“Mom and Dad, I want to quit fencing.”
This is a serious situation that many fencing parents have had to face. They put a great deal of effort and hard work into supporting their child in this rigorous and expensive sport, only to have them suddenly want to quit.
The statistics back up the experience – 70% of children drop out of organized sports by the time they turn thirteen. That’s a sad number! Youth sports in general, and we believe that fencing in particular, are powerful and important for kids. We see so often that families struggle with pushing kids into fencing at younger ages, only to find that they burn out and don’t want to keep up. It’s especially tough to see a fencer with dedication and talent drop out.
It’s important to get a firm foundation in understanding why kids fence, and also why they chose to quit fencing. The more open communication we can create with our young fencers, the better we’ll be able to help them. That doesn’t always mean helping them to stay in fencing. But it also doesn’t mean just letting them go either. We want to understand and thereby help them understand, that way everyone can make the right decision together. Getting a deeper understanding of what’s happening can also help you to see red flags ahead of time, potentially preventing things from ever escalating to quitting.
The commonality among all kids who consider quitting fencing is that they have a disordered state of mind when it comes to fencing. Check out each of the following reasons that drive kids to quit fencing, and see if they resonate with your child. It’s never too late to take action to support your child! We’ve even given you steps to take if any of these scenarios is something you’re seeing in your young fencer.
They don’t get to do enough fencing
Fencing is an individual sport, but it’s one that requires a lot of drills and practice. But drilling and practice isn’t what kids came for – they came to swordfight! Most kids would rather lose a fencing match than sit back and watch one.
All of those footwork drills, all of that grip practice means nothing if your child doesn’t feel like they’re spending enough actually engaging an opponent. It’s so important for you to work with your child to get the kind of practice that they need to feel invested in the sport.
How to fix it:
Competition! If your child is competing in fencing competitions, they’re going to get all those great chances to fence with others. The rush of engaging an opponent is one of the big things that draws us back and back to fencing again and again. If you feel as though your child isn’t getting enough engagement time, talk to their coach.
Mistakes are terrifying
Many young fencers aren’t just accomplished fencers – they’re accomplished at a lot of things. These are kids who aren’t used to making mistakes. These are kids who often aren’t used to losing. They’re the top of their class, the leaders in their schools and their communities.
Fencing is a challenging sport. It calls kids to use their bodies and their minds together to win. And they aren’t always going to win, not by a long shot. Parents can get carried away with the drive to win too, which puts even more pressure on kids than they’re putting on themselves! After a while it can all become overwhelming, and eventually kids will choose to quit rather than to keep feeling the pressure.
How to fix it:
Embrace failure! Mistakes are wonderful things, and they’re nothing to be afraid of. The more that your young fencer feels like they’re able to make mistakes, the more they’ll be able to be resilient in the future – on and off the strip. Celebrate mistakes! Losing can be just as good as winning because it allows us to learn.
They don’t own their fencing
Whose sport is this anyway? A big reason that kids want to give up fencing is because it’s not THEIR thing anymore. While it’s great to be a fencing family, what’s not great is for the family’s experience to swallow up the experience of the child.
Often we find that kids who pursue competitive fencing find that their every action gets constantly analyzed. Coaches are looking at them, teammates are looking at them, opponents are looking at them, and their parents are looking at them. After a while, it can feel to them like they’re on the outside of the experience rather than being on the inside of it and enjoying it.
This is a great comparison to make – why do kids love video games so much? What’s the deal with Minecraft? The deal is that kids get to live out independent experiences without being constantly scrutinized by an adult while they’re playing video games. Fencing can fill that same thing if we allow kids to live through their own experience.
How to fix it:
Talk to your child about their fencing goals. Let them direct their fencing progress and work with them to find their passion rather than stepping in and trying to create an experience for them. At every possible juncture, try to give your child autonomy.
Kids feel disrespected at their fencing club
Who wants to feel as though they aren’t respected? No one, that’s who. No matter what your age, you want to feel like the people around you respect you.
We certainly hope that your child’s fencing coach and club foster a respectful environment, but that’s not a guarantee. If a child feels like they aren’t a respected member of their club, of course they aren’t going to want to stick around. This isn’t always something straightforward though. Even in the best clubs will sometimes have a child get lost in the shuffle. More often they’ll feel like they’re caught in the shuffle even if they aren’t.
Another thing that can sometimes happen is that kids are kids and social issues come up. Fencing clubs are well known for putting their foot down on unsportsmanlike behavior, but it’s impossible to be perfect. Bullying is a reality for kids everywhere, no matter what activities they’re doing. It’s not a good reason for a child to quit fencing, because it’s often an issue that can be addressed and resolved. That doesn’t make the hurt feelings any less hurt in a child.
How to fix it:
This is one that’s best done well before things get bad. Check in with your child to make sure that they feel like they’re a valued member of their fencing club! Talk to them about bullying and give them safe space to share things with you. Open dialogue with your child on this subject can prevent things from getting out of hand! Don’t assume that everything is alright because your child is quiet. Instead, offer them the chance to talk openly to you about what’s going on.
Fencing isn’t fun anymore
For the vast majority of fencers, the reason that they begin fencing is because it’s fun. And fencing is fun! Even top level fencers, World Champions and Olympians, fencing is still fun. One of the biggest reasons that kids quit fencing is because it stops being fun.
If your child isn’t having fun while fencing, then they are eventually going to walk away. No matter how much fencing talent they have, no matter how great their coach is, no matter what kind of competitions they’ve conquered, there’s just not much point in doing something that’s not fun! Do adults keep doing something that isn’t necessary when they don’t have to anymore? Of course not! Why would you think that your kids are going to do the same?
How to fix it:
Ask! Along the way, just ask your child if they’re enjoying themselves. It’s really just that simple. Don’t wait until it’s obvious that they aren’t having fun – ask them all along the way to make sure that it’s still fun for them. If they aren’t having fun, then you want to reach out to them and find way to make it fun again. That could mean getting out in the backyard and doing some shadow fencing, watching a killer fencing movie, or reading an awesome fencing book. Sometimes a new piece of equipment can make things feel lively again. Whatever it is that sparks your child’s interest in fencing is what you need to work on.
While you never want to force your child to stay with fencing if it’s not their thing, you also don’t want them to quit for the wrong reasons. Hopefully these reasons for fencers quitting will help you to learn some of the ways that you can keep your child fencing for all the right reasons!