worn out.
Introductory classes cover basic ideas like rules, etiquette, distance control, footwork, and how to use a weapon. These are simple but powerful parts of fencing, and kids who have just started school in the fall are in a great mindset to learn a new sport!
Fall is a great time for kids to get involved in fencing for the first time! With school back in session and everyone getting back into the groove of being busy, it’s perfect for kids to try something new that’s rewarding because it’s so totally different from what they do at school all day.
Unlike other seasonal sports like soccer or football, fencing offers a year-round way to get all of the benefits of a sport. That means your child can jump in at any time during the year and enjoy fencing. Now it’s just up to parents to make sense of when they’d like their kids to participate. Autumn is a natural fit because it’s so fun and out of the box that kids can enjoy it as an alternative to the grind of school everyday! Heading out to fencing classes becomes a bright light and an exciting thing to look forward to after school.