How do you get ready for a fencing competition? One thing that we know is that winning is as much about the mental game as it is about the physical preparation. That’s true for professional fencers and for beginner fencers as well.
I remember once seeing two very different approaches during the same competition. One mom tried to make her son be aggressive, she talked with him about getting ready, she even screamed on her son’s coach demanding find somebody to help him with the warm up. Her son was very nervous even before he started.
But the other dad just warmed up my heart. This dad did a perfect job preparing his son to the competition – they talked about learning during his bouts and having fun, he smiled and created such a pleasant atmosphere around him! Then they did a warmup and stretching together!!! I have a lovely picture during stretching. It means a lot for young kids to feel that their parents encourage them to enjoy their fencing. The second boy smiled a lot and went home so happy! I loved it a lot!!
With that in mind, we’ve put together some mental preparation tips for fencing competition that will allow you to help your child to get into the right headspace for the next time he or she steps on the strip.
1. Stay positive
As a parent, part of your role is to stay positive for your kids in competition. They’re nervous! Not only that, kids don’t yet have full control of their emotional lives. They need you to model the kind of positive behavior that they’ll need to keep going during tense times.
2. Take time to relax
One of the best things you can do before a competition is to take some time with your child to relax. Tension is not going to improve performance. Just as the dad in our opening story stretched with his child, so too should you take some quiet, connecting time before the chaos of the strip.
3. Emphasize the right things
Talk to your child about how important it is for them to do their absolute best. We certainly want our kids to win, and they want to win, but that’s not the point of competing.
4. Roll with the “parrys”
In fencing we don’t have punches, so we have to roll with the parrys! Problems are going to arise. Weapons will malfunction. Traffic will make you late. Your child might forget his or her lucky feather. It’s so, so important that you make an effort to go with the flow in competition. This is perhaps the most important mental preparation tip! Do the things that you can do, and then let go of the things you can’t control
5. Prepare thoroughly
Ok, maybe THIS one is the most important mental health tip. If your child feels prepared, they’re less likely to feel nervous. That means watching competition before you go to one. It means talking to other fencers who have experience so that you don’t feel like it’s scary. It means practicing! A LOT. It means going over and over what to expect.
Getting the right mental preparation can make all the difference not only in winning in competition, but also in getting all the other benefits of sport. After all, fencing isn’t just about winning, it’s about growing.