(reprinted from US Fencing website)
Information for Parents
The sport of fencing is a uniquely classic sport. It has history, drama, romance, style, art, plus all the advantages of an active physically demanding sport. Mentally it is mind consuming, allowing not a moment’s break.
Fencing is also fast and athletic, a far cry from the choreographed bouts you see on film or on the stage. Instead of swinging from a chandelier or leaping from balconies, you will see two fencers performing an intense dance on a six foot-by-40 foot strip. The movement is so fast the touches are scored electrically – more like Star Wars than Errol Flynn.
The Youth Program
The youth program of USA Fencing is designed to provide an introduction for your child to one of the most fascinating, exciting and safest sports. Fencing develops discipline, balance, coordination, and sportsmanship. Fencing helps the youth develop quicker reflexes and an ability to make lighting fast analyses of tactical situations.
Since the first national youth tournament held in 1985, the youth of America have changed the face of American Fencing. College coaches are now recruiting American fencers with years of experience as opposed to searching the freshman ranks during registration for the tallest most athletic looking people.
The youth fencing program has developed a very large foundation for our pyramid of fencers, the apex of which cannot be higher than the base is wide, meaning the wider the base the higher we can reach. Large fencing programs are appearing across the United States as an alternative to the all-time favorite team sports. There is no predetermined method to pre-select great fencers so all fencers must be given equal chance and attention. Children develop at different mental, emotional and physical rates and their goals change accordingly. There are those who exhibit no talent during their first four or five years of fencing and then become dynamite competitors, while others may show the competitive spark from the first day.
Benefits of Fencing
There are many benefits to participating in youth fencing. Children learn good sportsmanship and self-discipline. They learn to compete independently as well as for a team; they learn to enjoy winning and profit from defeats, while becoming physically fit and healthy; and, most importantly, they learn to make complex decisions, analyze problems, and think fast. These ideals help children reach their potential in many areas other than fencing.
Remember that the primary motivating factor for entering sports, particularly among adolescents, is the desire to have fun. The following pages will help you assist them in reaching this goal. Don’t forget, Olympic Champions have fun too.
Bill of Rights for Young Athletes
We believe youth have the right to:
- be treated with dignity by all involved.
- fence as a child and not as an adult.
- fence regardless of skill level.
- fence at a level that is commensurate with each child’s development.
- fence in a safe and healthy environment.
- have proper preparation for fencing.
- have qualified adult leadership.
- share in leadership of fencing.
- have equal opportunity to strive for success.
- have fun fencing.
Your Role as a Parent
As a parent, your primary purpose is to support and encourage your child. Parents greatly contribute to the success experienced by their children as well as other children in the youth program. Parent’s attitudes are often adopted by their children, who consult them for advice and approval. Parents, be aware of this and strive to become positive role models. Most importantly, this includes showing good sportsmanship at all times and respecting coaches, officials, and opponents.
Get your child to the club to train regularly. School obligations come first, so utilize school holidays for maximizing training opportunities. Training two months a year at a camp will yield very limited results. A consistent training curriculum is strongly encouraged.
Ensure that your child has a small snack before training and competitions and brings a water bottle to the club and tournament.
Be careful about weight training before it’s appropriate age-wise. Consult with your child’s doctor before starting any rigorous training program. Over training for short periods of time followed by long periods of less or no training is certain to result in injury.
Have realistic expectations of your child’s ability. Don’t rush into competition until his training is well under way; then start fencing locally. Until your child is consistently finishing well in local and regional competitions, he is not ready for national tournaments.
Chauffeur, gofer, and credit card holder.
It is important to let your child establish his own goals and play the game for himself. Help your child establish and achieve the goals he sets for himself. Avoid imposing your own goals or the coach’s goals on your child. “Success,” sometimes interpreted as “winning,” comes at different ages for each fencer. Success in youth fencing is achieved if the program helps the child love fencing. Great achievement will occur when the child loves the sport.
The best way to help your child achieve his goals and reduce his fear of failure is through positive reinforcement. No one likes to make mistakes. When your child makes one, remember that he is still learning. Encourage his efforts and highlight the successes and the things your child did well. Your child will have good days and bad ones. Help him through the bad days and celebrate the good days he is fortunate to have. Fencing is a continuous struggle to improve from first-day beginner to Olympic Champion.
Be careful not to emphasize winning to the exclusion of your child having fun and learning about himself while enjoying the exciting sport of fencing. Encouraging a healthy environment that emphasizes learning and fun can develop a more positive self-image, an invaluable asset throughout your child’s life.
At fencing tournaments, take time to meet new people, visit different cities and see what they have to offer. Many lasting friendships have been formed between fierce competitors. Enjoy the full experience of competition by taking advantage of all the opportunities for growth.