The best and most successful athletes usually have a keen self-awareness of their skills and areas for improvement. You can best utilize your strengths when you can clearly identify them, and you can best improve by understanding where you’re weakest. Every athlete has areas they can improve and being honest with yourself is the best first step to getting better.
A great way to track your progress and maintain awareness is by keeping a fencing journal. Buy a new notebook and keep it with your fencing gear. After every practice or competition, take time to reflect. You can write just a few notes one day and a whole page the next, it’s up to you!
Here are some questions to ask yourself after a practice:
- What skills did I work on today?
- Did I struggle with anything in particular?
- Did I do really well on something in particular?
- Did I learn something new?
- Did my coach give me any particular feedback (positive or constructive)?
- How do I feel about my fencing right now?
After a competition, your entries may be a bit different. Here are some questions for tournament breaks or the ride home:
- Was I focused during that bout/competition?
- Did I learn anything new?
- What did I learn about my opponent(s)?
- How do I feel about my performance?
- What were my weaknesses?
- Did I do something that worked well that I want to repeat?
- Did my coach have any feedback (positive or constructive)?
You could even print this list of questions, or your own customized version, to tape into your journal for when you need a little help. I don’t suggest going through each question point-by-point every time you journal, these are just things to think about and you may hit on different ones in different entries.
The benefits of keeping this journal are many. I think the most important one is to celebrate your progress. When we get better at something over time, it’s easy to forget where we started. If you’re having a tough practice or a rough string of competitions, go back a few weeks or months in your journal and remember how far you’ve come.
A second reason is that it forces you to take an analytical look at your fencing skills and actively seek improvement. Just writing these things down will cause them to leak into your practices and you will find that a weakness you write down today becomes a strength by next season!
Lastly, you can track your opponents. You’re likely to face the same opponents multiple times depending on how often you compete and where. If you face someone for a second time, you can quickly review any notes from the first time and learn from your mistakes. Advanced fencers focus not only on their skills in the bout, but also on their opponent’s weaknesses and ways to beat that particular fencer.
If you have a journal, but haven’t started it, now is the time! If you don’t have one yet, get one for your fencing bag before your next practice. Have any of you already been keeping a fencing journal and seen improvements from using it? We’d love your thoughts below!