By Sergey Danilov
Where do I start? That’s a common question for anyone new to a sport. Let’s say your friend brought you to fencing and they’ve been doing it for a while. Then you have someone you can turn to for help with some of your questions… But what if you discovered fencing by watching the Olympics or a movie…or you simply have more questions?
Well, you’ve come to the club for a reason. You did some research and decided to give your trust to your club and your coach. Good, the first step is done.
1. Communicate with your Coach directly
While it seems like your Coach is too busy all the time, please remember that the Coach is there for you. Find the time and politely push to get an answer to your question. After all, you know very little about the sport and you deserve to have some answers. You chose to learn from the Coach for a reason: because he/she has expertise in this sport. But it’s important to realize that the Coach’s expertise goes beyond teaching technique and showing how to “stab” an opponent. The Coach also has a wealth of knowledge about how best to set your training schedule (how often, when, and what training you need based on your goals), nutrition, time management, and more. So don’t be afraid to “bother” the Coach. Believe it or not, Coaches are also inquisitive and curious by nature, just like their students.
2. Set your goals
Well, this one, we believe, is very important during your journey in the sport. The goal makes you train harder, not only on regular days, but also on those days when you do not want to. On days when you do not perform the way you like, goals can help you focus on the tasks and training, and can remind you to put aside other things that won’t help (like electronics and social media.)
Also, setting your goals should come from your heart. No one can push you hard enough except you. Coaches can motivate you, guide you in the right direction, help you to push yourself, maybe help you find motivation, but at the end of the day, your motivation should come from YOU. This will drive you in the sport to the highest possible results you desire. Of course, over time, your goals may change… well, whatever it is, remember the advice in the first paragraph – you need to discuss it with your Coach.
3. 21st Century, time of the Internet…so let’s talk about paragraph #1 again
You chose the sport, you learned the basics, and now you are dreaming about becoming an Olympic Champion, NCAA Champion, or High School Champion. You start researching the Internet and find so much information (equipment, supportive training, fencing videos, advice and much more) that now you’re getting lost. Well, we come back to where it started. Before committing to some “cool” looking exercises, buying an extremely good-looking piece of equipment, or following a certain “direction” in your training routine, communicate with your Coach. In our opinion, if you decide to trust the Coach, trust all the way. At the end of the day, your Coach knows you the best, well at least in fencing, and he/she knows what is best for you so your performance can be effective.
The last stage is when you decide to become competitive. And you discover that there are numerous tournaments and events, starting from little local events, to regionals (RYC, SYC, RCC, RJCC) and nationals (NAC, etc.) — the list can be extensive. In fact, there is an event every weekend in the drivable distance for you. Here is where you have to be very careful. Going to events, gaining experience, becoming a stronger fencer, is important. But on the other hand, training, mastering the skill, learning new skills, is also important for your competitive performance. So, you have to learn to find the right balance, choose wisely when to go to a competition and when it’s better to stay at the gym and train. And who knows best?? Yes, you are right again – the Coach!!
To conclude, trust the professionals that you chose to learn from. They did not become experts right away – they went through all the ups and downs, mistakes and successes, defeats and victories themselves and with many, many other students, and now they are here for you, helping you to avoid those obstacles. Oh well, sometimes you will still run into them – and your Coach will help you to overcome them.
So, listen, learn, and always ask your Coach!