A few years ago I snapped this picture of our son busily playing with his phone while he was waiting for the rest of us to finish our practice at the club. I’m sure this is an image that is very familiar to many parents. In fact, so many kids come to us obsessed with their Playstation or focused on their electronic devices.
I understand and empathize with these parents. My kids, while all serious fencers, have their moments with electronic devices. But I’ve also seen their growth and maturity affected by falling in love with the sport.
A Device Obsession
In many cases, parents of device-obsessed kids are concerned for their health and their activity level. They’re often found hunched over their phone, or stuck in a dark room glued to their computer monitors or TV.
Some kids end up suffering from text neck, which puts pressure on your spine and can cause mostly just pain and discomfort, but if gone untreated could lead to other complications.
I’ve known many parents who have set ultimatums with their kids. Forcing them to try one sport or another with the expectation that this would end the technology obsession. And unfortunately rarely does this seem to help. That is, until they somehow find their way to fencing.
How Fencing Can Help Your Kid Get Off Their Device
I’ve seen it time and time again. A young child comes into the club resistant to doing anything active. But for some reason fencing clicks with them, to the point that not only are they hooked on the game, but they are looking forward to practicing and to competitions. Even sometimes to the point that they’re competing at national levels.
It’s pretty magical. But why does this happen?
I believe there are a few reasons. Firstly, competitive sports provide a sense of purpose, of belonging, and of reaching and setting goals. This may be what young kids love about video games, as there is a competitive element to them as well. Especially if your child is into any video games that involve a community element where they’re playing against actual other human players.
If gaming is your kid’s particular poison, they may recognize this competitive element in fencing and respond positively to it. The one on one fight strategy that is both mental and physical can resonate in a positive way. For some kids, it may even feel like a virtual reality video game come to life! Lucky for you, and your goals of getting them off the couch, because actually being active is the most significant difference.
What makes fencing different from other sports is that many times these particular kids didn’t seem to have any athletic ability and on top of that, they seemed to have no interest in sports. They come to fencing and suddenly discover that this is one of the most inclusive sports that can be played! It welcomes boys and girls, tall, short, young and more mature and any athletic build or ability, even the most beginning, basic level.
Anyone can participate regardless of background or experience. There is no “bench” where you cheer on your teammates and never get to play because you’re not as good as someone else on the team. Despite some limitations in some areas you can excel anyway, by developing a strategy and a game that helps you overcome these disadvantages, or at least significantly hide them.
Fencing is a mental game, where your thinking plays as much of a role as your athletic ability. And it’s paced in such a way that you can do both a high speed game, or a slower more strategic bout to accommodate your strength, stamina, etc.
This is another way that fencing can be almost like a band-aid for that connection. We have a vast social network within the fencing community. Often, our fencers become friends with other fencers all over the country, sometimes the world. Through seeing them regularly at competitions both regionally and nationally, fencers can build these bonds, nurture them, and use them to drive their competitive spirit.
Once your child has been exposed to the camaraderie, socialization, and natural high of activity that comes from fencing, any devices or video games may become a distant second. Sure they may indulge from time to time, but hopefully not like they used to.
The Transformation Into An Athlete
Last year we had a 9th grader come to our club whose parents desperately wanted to get him involved in anything that was active. However, nothing worked. He was firmly against most sports that were suggested. Until he was told that there is no choice, he must pick a sport.
He did some research and found through an online questionnaire (kind of like this one from the BBC) that based on his personality, and several answers to questions, he could be matched to an appropriate sport. He reluctantly took the test and voila! Fencing was a match.
So he signed up and pretty instantly fell in love with the sport. To the point that his parents do not remember the son who was inactive and uninterested in sports only a year ago. He has changed so much in the past year that who he was before is practically unrecognizable.
He’s a good at fencing, and watches all possible competitions when he can, and competes whenever he can. He truly transformed himself from someone who thought he had no interest in sports, to a real athlete.
Fencing May Be Just the Beginning
While fencing will never replace electronic devices forever, because they are so much a part of our society, and of our children’s lives, it can definitely provide a needed distraction. For some, this can create a building block for a lifetime of being active and participating in sports. For others, it can lead to success beyond their local club or high school competitions. They may be recruited and receive college scholarships, and beyond!
Personally, I love watching the evolution of new students who are bitten by the fencing bug. And I appreciate listening and talking to their parents months or years after they first began to be reminded of how far their kids have come, and possibly where they may go!