Ready for Nationals ... ?

Hello WFA Fencers & Family,

I’m enjoying the awesomness that is an Alaskan Summer and looking forward to a week of temperatures in the high 70’s. As competitive fencers know, competition and preparation is a year-round endeavor; we often miss the beauty of summer in our quest to excel at our chosen sport. Summer Nationals is the culminating event for many of us, the crowning event of the season. This event has set records in the fencing world year-after-year. We can routinely boast the largest tournament in the world. It’s an exciting event for any fencer who has put in the work to qualify.

Many parents and fencers have asked me over the years, is my kid ready to compete at Summer Nationals or really any larger event? This is a difficult question for any coach to answer here are a few questions to consider as you or your student prepares for the next season: 1) Are you or your fencer passionate about fencing, 2) Do they look forward to fencing at local competitions, 3) Are they willing to put in the time to train.

Passion drives self-motivation. By now, as either a fencer or a parent, you have come to realize how complex this sport is. Fencers have to want it. I don’t mean they have to want to be the next Mariel Zagunis or Cody Mattern, but they do need to show you as the parent and themselves that their excitement for the sport. Any elite fencer has had to face the times when they have lost the fire for fencing, those who figure out why they love the sport, can drive themselves to realizing their potential. Fencing without passion, isn’t fun and it doesn’t lead to success. It leads to burnout. So ask why they LOVE fencing.

When you or your fencer is faced with a competition are the, inevitable, nerves ones of dread or pure joyful excitement? These may be extremes of the proverbial scale, but oddly accurate in description. A fencer who dreads going to a local tournament will likely find the larger events down right terrifying. National or regional events can have as many as 50+ strips with thousands of fencers, coaches, parents, supporters moving from one quad to another. Even a small North American Circuit (NAC) events have a couple thousand registrations. The passion for fencing should be directed into positive energy, the nervous energy that we all face before an event can fuel success at the event, but only coupled with positively directed passion. A fencer who dreads a local tournament is not ready to face the excitement of a larger event.

Finally, the drive/passion has to be focused into the work of preparing for each event. Lack of preparation will create that dread I spoke of earlier. Competition is the test of our skills against a wide range of competitors. Some are better in skills, some in strategy, some are fairly new to the sport and barely can hook up on a strip. Ultimately, though, our preparation is what will drive success.  The fencer must be willing to stay focused during practice, engage fully in lessons, spend time watching videos of fencing. The adage that what you put in you will get out is never truer than when a fencer is tested in competition.

In competition, no matter how large or small, we find ourselves determining our talents and our weaknesses. Many look at each tournament as the final test to a semester of work. This is the wrong way to look at it, it is merely a test to find out how far we have come as a competitor from the last competition. It is also a truth serum of sorts to how much effort we put into our practices. It is a litmus test of our passion for the sport.

Your coach can tell you if your skills are ready for a national or regional competition, but only you can answer these questions. Truly, only you can say if you are ready.

Jacquie Parker