Bartosz Kuligowski (Y10 epee) complements his fencing training in the club with fencing target training at homeShould you encourage your young fencer to practice fencing target training at home? Well, there are a couple things to consider, but the answer is “yes.” Devoted athletes don’t wait for the next scheduled lesson to get better. They create ways to get better. That can come in a variety of forms: individual practice, physical conditioning, eating well, or even practicing visualization. If someone really wants to do their best at something, they will go above and beyond without being asked.

If your young fencer wants to train at home, first and foremost, encourage their commitment and drive. After that though, you may want to pay a bit of attention depending on the type of training and encourage certain habits. Of course, your first concern is safety, so we’ll assume for this post that you’ve handled that bit. But on top of safety, you can encourage some other good habits and support them in other ways.

After safety, the main concern is that the fencer could develop the wrong habits with unsupervised training. Young fencers may still be in the process of learning the correct form. But at the same time, classes and private lessons only afford so much time for fencers to drill target practice. Taking these drills home and repeating them with individualized training could be the difference between remaining an average fencer and catapulting to the next level.

So how can you help keep things pointed in the right direction? Here are a few tips.

  1. Don’t Do It Alone: Your fencer’s coach is the boss when it comes to practicing fencing. Period. The coach knows the sport and how to teach. So, you should first consult with your child’s coach to ask which exercises to do at home. Take any input they give and follow it as precisely as you can.
    At the same time, the coach may not have specific input to give at the moment. That’s okay. The important thing is that you give them a chance to weigh in and check back in periodically. You can bring a suggested plan if you’d like, which may make it easier for them to give some feedback. Either way, the coach has the last word on fencing drills. If they don’t have much to suggest right now, follow the rest of these tips. It’s no reason to be offended, perhaps they trust your fencer to repeat the basic drills from practice and have noticed them developing a solid form, which brings us to the next tip.
  1. Keep It Simple: Choose a small number of specific drills that your fencer has learned at the club, are fairly simply, and your fencer feels comfortable and confident repeating on their own: simple touch, step forward-touch. This way you are also more comfortable supervising.
  1. Quality Over Quantity: The first priority is to have correct form during the drill. Better to start off slow and deliberate to ensure the correct form, and then speed up if the form is solid at the existing speed.
  1. Play It Back: If you have the means to record the drills, take a video. You can watch it with your child to check for correct form. It’s easier to look back and see any issues (or successes!) then to notice them in real-time. This way you can also show the video to your coach if you have questions or want input on progress.

At the beginning of this post, we talked about young fencers that want to target train at home. What about when they don’t want to?

Well, this is getting a bit into parenting decisions, but on the younger edge of Y10, we suggest that you don’t push it. They may still be learning whether they want to pursue fencing and it’s more important at that stage that they enjoy the sport and learn to love it. If they pursue at-home training on their own, then jump on board. You can offer to help them with it if you want to encourage them, but if they resist, let them resist.

As your fencer gets older, you may want to push a bit harder. If their coach has required at-home training, you should push them to follow it, just as you would homework from school. If their coach doesn’t push that, you can still encourage a bit harder for them to work at home. In the end though, they need to want to excel at fencing and to pursue at-home training as a personal goal. Focus on supporting them, providing guidance and suggestions, and ultimately showing pride in their progress with fencing, no matter how big or how small.