Good fencing and good coaching go hand in hand – great fencers always have amazing coaches to support and guide them on their path. We often hear people talk about the attributes of a great fencing coach. They should be experienced and dedicated, firm when necessary and fun sometimes too. They of course have to know the art of fencing inside out, but more importantly they’ve got to be able to share that knowledge effectively.
It’s All About the Fencer
Getting the most out of your fencing coach isn’t really so much about the coach – it’s about the fencer. How often do we see fencers who have great promise but never reach their potential? Signing up with a fantastic coach is only one side of the equation, the other side, the more important side, is the fencer taking on the responsibility to get the most out of that coach.
It’s your sword, your stance, your body, your competition and your goals. As much as a coach can be there to support you and to show you how to get there, at the end of the day it is the fencer who is going to have to do the hard work to get there. When you’re tired and burned out, your coach can’t do another push-up for you or fence another round in your place.
Here are some proactive questions to ask, though it is important to realize that you ask them at the appropriate time (i.e., not in the middle of a training session!)
- What are my weakest areas and how can I address them?
- These are my goals – what do you think of them?
- Is there an area that I’m focusing too much on?
- What’s the next level for me? What steps should I be taking today to get there?
No matter how great your fencing coach is, they can only give you so much. You’ve got to reach out and work to get the rest!
Communication is Key
Unfortunately we find that there hasn’t yet been a technology invented that will let your coach read your mind. If you’re tired or thirsty, if you’ve got a twinge that you fear will snowball into an injury, if your weapon has a problem or you just afraid to fence against that fencer – you’ve got to communicate it!
A great coach isn’t going to be angry with you for missing a training session if you have good reason, or for being scatterbrained because there’s something going on at home. What will frustrate them endlessly is if you just don’t show up, or if you’re not paying attention and they have no idea why.
It’s on you, the fencer, to reach out to your coach and get them the information that they need to be there for you. You’re one athlete among many that they are responsible for, which puts the burden of communication on you.
The best way to get the most out of your coach is to know yourself well. The more in touch with yourself you are, the more easily you’ll be able to communicate that and to get the support that you need from your coach.
Part of this whole knowing yourself thing is opening up to learn more about yourself through your coach. The insight that a coach can give you is truly amazing, he or she can see things in you that you would never be able to see on your own. Whatever it is that they give you to work on, whatever it is that they see, realize that there is a truth to it, even if you can’t see it yet. Be open to learning more about yourself through the coaching process.