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Summer is a perplexing time for many of us. On the one hand, we want to give our kids ultimate freedom to do all the things that make summer relaxing and open – sleeping in, discovering books, exploring interests. On the other hand, there’s also a sense that we want our kids to have time to catch up on some things while life isn’t too busy. Finding balance during these summer months is important, and one way to find that balance is through fencing summer camp.
How’s that possible? Here are eight ways that fencing summer camp helps kids find balance.
1. Fencing summer camp offers routine
If we’ve just gotten out of an intense school year, why would we then want to jump right back into something intense? Balance is the answer. One of the biggest things that happens to kids in the summer is that they get so far out of the routine of getting up early and going all day that it’s hard to get back into it in the fall. By doing fencing summer camp, kids get to have a taste of that routine again for a short period of time. This way they don’t get totally out of the routine of getting up and going to accomplish a task, while still getting some much needed time off.
2. Fencing summer camp helps kids build focus
Focus isn’t just important in school – it’s important in life. A big thing that fencing offers kid is an increased ability to focus in positive ways. That kind of training is going to be a big help when they’re trying to stay on task later and reach for those accomplishments. Summer camp is a perfect time for kids who’ve never tried fencing to jump in and learn some of the focus techniques that are possible through this sport. After a week of training with an epee, sabre, or foil, new fencers often have incredible revelations about their potential for focus. They find that they are capable of much more than they realized!
3. Fencing summer camp builds positive relationships
Though fencing is an individual sport, it’s practiced in a community environment. This is especially true during fencing summer camp, when kids are able to spend an extended period of time with their trainers and their fellow fencers. Working together for hours a day to improve techniques and learn new methods forges friendships in a way that nothing else can. That’s true not only for peer relationships, but also for relationships with fencing coaches and staff, who become mentors and an additional layer of support for kids.
4. Fencing summer camp is highly physical
It’s SO tempting for kids to jump in and spend all summer in front of their screens. Fencing summer camp is a sport camp that encourages kids to use their entire body. This is a rigorously physical sport that requires a great deal of control and strength. During fencing summer camp, kids are pushed physically. And it feels good! That kind of physical engagement is important for health, and it offers a wonderful balance to the screen time that kids can get so lost in.
5. Fencing summer camp is highly intellectual
Learning isn’t just about what happens in the schoolhouse! Fencing is like physical chess, and using the mind and body together to get through a match opens up a whole new world of understanding the mind. Fencing summer camp offers the opportunity to keep kids minds crisp and on point, but in a wholly different modality than what they find in the classroom. It’s possible for kids to retain their mental acuity during the summer while still exploring possibilities that are far afield.
6. Fencing summer camp pushes kids out of their comfort zone
Speaking of exploring possibilities, fencing definitely pushes kids outside of their comfort zone. In the case of new fencers, that’s obvious because they’re picking up a weapon for the first time and learning something totally unlike anything they’ve done before. But for experienced fencers, fencing summer camp also pushes them outside of their comfort zone. No matter how long you’ve been doing something that you’re passionate about, taking time to dig in and push through it in a setting like summer camp allows kids to push outside of their comfort zone. The concentrated environment of fencing camp is fantastic!
7. Fencing summer camp grows independence
Sports summer camp is different than school. It allows for a kind of independence that’s fundamentally different than dropping kids off at school every day. Fencing overall builds leadership and self-esteem, but summer camp is a bit different because of the length of time that kids spend at it. Kids learn that they can be independent outside of the school environment during fencing summer camp, and that they can have a focus and determination without a teacher looking over their shoulder. This is a sport that’s all about learning autonomy. That’s an key to helping kids find the balance that they need.
8. Fencing summer camp is intense
Intensity isn’t a bad thing. It can be rewarding and energizing. For kids, the rigor of fencing summer camp can be exhausting, but it’s the kind of exhausting that’s also satisfying. Fencing summer camp is an incredibly fruitful time for growth in children. Just one week can bring a positive transformation. For new fencers, that transformation can even grow into a lifelong love of the sport, as many fencers are introduced to fencing through the summer camp experience! Talk about intense!
Fencing summer camp helps kids to strike a balance in the summer, during the long months when the world is open but also when it can be tempting to do nothing for weeks. Finding ways to encourage physical fitness, focus, routine, independence, and more is a huge benefit for kids during the break from school! Fencing summer camp is a perfect way to make that happen
Why Should I Fence?
Why Your Kid (or you) Should Fence
By Richard Cherry
As a junior fencing coach, I’ve often questioned by parents who not only are confused about the specifics of the sport but are oblivious to the reasons why their normally sane and intelligent pre-adolescent 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. But, 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. Referees 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 is 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 disagree with decisions and that disagreement can become 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 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 lessen their chances for victory.
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 or win a tournament. But, they learn to set personal goals for themselves, i.e., one touch against each opponent in a meet, for example. Fencers can, and do, learn to be winners before they ever get a gold medal at a tournament.
Richard Cherry has served as the Junior Olympic Chair for the Oregon Division in addition to coaching young fencers. This article appeared in the 1995 issue of American Fencing magazine.