When I look at our own family and its fencing schedule, with four kids attending fencing lessons, classes, camps, travelling to different competitions, ranging from local to nationals, I can feel totally overwhelmed.
And I realize often, that I need to figure out what the most stressful things are, and how I can manage them more simply?
I am sure as a devoted fencing parent you also may experience a lot of stress in your fencing parenting that you would like to avoid or at least handle better. Know that you aren’t alone in this, and hopefully I will address some ways that you can manage this stress based on my own experience and on what I see other parents do.
How to Manage A Fencing Schedule: For Parents
There are many ways to reduce the amount of stress involved in managing a busy fencer’s schedule (or more than one if you have multiple kids involved in the sport!) Often our lives revolve around our kid’s schedules and every need. It’s important that you develop a strategy that works for you and your family to optimize your time, your money, and ultimately your schedule.
There are many ways you can do this. Some parents arrange to carpool to help save time, reduce idle waiting, and reduces the stress of coordinating pick-ups/drop-offs within a family with only one or two drivers. If carpooling isn’t an option, perhaps consider using a service such as Zum, Hop Skip Drive, Lyft, or Uber if you feel comfortable with your child taking this kind of service to and from practice. It can free up extra time for you to manage other important tasks.
When it comes to competitions, it helps to have a built-in community that you can lean on. At times it can feel like every other weekend you’re traveling for one competition or another.
It’s possible to break it up if you apply the same carpool idea to competitions. If you feel comfortable with the other families at your club, you could work out a schedule that includes taking a few extra fencers with you to one competition, and then for the next one, another family takes your kid along. This can free up your weekends a bit more and give you a break from all the traveling and focus. Plus the kids will probably enjoy the extra slumber-party type atmosphere.
Also, consider skipping some competitions all together if they are not necessary. Make sure you talk to your coach before making this decision, but if it makes sense to opt out of competition, especially when your family may be feeling the burn of the past several months of training and competitions, it may be a good decision overall.
Managing the Food
As parents of fencers we think about food a lot: To help them recover from their practice or competition. To keep them building healthy, strong muscles that will allow them to optimize their training. In my own family, one of the biggest stresses for me is thinking about, scheduling, shopping for, and packing snacks and dinner options for four ravenous fencing kids, each with their own picky food preferences. Six days a week, 50 weeks a year, I have to plan and pack each of these snack options. It can be overwhelming.
But here are some tips we’ve found to help with this particular issue:
- Buy in bulk! A local warehouse-style market like Costco or Sam’s Wholesale will have a lot of snack options including dried fruit, nuts, and various granola-type bars. Load up at the beginning of the month.
- Spend a few minutes once a week or a month packing all the snack bags for the kids (bonus if you can get the kids to pack their own bags!) This way they’re done for the whole week. You could even label baskets for each child, and require them to remember their snacks for the day. It’s way easier to grab and go than to think about, pack, and stress if you have enough. A little planning at the beginning of the week will go a long way toward the end of it.
- Don’t be afraid to eat out a few nights a month, or to order delivery if it’s affordable and convenient for you. There are plenty of healthy options that kids can enjoy even in more casual style restaurants.
- Meal delivery kits can help too. Using a service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron can take some of the planning stress out of it. If you enjoy cooking, and don’t want to have to think about what’s for dinner a few times a week, consider looking into which ones might work best for your family.
Managing the Fencing Schedule: For the Fencer
As a fencer, it’s important that you maintain discipline in everything that you do both on the strip and beyond. If you have a school project coming up, make sure you’ve made time to finish it and turn everything in on time the first time. Prepare for tests in advance.
It’s tempting to put these things off, especially if you’re having too much fun at practice, or focused on your next competition, but your studies need to come first and fencing, second.
The reason I suggest this is two-fold:
1) If you delay, you may feel overwhelmed and in a rush, and your projects may suffer.
2) If you need to dedicate extra time to prepare for a competition you will not be able to because you’ll be too busy catching up on your homework and assignments. The stress of this can impact your ability to focus on your fencing, and it can be detrimental to your overall success.
Plan Your Fencing Schedule for the Year
Talk with your parents and agree on a schedule for the entire season. If you’re looking at the calendar and realize that you have four competitions, back to back, four weekends in a row, know that this is probably not manageable.
Consider choosing one of the competitions to skip to give your body, mind, and family rest.
Establish well in advance when and where you are going so that you can plan and coordinate with other fencers, your coach, and other parents if you decide to carpool to other competitions.
Take a Break When You Need It
While it’s important to stick to a schedule, there are a lot of things that can come along during any fencing season that can wreak havoc on your perfectly thought out plans.
If you are sick, rest.
If you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, rest.
If you feel overwhelmed by the number of categories you compete in, review them with your coach.
For example, if you are a U-rated Y14 fencer, you can fence in as many Y14, Cadet, Junior, Senior Division 1A, Senior Division 2, Senior Division 3 competitions as you’d like.
Talk with your coach and decide which ones best fit your current skills and your short and long-term goals. Chasing success in every possible category is impractical and a poor way to manage your strength and stamina and can create a mental and physical burden that can lead to burnout.
Make time for yourself to decompress! Hang out with your fencing friends outside of the club. It’s a great way to learn more about them, (and yourself)! The bond that is created between fencers at a club can last a lifetime, so it’s ideal to spend time getting to know your fellow fencers. It will help you have more fun at the club too when you’ve established these relationships.
Speaking of, pay attention to your body and your mind. Do not push through intense discomfort because you are expected to do or be a certain kind of fencer. Only you know and can decide what is right for your body. It’s better to ask your parents for a few days off to rest and recover than to build up resentment and later hate coming to the club, or having to travel to a competition.
Manage Your Personal Time
As much as you have a burning desire to succeed in fencing, spending all your free time only on fencing by training, reading fencing books, watching videos, following every single competition – it can begin to overwhelm you. While we will always encourage a burning desire, and applaud such dedication to improve and do better, we also understand the importance of taking a break.
You must find a healthy balance between the two. But you also need to know when to stop and breathe. Pick up a book outside of fencing, hang out with friends that don’t know anything about fencing, make a day off from fencing part of a welcome addition to your fencing routine.
While it’s true I’m encouraging you to take a break, don’t think that a little break will leave you behind. You may return rested and newly invigorated. I’ve often seen fencers take a few days or a week break from the sport, freshly invested, and even go on to accomplish skills or moves they had previously not mastered or had yet tried before!
The Fencing Family
We spend a lot of time and energy focused on our fencing goals, both as parents and as fencers. It’s easy to become obsessed to the point that fencing stops being fun, and turns into a burden.
Try to do what you can to head this off before it can happen. If you love fencing, figure out ways to make it manageable for both you and your family so that it can continue to be a joy for years to come.