A few weeks ago, for the first time in four years of writing and operating this blog, we didn’t post a blog or send an email. This was both nerve wracking and also somewhat of a relief. While we always have many blogs that Igor and I are writing, we chose to take a much needed break for us, for our family, and actually for the first time in a very long time…go on a vacation.
Our fencing kids, all competitive youth fencers, train about four or five times a week, sometimes up to 3 hours, and in addition to their training and regular competitions, as every other child they have their homework and bunch of other extracurricular activities.
As a fencing family, we are particularly aware of the concept burnout as it applies to our fencing kids, and to ourselves as parents of fencers. For us, taking a vacation was an important step to preventing a scenario of burnout that could affect the whole family.
We were lucky that we were able to end our time at the Escondido SYC fencing tournament with a family vacation in beautiful Southern California. We took a full week off after the tournament, as it was also spring school break, where our kids didn’t train, or even really talk about fencing (as much as that can happen when the whole family is involved in fencing)! It was a welcome break and refreshing for our kids to be able to rest both mind and body before heading back home and back into our routine.
This was a much welcome break for us as fencing parents for a week to stop thinking about all the scheduling and activities our kids attend, fencing or otherwise.
What Is Burnout and How Can It Happen
Traditional athletic burnout is a phenomenon that occurs when an athlete becomes overwhelmed by the physical and mental stress of their sport. It can manifest in a number of ways that are counterproductive to you or your fencer’s goals.
The challenge and intensity of training and competition can take its toll on even the most dedicated and talented fencer. It’s unfortunately very difficult to anticipate what a trigger for burnout might be.
For some fencers, the rigorous training schedule, frequent competitions or even switching into a new age category can present specific challenges that unintendedly overwhelm a fencer. At first they may just seem resistant to the change which is easy to brush off by saying something like, “Oh he’ll get used to it in a few weeks once things settle down.”
On another level, burnout can happen to the parents of competitive fencers too! It takes hard work, patience, and endurance to pour so much focus into your kids and their love for the sport. Just shuttling kids back and forth to the fencing club, planning travel, executing travel, paying attention to the details of qualification and ranking; It can sometimes feel like a part time job!
While a mental burnout of parents is definitely much different than the physical and mental burnout that your child may experience, it’s worth taking into consideration as you plan activities with your family. A mental health day is sometimes a big deal for parents of fencers to be able to be their best supportive selves!
Burnout Can Sneak Up On You
While complete burnout is not that common, it can be extremely difficult to recognize the signs of it before it’s too late. This is true even for the athlete who is experiencing symptoms. They may confuse a lack of desire to train for just simply being tired. This tiredness could be misinterpreted as being bummed about a recent loss.
Everything becomes too much to handle and burnout is almost inevitable.When this occurs it is a lose-lose situation for both parents and for fencers.
According to this article in the National Athletic Trainers Association, “Rest and time away from the sport are the two best ways to prevent burnout.” This article also gives some great information about warning signs to watch for, and triggers that can set off a domino effect for burnout.
Why Taking Time for Yourself is Important
It’s important to build down time into your schedule when you can, so that your fencer, and your family can decompress, recover, and prepare for the next big thing. For your fencer it’s a great time to reflect on what they’ve learned, and how they can improve. It’s also important to just not think about fencing at all for a few days.
For parents of fencers, it’s important for you to take a break as well. Supporting your kid is exciting and rewarding, but also hard work. You need to rest and recover as well so you can be the best version of yourself for your kid.
There is a balance, however,between taking a break, and taking a hiatus – an extended break. A few days to decompress is very different than a few weeks or even months! Hopefully whatever time you spend away from fencing will allow you to to feel ready to dive back in feeling rested and refreshed.