I have never been to a NAC like this. It was different. The previous NAC in Iowa was a great event for our fencers, with solid finishes, but I was so disappointed in the refereeing, anything I would say about that event would be tainted heavily with negativity. This NAC I had a day off, so I volunteered to referee. If you aren’t going to offer a solution, you can’t complain, right? So, I offered my time.
My observations from this NAC are centered on what I feel you need to do to build yourself as a coach. I scrutinized myself heavily this weekend: the goals of our club, what type of coach I want to be, and what I can do to commit to my training. Below are a few things that I believe a developing coach should be doing.
- Learn how to objectively watch your fencers compete. What your fencers fail or struggle with is your work as a coach. Your Ego must be placed behind you. You may need to change your perspective- you may be giving wrong cues, but it is the coach’s job to figure out the problems and take it back to the gym. I was pretty hard on myself this weekend for a couple of consistent technical errors my fencers displayed. I took that observation right back to the lessons this week. I observed many coaches struggle to build their fencers confidence by arguing with referees. I will not be that coach. I will take responsibly when I fail my fencer, and the fencer had better know when they fail themselves.
- Watch fencers who are the fencer that you want your fencers to be. I was soooo impressed by Lian Osier this weekend. She won the Junior Women’s Sabre event. She fenced like a “professional.” She was so in control, and was clearly tactically above the other young women. She preformed at the top of her coach’s expectations with confidence and ease. It was extremely joyful for me to watch her win and compete.
- Referee. I learned a lot about the current style of fencing. The women’s and men’s styles are a bit different. A lot of the current footwork displayed by the sabre fencers looked like epee to me, especially by the women. I was so not impressed by the Cadet women. I think I even said after one hideous touch: “this is not sabre fencing,” to the poor girls. Refereeing allowed me to focus my observations, and force my eye to be sharp. I am committing to doing this at least once a year now on the National level. I could tell I was missing one or two calls in a 15 touch bout. I don’t like making mistakes!
- Network. I had a wonderful conversation with Iris Zimmerman, a club owner from Rochester, and a young female coach. It is comforting to meet other coaches struggling with the same things, with similar frustrations, and to take a moment to compare and contrast ideas, camps and training opportunities. I also had dinner with my old coach Ed, and a young family contemplating taking the competitive plunge into women’s sabre competitions. I loved being part of this family’s discussion to commit to that level of elite fencing.
There are lots of other ideas about how to maintain and improve yourself as a coach, but these things are specific to tournament work. This work, probably more than strip-side coaching, is the most important work I do for the club when I travel. So, when you see me talking — yeah, I am socializing, but often for reason, to increase your performance and optimize your training regimen and refereeing.