|The follow article was published in the American Fencing
Magazine from the USFA and written by Richard Cherry.
As a junior fencing coach I'm often questioned by parents, who not only confused about the specifics of the sport
but are oblivious to the reasons why their normally sane and intelligent preadolescence would want to participate in
such an obscure recreation. These parents are all too familiar with some elements of the sport-- that it is
expensive, not as popular as table tennis , and doesn't reward its elite athletes with student body stardom like
football and basketball. Less obvious and far more meaningful are the real reasons why kids should fence.
Fencing is a skill sport. It requires a special kind of athlete who can satisfy the physical and psychological
challenges of head to head combat.
Fencing is one of the few sports where boys and girls compete against each other on equal terms, no special
concessions granted, no point-shaving given. If you're looking for an environment that fosters gender equity, it's
on the strip.
Fencing demands self-discipline. Win or lose, the fencer alone is ultimately responsible. If a referee misinterprets
a fencer's beat as the opponent's parry, the attacker must change tactics, not change the thinking of the referee.
This is a difficult concept for kids to accept; it is so much easier to blame failure on the environment, the rules, or
the instructors. Bot, every athlete who stays in the sport of fencing learns to accept responsibility for their actions
and to understand that improvement only comes with work.
Fencers learn to forge friendships with their opponents off the strip. After all, they frequently train together and see
each other at tournaments.
Fencers learn to accept authority. Referee are always "correct," even when a "bad Call" eliminates an athlete from
a tournament. Not all fencers accept this unfairness gracefully; the great ones do. At the same time, fencers learn
to respectfully question authority.
Along the same lines, the fencer in encouraged to accept the challenges of officiating for his or her peers. There
are many societal pressures brought to bear on the young referee participants (frequently friends ) can disagrees
with decisions and that disagreement can became unpleasant. The young referee learns to make decisions with
confidence, explain these decisions intelligently and control the action on and off the strip, all the while under the
critical eye of the their peers and an audience.
Fencers learn to share. They share equipment, which you would expect, but they also share knowledge, A winning
fencer will often share what went wrong with the losing fencer's game . More experienced fencers will share
previous successful strategies against specific fencers, even though this knowledge may lesson their chances for
Fencers develop the ability to establish long-term goals, In fencing an athlete doesn't always have to win to be
successful. Many young fencers know they don't have the knowledge or the experience to beat a particular
opponent in a meet, for example.
Fencers can and do, learn to be winners before they ever get a gold medal at a tournament.