Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Parents on the Fencing Strip: Why NOT to Assist the Coach

Parents taking pictures on fencing strip during competitionIt’s a very common feeling for parents: seeing their kid out on the fencing strip in competition and getting excited for them to win. It’s also a common feeling for parents to wish their child was performing better, or to notice something they could be doing differently. Unfortunately, this latter feeling can sometimes lead to inappropriate behavior on the strip. Your child’s coach is a professional who is there to help them succeed. A good coach will naturally be less emotionally involved in a fencer’s performance because it is their job to remain calm, collected, and keep their focus on the competition at hand.

As a parent, there are plenty of times that your advice, encouragement, and even reprimands are acceptable. One of those times is not while they are in the middle of a bout and their coach is present and available to help.

Let’s look at a few examples of how not to behave as a parent on the fencing strip:

Your son or daughter has just lost a match to a seemingly weaker or less talented opponent. You immediately run up on to the strip and yell at them for their poor performance. Wrong.

Even after losing, a coach is going to offer constructive criticism and start a dialogue about what the fencer did wrong and why. A good coach is going to help them use the loss to make improvements for the next competition. Yelling at your child is rarely appropriate in public, much less when it’s only to tell them how terrible they’ve performed.

You decide your child requires two strip-coaches and yell conflicting advice while they’re in the middle of a bout. Wrong.

Your child’s coach may not be able to be present or available to strip coach at each and every event. But if they are there, please let them do their job. They will give your fencer the best advice possible, which while strip coaching, is often only a word or two. If you have a problem with the coach’s instruction, then sit down with them after the competition and discuss what you think is best for your fencer. It’s certainly OK to disagree sometimes. But yelling conflicting information during competition is only going to confuse your fencer and hurt their chance of winning.

The coach was wrong, the ref is an idiot, your kid deserved to win, so you’re going to start cursing at everyone. VERY wrong.

It’s sad to say that parents using profanities in defense of their children’s performance is not uncommon in sports, even for young fencers. It is, however, inappropriate. If you thought there was a problem with a call, mention it to your child’s coach. Again, they are here to help and guide them to success. They want the same things you do for your child. Screaming profanities at them or an official isn’t going to help you. Not to mention, inappropriate behavior can even lead to a black card where YOU will have to leave the venue!

These are just a few examples, but there are plenty of ways parents find to interfere with their children’s success. The best thing you can do is be positive and supportive on competition days. Things are going to be wrong, kids are going to lose sometimes, but it is up to the parents to set the example for our children to follow. Getting emotional at times when you’re so vested in their success is completely understandable, but letting that emotion interfere with your better judgment is not. Most likely, any time you do “assist” your child’s coach on the strip, you’re actually hurting, and not helping your fencer.


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