Setting fencing Competition GoalsThis post is the second in a three part series on goal setting for fencers.  While there is great information here, we highly recommend that you check out the first post –
Goal Setting, Fencing and Your Lifestyle in order to get the most out of it!

Creating goals that fit into your life is at the heart of improvement and of moving forward. When looking at fencing, it’s important that parents and kids talk together to create a goal plan that includes the input of everyone, otherwise it’s unlikely that the fencer will stick with it or that the parents will be able to offer the support that’s needed to reach what are often difficult (but attainable!) aspirations.

Helping fencing families to get a solid goal plan is an essential part of what we do at our club, and it’s something that we know to be worthwhile. This is especially true for competitive fencers. Simply diving headlong into competition without a plan is going to waste your time and resources, not to mention creating a lot of frustration on the part of everyone involved.

The most difficult part is getting started! But don’t worry, we’re here to help you get going. We’re going to break down the competitive fencing goal process into two parts: 1) Define Targets, 2) Create a Plan.

1. Define Targets

Looking at the information that you learned about yourself and your family from our first post, create a defining goal statement.

You must do this with your kids, as without their input and participation during the goal setting process, they won’t be invested in the goals that are created. If you don’t let your kids participate, then this becomes just another chore that an adult is forcing onto them. Also remember that by enlisting them to help define their own targets, you’re teaching them a valuable life skill that will translate into their adult life! While right now you might be setting goals for fencing competition, this same process will work when they decide one day to buy a house or get into graduate school – they’ll know how to accomplish big things! This applies even to very young competitive fencers.

When creating your goal statement, be sure to remember the S.M.A.R.T. goal model. Your goal statement should be:

  • Specific – General statements like “Win lots of competitions” aren’t going to help drive success. Be very specific about what your goal is.
  • Measurable – There has to be some real indicator of progress. This is a challenging part, but it can be something as simple as a number of competitions to attend or a placement that you’re aiming for.
  • Attainable – Given the time that you’ve got and what you can give to fencing, be real about what your child’s goals are. One of the worst and most unhelpful things is when you create a goal that they can’t possibly reach given where they are. Every child won’t go on to get a Ph.D. and not every young fencer will go on to the Olympics. That doesn’t mean that we don’t dream! What it means is that we work first to get to the next step in our own process, and that we accept and appreciate the amazing things that our kids are doing.
  • Relevant – You want the goal statement to include an indicator of how you’re going to get there, things that your child will do to make it happen. Think practice and hard work, and also family support. Your goal statement needs to be relevant to the things that your child will do in their daily fencing practice.
  • Time-related – We find that it’s good to associate your goals with the fencing season (which goes from August -July). You can of course make your goals any time that you’re reading this post, but you’ll likely want to have the end time for them to be July and then to renew them in August of next year.

The International Olympic Committee has a great post on SMART Goals. Worth reading!

Now that you know what goes into a goal, let’s give some real examples to inspire you. You’ll notice that these are in pairs, one that is from the child’s perspective and one that is from the parent’s perspective.

Example #1

Fencer – By the end of the season, I will be a top ten finisher in regional competition by listening to the guidance of my instructors and actively practicing my skills in the club and at home.

Parent – Throughout the fencing season, I will facilitate my child’s fencing progress toward becoming a top ten regional competitor by encouraging them to practice their fencing skills both at home and at the club.

Example #2

Fencer – I will qualify for Summer Nationals in 2016 by creating a plan of action to get national points and by improving my fencing skills through regular, attentive practice at the club.

Parent – I will support my child’s pursuit of qualification for Summer Nationals in 2016 by helping them to get to practice and getting them to the competitions that are necessary to gain national points.

Example #3

Fencer – I will attend at least three competitions during the 2015-2016 season, improving my performance with each competition by working hard during practice and by giving my best effort on competition days.

Parent – I will facilitate my child’s attendance to at least three competitions during the 2015-2016 season, supporting them to improve their performance at each by getting them to practice and to tournaments.

2. Create a Plan

Once you’ve written your targets, it’s time to take that and create a plan. Sit down with your calendar and work it out!

This is a great time to consult your child’s fencing coach to help let you know how to get to the goal that you’ve set. Knowing which competitions to attend in your area and what kind of work it will take to attain the goals that you’ve set is where your child’s fencing teacher can really guide you. If your child really wants to go to Nationals, then they might need to move to attending more classes. There might also be additional training camps that your child will benefit from in pursuit of their goal, or private lessons.

Another piece that you need to include in your plan are resources. Fencing competitions can be expensive, and traveling to them can come at significant cost as well. The other resource to consider is time. This means the time that you have and the time that your child has. For you, it might involve some creative carpooling or adjusting your work schedule in order to get your child to practice. For your child it might mean that they have to take a break from other activities in order to achieve their fencing season goals.

Be as detailed as you can with your plan. The more detail that you have, the more likely it is that you’ll be successful! If your child can look at their calendar and see those competitions circled in red, then see their practices marked that lead up to the competition, they’ll have a much easier time sticking with their plan and achieving their goals.

More than anything, remember that this whole process should be one that makes everyone happy. Yes, it’s hard work and there might be times when your child or you feel discouraged. But overall this whole process should be one that makes everyone feel good about themselves. Making goals and then pursuing them will help your young fencer to move forward not only in fencing, but in life!