With the new season starting and the recent email that had a list of upcoming tournaments, you may be wondering whether you and your fencer are ready to compete. For pretty much everyone Lex and I know that has ever started competing, none were completely ready and eventually, they just got out there and tried it. As general advice, the youngest fencers (under 12) will often be ready to compete after 9 to 12 months of lessons and classes while teen and older fencers can often become physically and mentally ready faster after 6 to 9 months. Like all decisions during your fencing development, you should seek ongoing guidance from Coach Young and let him know your specific goals as everyone develops at their own rate.
We went to our first tournament after Lex had been fencing for about 6 months in March of 2021, and we started attending tournaments about once a month thereafter. We might have started a tad early, and tournaments were really hard at first as Lex had to learn to win. Although he could keep many bouts close, it wouldn't be until the very end of that first season that he would win his first elimination match. There was a lot of frustration, and our motto for each point and match often became "you are either winning or you are learning". That's still hard, but we've appreciated how fencing teaches a balance of physical, mental, and life skills in a way few other experiences do these days.
Along the way we definitely appreciated how competitive fencing is a bit different than competing in the club. Although everyone in the club is always working hard, top fencers are often training to develop their weaknesses into strengths. On competition day, everyone will be bringing their best, so it can be a step-up in intensity from the club. At the same time, it is a chance for the fencer to amp up the energy of their own game and begin to learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses.
Even if training in the club has been very successful, there is nearly always a developmental period during which a fencer learns to translate their game to the tournament and “learns to win”. Fencers at most tournaments will be helped by the presence of their coach when available who can provide “strip coaching” (advice during matches and ongoing discussion throughout the day) and also by the encouragement of their families and teammates. With practice and perseverance, fencers begin to fully express their skills and will begin to learn to win points in matches, win pool (“seeding”) matches, win eliminations, and, for many of our fencers, ultimately win championships.
If you and your fencer feel excited to try and Coach indicates you are ready, you should get registered and test your skills in competition. Registration can generally be found here through your USA Fencing account: