Life gets busy for all of us, and it can sometimes feel like there’s too much on our plate. This is especially true for kids today, who can get overscheduled with activities. School, family, extracurricular activities, friends, etc. take up not only time, but mental energy as well. Sometimes it all becomes so overwhelming that kids want a way out, so they start cutting things in the hope of getting more free time, only to find themselves in a more stressful situation. They think that the solution is “temporary” relief for just couple of months until the pressure passes, so they cut their fencing classes by taking a time off for that period.
Cutting out fencing classes really just causes more problems! Instead of giving fencers a solution, taking break from training causes them to lose out. Here are five reasons that fencers shouldn’t take time off.
1. Loss of momentum
It’s hard to come back from a break. When you’re training regularly in fencing, you get in the groove of training. Your body and your mind both are used to coming in and doing your training, and we know that muscle memory and mental focus give fencers their edge. Getting the momentum back when you just stop coming to the fencing club is so much harder than keeping up with training. Even if you need to scale back to less training due to other obligations, you’ll keep that momentum going.
2. Loss of skill
When you stop doing something, you lose some of the skill that you had built up. If a fencer doesn’t practice fencing for two months, they’re going to have to put that much more effort into getting to the skills they had before. Whether it’s footwork or blade and point control, when you don’t exercise the skills that you’ve practiced then you tend to lose them. That old saying of “use it or lose it” really applies to fencing!
3. Loss of muscle
Just like you’re going to lose the mental stamina that you had in your fencing when you stop fencing, so too are you going to lose muscle mass. It’s a very specific set of muscles that are used in fencing, and those muscles get built up through repeated use during fencing training. If training stops, then the muscles aren’t being used and they start shrinking! Again, it’s possible to scale back fencing training without stopping completely, which keeps this from being a big problem.
4. Loss of progress
When a fencer takes an extended break, they’ll find that their peers move forward without them. That’s important psychologically especially for young fencers, who can get discouraged if they come back to their training to find that their friends have moved on up. They might be embarrassed and not want to continue! The social aspect of sport, especially for young fencers, is important to keep in mind.
5. Risk of quitting
This is especially true for young fencers. If a young fencer takes time off from fencing to play another sport or to focus on other obligations, they can forget how much they enjoyed fencing and why they were so interested in it in the first place. We’ve all seen this in kids! They get distracted and then getting them back to it is so challenging. Work on keeping your young fencer engaged in the sport rather than allowing them to take time off completely.
Burnout is a real concern for any kind of activity, but training doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Rather than totally taking time off from fencing training, think about scaling back. Find a balance in which a fencer doesn’t have to totally step back from the sport or from competition, but that they also don’t feel overwhelmed with commitments and concerns. Often what’s really needed isn’t time off from the sport, but rather to change the schedule, the level of expectation, the perspective that a fencer has, or video devices and social media time.Fencing is a healthy, productive outlet that builds both the body and the mind, giving fencers the ability to cope more effectively with life’s challenges.
It’s easy to feel like there’s too much going on and to say “I’m just going to stop fencing for a while and that will make me feel less stretched.” What we see again and again is that fencing isn’t usually the problem, it’s expectations, prioritization, discipline, and mindset. Fencing for most young fencers and adult fencers offers an escape and a positive part of life! This is a fun sport, and so what we want to see is that the pressure gets pulled back and the true goal of fencing training becomes the center again. That goal is enrichment and personal development through swordsmanship!
Talk to your coach about what you’re experiencing and get their advice. DON’T allow yourself to get to the point that you’re burned out. It’s so important for fencers to be real with their coaches about their level of stress with the sport and with their commitments in general. The worst thing is to let that stress get to be too much and then you just want to quit!
Another powerful way to get perspective is to talk to other parents in your club, parents whose kids are super competitive on the strip and also very successful in their academics. Take a look how they train and talk about their time management. Pay attention to how many successful fencers are on the USFA All Academic Team! This means they are excellent in both fencing and in school! It is possible to find a time for everything. I personally believe that the more free time we have, the less we do. It is because of skewed priorities, bad time management, and an incorrect perspective that those feelings of being overwhelmed come over us. If others are able succeed in balancing sport and academics, so can you and your child. In most cases it is a matter of desire
Before you take a break from fencing training, step back and consider the reasons not to, then come up with a solution that works for you.