Supporting Youth Competitive Fencing

Now is a great time to reflect on the purpose of competition as we start our new fencing season. I’d Iike to offer responses to common questions parents ask when considering signing their child up for the first or 50th competition.

1. Is my child ready to start competing?

For starting out, we always suggest that a first timer watch a tournament before entering an event.  Some children will be ready to compete very soon, others it may take years before warming up to the idea. We encourage your child to be the leader in determining their readiness.  Coaches will often suggest to the parents when they think the child is ready to compete.  It is a family commitment and we respect the readiness of each family.  Please ask your child’s coach if you have questions.  Click here for more information specific to parents and fencing.

2. Does my child have the equipment they need?

We follow all guidelines of standards required to hold a United States Fencing Association sanctioned event.  This means full equipment listed in the above Fencing 101 guide. The club will support our new fencers if they need to borrow equipment, but please let staff know before the tournament and consider volunteering to help maintain common club equipment.  Ideally, you will want your child to have cords that work, plus a back up of each body cord and weapon.  You are expected to maintain and keep working equipment for competitive use. For regional and national tournaments, this is essential, as a fencer may be penalized for not having spares or working equipment. Our youth tournaments allow for mistakes and learning. We want to promote self-suffiency, but realize starting out requires support.  Equipment vendors are not typically present during our local events, so please take the time to order equipment one or two weeks before their first competition. Fencing.net offers free shipping with the coupon code: midsouth.

3. What is the coaching role at local youth events, what should I expect from the coach?

Coaches are often refereeing or organizing local tournaments, but we make ourselves available to parents and members when we can.  Rules of refereeing do not allow us to engage in coaching activities during refereeing. We watch while we referee, we see and notice what a fencer is able to do and during the next training sessions we work with the fencers on their progression.  Local tournaments are viewed by the coaches as vital to the development of the competitive fencer.  Many of our older youth participants will work with the youth as designated referees or supportive teammates.  This is a great leadership opportunity for our older youth, and very important in our club development. We happily encourage all our members to support each other and give advice during the breaks, as long as the competitor across the strip is from another club!

4. How can I as a parent best support my child’s sport development?

“I enjoyed watching you compete” are great words to say to your child just coming off the strip. Individual sports require the participant to learn how to respond and navigate their behavior at a very fast pace.  A child is best supported when the parent releases result expectations and expresses enjoyment in the process of the demonstration their work.  This response develops internal motivation. We find that fencers are often very demanding on themselves and parents and coaches may find themselves validating and normalizing intense feelings that seemly come out of nowhere! It is not uncommon to see tears and then an hour after the tournament witness excitement and enthusiasm about getting back into the club and training.  Don’t fret! The joy from the fencer comes through the process of development and discovering fencing within the self. Teaching our youth how to process thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) is essential to the maintenance of joy in the fencing process. Please alert your child’s coach if you hear your child referring to themselves as “bad” or personalizing their result outside of their ability to create specific fencing actions.  This is unhealthy and requires attention.

5. How can I ensure that my child sets realistic expectations for this season?

Ask your child what they expect from this season and how they plan to get there.  If age appropriate, have them right down goals that are specific, have a start and ending date, and are quantifiable.  Process goal examples include, “I want to increase my percentage of attacks landing by 50%.  I will do this by adding 10 minutes devoted to footwork, using my blade, before practice, twice a week” or “I know I need a longer warm-up before tournaments, I will let you know the day before when I need to arrive at the tournament so I can ensure for myself adequate warm-up time.”  Please encourage their thinking!  Up until about age 12 the first and primary expectation should be to have fun and try some cool fencing moves out. Mid-South coaches evolve to be consultants to the developed fencer. This road must allow for mistakes and discovery of what works by the individual and the coaches primary role is to support growth though mistakes and successes.

During the season expectations can change quickly based on family circumstances, school demands and desire.  Please talk to your coach if something ignites passion or interrupts the training cycle.  We are here to support your family as well as their fencing.  We appreciate the commitment that parents make to support their child’s development, but please respect our work with your child by notifying us, or have your child notify us of unexpected changes.

Thank you for reading!

Coach Jen gets a group of young fencers ready for competition.

Coach Jen gets a group of young fencers ready for competition.

Thank you again for supporting fencing and supporting Mid-South!

Jennifer

 

 

 

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