This past weekend, we held a tournament at our club. It was a great opportunity to shake the holiday dust off and get back to training. I got the chance to talk to a lot of parents, which is always beneficial on various levels. While talking to one mother about her fencer, I mentioned that the fencer had made a lot of progress in showing more effort at the club but could still “do better”. After the tournament was over, I got to thinking about what “doing better” means. I know what it means to me but it’s rather difficult for a fencer to rise to that level if they don’t really know what I want. Here are some concrete examples of what younger fencers at any level can do to show effort to their coaches. Most of them hold true for older fencers too.
1. Work hard during practice. Coaches can tell when you’re just going through the motions of what you’re being asked to do. If it’s a drill, an exercise, footwork practice, or bouting give it your best effort ALL THE TIME. Your best effort might vary. We all have off days or times when we’re tired. But do a little more than what you think you can–consistently. We will know. And we will respect you for it. You’ll also increase your stamina pretty easily that way.
2. Work hard any time you’re at the club. If your parent drops you off for practice early or is running a little late to pick you up, you have a great opportunity to show us initiative. Why are you packing up before they get here, anyway? If you just sit around and play on your phone, chat it up with the other fencers, or otherwise “waste time”, we see it. Practice footwork or do some blade drills. Note: doing homework during down time at the club is always acceptable. School is your job and always comes first.
3. Offer to help out around the club. There are any number of little “chores” that can be done such as emptying full trash cans, sweeping the club floor, cleaning the bathrooms, tidying, or checking the equipment to make sure it’s in the right place. And better than asking us if there’s “anything you can do to help” (which lets you off the hook if we’re too busy to point something out) is to identify a chore yourself. Don’t expect accolades for doing it. Just take pride in helping your club look good.
4. Come to practice on time. We know a lot of fencers aren’t able to drive themselves yet. But you can remind your parents when it’s time to leave home. And, by the way, getting to practice right as it starts is NOT on time. You should be there at least 10-15 minutes early to put up your bag, get on your fencing shoes, and do some extra, individual practice (see #2 above).
5. Mentor the less-experienced fencers. See that new fencer struggling to hook up all their gear during bouting practice? Help them. See a new face at practice? Introduce yourself and make them feel welcome. How about the fencers that are younger or less experienced than you who are “easy to beat” because they do the same few actions? Give them some pointers about how to beat you. It will raise their level of fencing, which will help you improve as you have to find new ways to beat them. They will also see you doing extra practice and know that in order to “get as good as you” they will have to do that too. Your attitude and work ethic will influence the next generation of fencers under you. Make it a positive legacy.
6. Be self-motivated. (Add-on from this morning.) I can make you do any activity at the club but I don’t want to do that. I can get after you over and over for the same thing – such as getting dressed too slowly for class – but I don’t want to do that. I can yell at you – I am a coach, after all – but I don’t want to do that either. It wastes my energy and makes me really frustrated. You know better. I need students who can get themselves motivated and who are willing to put in the work that it takes in order to get better. I am there to encourage you, not force you. We come together for practice in order for us to work as a team to make you a better fencer. Contribute to that partnership with a good work ethic and a great attitude.
7. Take fencing home with you. If you want to get good at fencing, you have to think about it outside the club too. If your friends are involved in basketball they shoot hoops in their driveway; soccer/football players practice in their backyard. You can practice footwork at home. Watch fencing videos on YouTube. Think about what you’ve learned in class while your mom is driving you to school. Tell your coaches about a cool fencing scene in a movie you saw. Talk about fencing with your friends. All of these things show us that you’re passionate about this sport.
Please let me know in the comments if there’s anything I missed. Also please share things that you have come up with to show your passion for fencing.