Taking stock of where we’ve been this year is a normal part of life as the year turns. It’s as natural as making New Year’s resolutions. The problem is, we all know that those resolutions don’t usually get very far into the future, falling away by February.
I propose an alternative, one that’s rooted in a growth mindset and that we can apply well to fencing. Rather than thinking about resolutions for you to change your fencing habits in the new year, instead take a realistic inventory of the last year. Looking back is sometimes the best way to look forward!
Finding opportunities is important
This is a great tool, even though it can be challenging to look at both the good and the bad over the last year. Our intuition is often to look ahead, to just barrel forward and get on with it. However, looking backwards slightly can let you see opportunities that you didn’t know were there.
There are two ways to find opportunities by reflecting on the last year:
- Pivot from mistakes
- Build on successes
Both of these are happy and encouraging options. We’ve said this many times before – you can learn more from failure than you can from success. It’s much more challenging to look at our failures than it is to look at our successes. We cringe at the thought of the hard things that we did, the points when we did not live up to our expectations.
The question we must always ask is this one – why didn’t we live up to those expectations? We have to remove the judgement from our reaction here, because that only leads to emotional turmoil. Failure doesn’t mean you are a bad fencer, it just means that you need to come at whatever that option is in a different way. Better tools mean better outcomes.
As you go through the following five areas, look at your fencing through the lens of opportunity rather than failures and steps up rather than finished accomplishments. You can write these down in your fencing journal or put it all into a spreadsheet.
1. Influential facets
The first thing that we’re going to start with in our inventory list is a topline view of who and what influenced your fencing this year. This is a great place to dip a toe into this exercise because it puts everything in context!
- What two people had the biggest impact on your fencing this year?
- What’s the most memorable bout that you had in the last year?
- What part of fencing training did you enjoy the most this year?
- What part of fencing training did you enjoy the least this year?
- What part of fencing competition did you enjoy the most this year?
- What part of fencing competition did you enjoy the least this year?
- What’s the smartest decision you made about fencing this year?
- What’s the biggest frustration you have about your fencing year?
- What’s the biggest lesson you learned this year in fencing?
- Did you accomplish everything you set out to do in fencing this year? If not, why not?
- Give one word that best describes your last year in fencing.
When answering these questions, go with the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t put a ton of thought into the answers – just go with your first instinct and write it down. You want to get a view of your takeaways from the last year!
Take an inventory of how much time you’re spending on fencing. This doesn’t just mean the time you spend in the club, it also means the time that you spend at home looking at fencing videos or reading fencing blogs. Look at the time you invest in cross training. How much time do you spend traveling or maintaining your fencing gear?
There are so many little areas of lost time that you’re putting into fencing that you may not realize. Commuting time, research time, registration time, goal setting time. What about the time you hang out with your fencing mates after class? All of this together weaves who you are as a fencer.
It’s good to break it down into parts that you can think about clearly.
- Private lessons
- Open fencing
When you understand what kind of time you’re spending on your fencing, then you can evaluate and figure out how you could better spend the time. This isn’t only about maximizing your time though, it’s also about you realizing how much you really love this sport. More than likely, you’re going to find that you’re putting a whole lot of your time into fencing, and that speaks volumes about your dedication.
3. Growth & struggle
Now that we’ve done the nuts and bolts inventory, let’s get into the more challenging area of strengths and weaknesses. This exercise is not necessarily easy to do, but it’ll push you to think in detailed terms about your fencing.
Write a list of the twelve months of the year. Next to each of those months, write one example of a growth area in fencing and one area that you struggled with. This might involve looking back through the calendar and thinking about what fencing competitions you were going to or what training camps you were attending at the time. Here are some ideas:
- Earned ___ rating
- Lost final bout in regional competition
- Added pilates for cross-training
- Missed a lot of fencing practice
- Participated in training with ____
- Didn’t make it past the DE round at Summer Nationals
- Moved to next level of classes at the club
Don’t overthink this! The point here is not to give tons of detail, but rather to look at the progressive picture of your fencing progress over time. We’re aiming for a dispassionate look at what the ups and downs of the year were. If you don’t have some answer for a month or two, that’s ok. Go for the big picture.
4. The long game
The next step is to look at the long game. What we do now has a major impact on what’s ahead for us, but that can be hard to see when we’re in the thick of things. To get a bird’s eye view of your year, try thinking about it in broader terms.
How do you do that? Ask yourself these questions:
- What did I do this year that will benefit my fencing in the next twelve months?
- What did I do this year that will benefit my fencing in two years?
- What did I do this year that will benefit my fencing in five year?
This is a great place to reflect back up to the previous answers that you gave. What you write down for this one will certainly be informed by what you wrote for your previous answers, and it’s absolutely ok to just categorize those things in this step.
This is also a great place for you to reflect on your goals as a fencer. You don’t have to be specific here if you haven’t set long term fencing goals, but this can definitely help you start to form them. If you want to be fencing at a university program in five years, then you’ll want to build on the success and learn from the failures you had this year.
Depending on your fencing goals, you can even look further out. Maybe you have your heart set on international competition or beyond. This is a step where you can start to think about what you want and then see how you’re already working towards what the future is for you in fencing!
The final part of your year end fencing inventory is to land in gratitude. Having a firm foundation of gratitude in your fencing (and in your life), is an amazing way to become more focused and happier. Finding ways to be thankful about the good things will patently improve your fencing.
To give you some support in nailing down the things that you are grateful for in your fencing, here are some areas that you can list in your fencing inventory. Write down 5-6 areas that you’re thankful for in the last year.
- Your parents
- Your siblings
- Your body, mind and emotions
When you choose an area, write out specific instances that you’re grateful for. For instance, you might appreciate the new weapon or mask that you got that really helped you. Maybe you made a close connection with a fencing friend that you met at a tournament this year. If your club is one that survived the pandemic, that is definitely something to be grateful for.
This doesn’t have to be things that are so individual, either. The Olympics are a major event that fencers are lucky to have happen this year in particular. It’s quite a feat that vaccines, testing, and protocols were available so that this pinnacle fencing event could take place. That’s also true for Fencing Summer Nationals. These are all larger events that lots of people in the fencing community would say they’re grateful for this year, but you can drill down to what makes it personally connected to you.
There are a thousand little things that we can be grateful for! When you start to write them down on the list of your fencing inventory, you can get a clear picture of how much they can add up.
Take all the good into 2022!
All of this great stuff that you’ve written down is the perfect fuel for you to take into the new year!
Let’s be honest – the last couple of years have left something to be desired for most of us. Though there’s been progress and though there is always a bright side, we all are ready for a 2022 that is going to take us towards brighter days. That starts with looking back at the last year to find out where those opportunities are! So much of life is about finding the places that we can grow in ways that we’re already going.
Note that this same process can be done for the fencing season, not just for the calendar year. This is an awesome exercise to do in July after Fencing Summer Nationals.
We hope that this fencing inventory will help you to look back through the last year and take all that you’ve learned into the new year! The next step for you is to take this inventory and work towards goals for the new year. You can read our companion post about how to leverage the information you’ve gathered here to make effective and informed goals for fencing.